Spoiler alert: I vote yes.
I sat down and started to write:
Our system values companies and systems over individual people.
And then stared at it. Because that’s not entirely accurate. Our system does value individual people, but only a select few. In business, it’s the executives and shareholders who have the most “value”. Their opinions matter the most and they are financially rewarded for their company’s good fortune (whether they had an active role in its success).
What about all the employees and customers that are also responsible for the company’s success?
How can we create more ‘equitable equity’?
Enter the co-op. Co-ops are democratic organizations giving each member an equal vote and fairly distributing profits back to members.
Now, co-ops have been around centuries, but when most people hear “co-op” they think of farmers, food or condos. But there are also worker co-ops and consumer co-ops. And these can be large, thriving businesses. Like REI, the largest consumer co-op in the US, that brought in $2.56 billion in revenue in 2016.
REI’s CEO, Jerry Stritzke, did an interview with The Atlantic about the benefits of being a co-op. It’s worth a read.
What else can co-ops do?
In the age of Amazon, Google, Facebook, Uber making billions off their platforms (read: off their users), is there a more equitable way to value their customers?
We at Savvy are part of an equity uprising — we are a platform co-op. That means we allow our users — in our case patients, loved ones and healthcare consumers — to actually co-own our organization, have a vote, and share in our profits.
Co-ops often get lumped into social enterprises (because we are socially responsible), and thought to be sweet companies that can’t turn a profit. But shouldn’t we want more than that? Shouldn’t we hope with all our might that the next Uber gives its users a voice (how would you have voted amidst all the scandals?) and shared its wealth (currently valued at $68 billion — note that’s not profits, but the users help to generate that valuation).
If you’re interested in platform co-ops, don’t miss our SXSW panel session in the Tech & Startups track this March.
Also check out the platform.coop directory of other amazing co-ops marrying innovation and social good.