Why a co-operative?
Given what’s at stake here, given our mission and our values, the only way to make it happen is to co-operate amongst ourselves. The Collective is incorporated as a co-operative., defined by the International Co-operative Alliance as:
An autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically-controlled enterprise.
The market has failed to provide millions of net users with technology they can trust. Either it sees no profit in creating such technology and therefore dedicates no resources to it, or it’s winner-takes-all, creating more problems to solve. Nevertheless, as we get to a critical size and importance, we can explore ways for existing businesses to co-operate with us on our mission. There are plenty of businesses out there that might benefit from our re-leveling of various playing fields.
Nor can we wait for our democratic representatives to develop policies or provide funding for these sort of things. Most governments don’t see our mission as core to their work, and more than a few have policies to grow mass state surveillance, a trajectory we resist.
How will this co-operative operate?
We put people at the center of our organization and focus on creating together the balance of structures and freedoms needed for effective work, so our particular version of self-organizing is something we explore regularly. The co-operative way is tried and tested. According to the International Co-operative Alliance, the world’s top 300 co-operative and mutual organisations have an aggregated turnover of US $2.5 trillion.
Our particular co-op is combining learning from several unique ways of working. We have co-founding members with decades of experience not only in technology, but in organisational design and in co-operative management and operations. We believe, for example, that an approach known as dynamic governance in the US and as sociocracy in Europe works much better than democracy. A team has formed to explore how that will look for our general operations. For more information, see this overview of sociocracy.
Why are you incorporated as a UK Co-op?
When we got started, we had several core team members in the UK who were willing to put in the effort and take on the responsibilities of becoming directors and founding members, and some with significant knowledge of UK Co-op structures and their legal requirements. Once we are better resourced/bigger, we anticipate having entities in multiple countries subject to our review of the respective technical and legal environment.
Who can join as a member?
The co-operative way is to make membership open and voluntary. Anyone aged 16 or over can join us. Everyone is welcome. If we don’t join together to do this, no-one else will.
What are membership benefits?
As members working together, we will improve usability and accessibility, making sure everyone’s invited to our digital society.
We will help everyone take back control of their own personal data and limit private, opaque companies from assembling the most detailed databases on our every move, our every action, our every thought.
We will help redecentralize our technology, making it more sustainable, more human.
We will help oversee and limit the ability of our governments from spying on the very people that elected them, the very people they’re supposed to serve - not undermine.
We will help get technology back on the right track – technology we can trust again so that we may trust ourselves again.
Members will have the earliest access to these technologies. Members will have the opportunity to connect with each other, with technologists, and our talented team. Together we’ll debate some of the most critical opportunities and challenges facing our societies. Members, together will set our direction, and create value for everyone in the Collective.
And of course ... you’ll get to wear the t-shirt.
What does it mean to be a co-founder?
Co-founders are simply the earliest members who believe in what we are doing enough to join us early, before our full-scale launch, and pitch in a membership contribution to fund that launch. They can identify as a co-founder of the Digital Life Collective for as long as they are members, and we’ll be working together to make sure we are all proud of that.
What are my liabilities as a member in case of losses by the cooperative?
Regardless of the amount you choose for your membership, only the first £1 secures your share of the cooperative. As a shareholder your liability is limited to your share capital. In other words, no less and no more than £1.
How much is membership? Will I pay membership fees each year? Is this a recurring payment?
We are asking all members to pay the monetary equivalent of one to three hours of their time. Inclusivity is one of our core values, and it would be silly to set a fixed membership fee that would be too expensive for some and trivial for others. Those who believe in our purpose will consider this time / money well invested.
Membership fees are annual. We are currently in our inaugural year, and we don’t yet have systems ready to take renewal payments automatically. Of course, we hope you continue to be part of the Collective. We’re stepping up and co-operating where the market doesn’t want to go or pulls in exactly the opposite direction. We need therefore to co-operate in terms of our combined talents, experience, knowledge, connections, and yes, money. We have an ambitious mission and we will need funding to achieve our goals. As cooperative members , we’re taking responsibility for providing that funding.
What happens after my membership expires at the end of the year?
We’ll get in touch and ask you to pay the next year’s subscription in order to remain a member. If you choose not to renew your membership then your contributions, such as chats, video calls, or documents, remain inside the Collective.
What does the Collective do?
We're building the world's largest cooperative of people who care about their digital lives and want to contribute to researching, designing, funding, developing, certifying and using digital products and services that respect and protect our human rights.
We are currently recruiting members aliged with our mission. Our early team is working on how the Digital Life Collective will make decisions, prioritize projects for investment and, of course, establish an online presence that will enable us to recruit members on an ongoing basis.
We are mapping the open source ecosystem, identifiying key voices to engage through panels and other forums, and doing research on how to identify Tech We Trust.
Our members co-operate to identify ways the Collective will choose what to work on, and how to work. We want to draw on the expertise and experiences of others who have tried to build ‘tech we trust’, as well as those who have worked in non-hierarchical organizations.
We can begin contributing to agreed projects as soon as we have the means to match volunteered skills with worthwhile projects. Once, we have attracted enough members, we’ll be able to hire staff and begin allocating staff and/or money to support identified projects directly. Our initial focus is likely to be on tools and systems that can have a disproportionately big impact, perhaps by unlocking new app ecosystems or by providing a realistic trustworthy alternative to a widely used piece of software.
We hope that eventually many millions of people from across the globe will find value in joining the Collective and funding our work. This value will ultimately be in the products and services that the Collective helps produce for everyone to use. Each member will have an equal opportunity to influence the selection and subsequent development, testing and launch of these products and services. Today, members can contribute funding and they can influence the development of the Collective, the criteria we are developing to select projects and the initial projects we invest in. The best way to get started is to join in the conversation and [become a part of the Collective](https://diglife.com/).
What software and/or services do you intend to develop?
We research, design, fund, develop, certify and use digital products and services that respect and protect our human rights. We’ll partner with others doing things that meet our standards – we definitely don’t plan on reinventing any wheels. We support, test and use what exists; we fund and build what doesn’t yet exist but should.
We’re not kidding ourselves. In technological terms, the concepts of trust, privacy, equality, and decentralization, are challenging things to grapple with. If we answered this question with “We’re going to invest in X and engineer Y and it’ll be ready in six months”, then you’d be right not to take us seriously.
At the same time, we’re not doing this just to hang out with great people and have a nice time. We’re intent on delivering more trustworthy technology to help create the world we want. Curious, but still unsure? The best way to find out, in this early stage, if our team is worthy of your trust, is to come talk to us. [Send us an email](mailto:email@example.com) or ask a question in [our public discussion forum](https://discuss.diglife.com/).
What is your position on the Investigatory Powers Act 2016 (aka the UK Snoopers Charter) and state surveillance in general?
Legislation and dominant practices may vary from the values that inform our mission here. We will strive to find ways of working such that we are not unduly impeded by these. We do not currently plan to become a campaigning or advocacy group fighting such legislation - there are great groups out there already.
If you care about privacy, why does your site ask me to accept cookies?
There are cookies and then there are cookies. It’s a shame they have the same name.
There are good cookies, if you like, that serve the original function cookies were designed for. This encompasses making sure our website is working well, and that it can adapt to the visitor’s needs (e.g. our future site should remember that you want the French version).
But today the vast majority of cookies allow companies to track what you do for their commercial benefit. We don’t use such cookies. Where we need third party services (e.g. Stripe.com for payments) we try to select those that don’t use such methods or can be configured not to.