Pale, a boy who thought he was alone on Earth
Workers' tech coops
When we founded Slobodna domena, almost six years ago, we tried to find similar organisations elsewhere. The idea of starting a worker owned cooperative in IT, design and digitaisation seemed locigal and self explainable. That is why we were suprised when we could not find anything alike on the Internet. We started our project with a strong dillema. We are either very smart because we had a brilliant idea nobody else had before or we are complete idiots trying something nobody else in the world though makes sense. We were just like that boy from the book "Pale alone in the world" (Palle alene i verden). Time has shown that we were maybe a bit sloppy while searching or that the idea of tech cooperatives has meanwhile devoped and articulated more strongly. Time showed we were not alone.
First encounter with similar species happened for us when we ran into an article in Wired magazine in which they wrote about CoTech. Brittish network od cooperatives pretty similar to ours. Phew. All right. Looks like we are not idiots. Since it's a network of UK based cooperatives, it is clear we can not ask to join the network but at least we can seek inspiration and support from their experience. We exchanged a couople od emails with people from Outlandish, made contact. This was also a push forward for us to come back and rescan the internet. This time we were more successfull. Yes, we are not alone! Tech cooperatives exist and they are connecting between themselves! This list on GitHub gathers around 150 workers tech coops.
Second encounter was somehow different and unexpected. Local IT magazine Mreža published an article on tech coops. It's author, Zvonko Pavić, found three tech coops in Croatia. Slobodna domena, Info-sektor and Cro Tech HUB. After initial shock and surprise we had to land back on Eath and admit that other two Croatian cooperatives are conceptually a lot different than us. They are not value driven worker cooperatives but rather more traditional ones. They gather business subjects with similar economic interests. Although we are different, the very fact that there are other cooperatives active in the local IT market was positive and motivational.
While talking to organizations we felt close to, in a meeting with CoLab in December of 2021, we have found out about a grassroots initiative to create an international network of tech coops. We have joined this informal community and learned a lot from our peers. This is an active group of around fifty cooperatives from all over the world. Some of them work together on joint projects but before everything we support each others and work together towards stronger afirmation of worker owned coops. The community is growing and articulating it's goals and methods or work. Under strong influence of our South American peers - which are by the way all very energetic, positive and politcally well educated - the comunity got a name. Patio. Back yard. Porch. Place of gathering. Finally Pale has found his classmates.
Metaphore of a child, of a boy Pale, in the title is there with a purpose. Same like him, we also woke up from a dream. We imagined something and then reality showed to be different. This is all somewhat obvious. What is maybe less visible but as important is that Pale is still just a child. Although he is awake, there is a log path before him to become a grown person. Fe seel that it's the same with Slobodna domena, with Patio community and with all of us who are trying to build alternatives to the dominant methods of work and ownership structures.