Diverting Funds from Wall St to the Commons: Robin Hood Co-op

Alanna met Dan Hassan in London, where he was speaking at an event in Hackney Wick about “DIY Social Movements”. Just as the light was fading, we walked along the canals looking for a quiet spot for him to share his thoughts about creating ‘economic space’ at Robin Hood Co-op.

Most of us are allergic to finance because it doesn’t work for us. It closes down possibilities and creativity. We have the idea that it could be different, that it could be creative.

Our first attempt was to create an activist hedge fund, to give people with ‎€60 access to the same mechanisms that rich people use to get even richer. We suck value from Wall Street and promote a profit sharing model, where a percent goes to yourself and a percent to commons projects. The membership decides where to divert funds to.

Although we’re about 600 big as a co-op, there’s probably about 10 people really driving the day to day routine tasks. We could foresee that we were all going to burn out.

At first we were running the meetings physically, in Helsinki, which of course meant only a percent of the oroganisation turned up. We decided to use Loomio to encourage more participation.

We went from 10 members participating to 200-300 actively participating, within one year.

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Broadly, we wanted the support of the wider membership, because we can’t do this alone. Loomio was awesome for that because it allows a multi-faceted conversation, whether you want to contribute in a larger way or just put a thumbs up.

It really gave us kind of a temperature check of the organisation, of whether we were thinking in sync with the people in the co-op.

One of the main propositions of Robin Hood is breaking the taboo of who can manage monetary flows, on Wall Street for example. It’s a monstrous idea that artists and hackers could go and do that – but we have.

Did we accept that as the main legacy we leave behind? Or did we want to proactively, together as a community, keep trying to break that egg and open up economic space for more people? I can’t over emphasise how important that decision was.

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Some of us could have said, ‘Right, we’re going to go hack away on another project, whatever it might be’. But we decided to stick together with the wider co-op and go in that direction.

It was really make or break. And I really don’t think we could have done that over email, which is how we were doing it before. How do you have a conversation over email with 600 people?

When you’ve seen something work so well – and so many of your peers, communities, and networks are using a tool and it’s being of benefit – it opens up what we call a ‘space’. We’re working with economic ‘space’.

What Loomio has done is open up the organisational possibilities for people working together.

You can join the Robin Hood Co-op yourself with €60.

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Author: Alanna

Co-founder of Loomio and a director of Enspiral. Developing cultural and digital technology for collaboration.

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