The “poor man’s prayer” of Alphonse Desjardins

A prayer for the work of the caisse populaire and other similar works:

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I beg of You the special grace of Your divine light.

If I am making a mistake, enlighten me, and inspire in my a strong aversion, a great dislike for the idea that I would pursue and which is the aim of my work.

May I repel it with a sort of scorn, if it is Your good pleasure and make it disappear from my mind. If I should never think about it again from this moment I would be a thousand times happy.

Remove from my heart all false vanity, all impractical desire, all chimeras and foolish dreams.

If You wish that I persevere in this way, oh my God, fill my weakness with your strength; clear away the obstacles or give me the means to surmount them.

In this case as in the other give me the most perfect resignation to your holy will.

May your purpose be mine, may your desires be as commands to me.

Deign, oh Jesus, to direct, to inspire my activities toward whatsoever be the end of your eternal purposes; bring it about that I may find perfect harmony with your will in the hearts of those who follow me, but especially in the heart of my wife, the beloved companion of my life.

That she should always be my consolation and my help, whether you inspire me to the complete abandonment of these projects or to the thought of accomplishing them. Amen.

—Alphonse Desjardins, quoted in George Boyle, The Poor Man’s Prayer: The Story of Credit Union Beginnings (Harper & Brothers, 1951), pp. 203-204

An Incomplete Ambition

Decentralization is a word I’ve heard used to justify a lot of nonsense over the past decade. So last summer I drafted a long, somewhat stuffy, digression-filled assault on it.

With the help of comments from a bunch of friends and strangers, it has just been published in the fantastic Journal of Cultural Economy. It’s called “Decentralization: An Incomplete Ambition.”

Even the proofreader liked it. “Entirely objectively, it’s extraordinarily good,” she tweeted. That’s never happened to me before.

The first 50 people who use this link can access the published article for free. (If you have academic library access, grab it normally here.) If you’re too late for the free link, here’s a preprint.

For the practical blockchain designers among you, I also put together some recommendations based on the thing at Hacker Noon, a popular Colorado-based platform (of which I am a minor equity-crowdfunding investor). It’s called “What To Do Once You Admit That Decentralizing Everything Never Seems to Work.”

Meet MEDLab (and grab the podcast)

Another thing: I’ve started a lab. I was terrible at chemistry, and we don’t even have a physical space for our beakers, but together with a growing group of grad students at CU Boulder, I’ve assembled the Media Enterprise Design Lab to advance the cause of community-owned and -governed media economies. We’re doing research, experimentation, and consulting (including for Action Network, the platform that sent you this email). It’s fun, even if we only sort of know what we’re doing so far.

But at least we have a podcast—which is also a radio show on KGNU community radio. It’s called Looks Like New: Conversations on Tech and Justice. The latest guest was my hero and friend Douglas Rushkoff. You can get it here.

We’re cooperativizing Colorado

So much is happening up here in mountain-land! A few weeks ago, the Denver Post featured my book, Everything for Everyone, as part of an article on the long tradition of cooperative enterprise in the state. Then, a few weeks later—in part as an outgrowth of a conference I co-organized at the university last November—Governor Jared Polis announced a new initiative for expanding employee ownership across the state. This is huge.

If you’re a cooperator in Colorado, consider joining us on May 1 for a policy roundtable to help design a strategy for seriously advancing economic democracy from the Eastern Plains to the Western Slope.

Oh, and If you still don’t have the book, get it here, or request it at your local library.

Works not cited

  • libi striegl and Lori Emerson suggest that the true purpose of One Laptop Per Child’s lovely machines may only become clear when we accept the failure of the pseudo-humanitarian project
  • #MeToo has come for credit union bro culture—thank you, Rachel Pross
  • How to (begin thinking about how to) make worker co-ops out of blockchains, with the brilliant Morshed Mannan
  • Mik Awake recognizes book collecting as book privatizing
  • I can’t believe I missed David Van Reybrouck’s argument for replacing elections (and politicians, where possible) with citizen juries
  • And how, honestly, did I miss this Neal Stephenson hacker-tourist epic on laying undersea cables around the far reaches of the Earth—no longer!

May you feel the season of liberation, resurrection, and seedlings.

“Everything” for the Holidays

Give the gift of possibility. My new book, Everything for Everyone, tells how the tradition of cooperative enterprise has shaped the better parts of our world and poses a radical challenge to the forces eroding democracy around the globe today. Since it came out in September, it has been featured in places like Fast Company, WNYC’s Brian Lehrer Show, and Democracy Now. In times when democracy is under attack, it shows how the seeds of a deeper, fuller democracy are scattered all around us.

Visual summary of the book by Matt Noyes
Illustration by Matt Noyes

“It is a book for everyone and a book for our times: read it, share it, but don’t just talk about it.”—Robin D. G. Kelley, author of Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination

“Charting a wealth of renewable ideas, tools, and commitments that are poised to reinvent democracy, Schneider tackles an immense subject with precision and grace.”—Naomi Klein, author of No Is Not Enough and This Changes Everything

Order it for your loved ones today, from your local bookstore or wherever else books are sold.

If you want to support the new cooperative movement more directly, also, consider a year-end donation to the New Economy Coalition and its members organizations.

In progress

Writing the book left me with a wealth of unanswered questions, and lately I’ve been putting a lot of my energy into research projects that try to address them. Here are some of the papers I’ve been hacking on:

These are works in progress, so I’d love any feedback you care to offer.

Works not cited

May the season bring you peace and courage.

Countdown to “Everything”

Everything for Everyone cover

It’s less than a month now until my new book on the co-op economy, Everything for Everyone, is out. Here’s what some advance readers are saying:

“Schneider tackles an immense subject with precision and grace”—Naomi Klein

“It is a book for everyone and a book for our times: read it, share it, but don’t just talk about it”—Robin D. G. Kelley

I’d love for you to be part of the process of getting this book into the world. Can you help?

Share it on social. Blast out a post of your own, or RT this tweet and “Share” this on Facebook.

Preorder your copy. Find a list of places where you can get it—online and off, evil and otherwise—here.

Post a review. Once you’ve read it, be honest. Or just be nice! Do this anywhere, but especially on your favorite monopolistic everything-store. This is really one of the best ways to help new readers find a book they otherwise might not.

Come to an event. I wish I could go everywhere, but I’m also grateful for the childcare and teaching that will keep me home in Colorado most of the fall. I hope to see you (and the people you share these with) at one of the launch events:

Thank you for your support! A book is only worth what readers like you see in it and do with it.

Other news

On November 7, together with CU’s business school and our sponsors, I’ll be hosting the Colorado Shared Ownership Summit, a gathering of big-and-small, old-and-new, co-ops, credit unions, and ESOPs in the state. If you can come, please consider proposing a session and applying for travel support.

I’m proud to be part of the founding team of Start.coop, a new accelerator for ambitious, investment-ready co-op startups—and we’re still accepting applications for our inaugural clas.

Learn about co-ops by podcast with the Co-op Power Hour, a show I’ve been doing with KGNU radio and the Colorado Co-ops Study Circle.

I wrote about ending the cult of the presidency at America in May, and I’ve got some works in progress on which I’d love your input.

Come study with my colleagues and me! Applications for our Media and Public Engagement MA program are open for Fall 2019. Let me know if you have questions.

Works not cited

Denver may soon get a new hometown saint—a woman born a slave, profiled in one of the first articles by the new journalist-owned, blockchain-powered Colorado Sun.

This is a gorgeous interview with (soon to be published novelist!) Cadwell Turnbull on why economic change needs science fiction.

Another essential report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance on why you are probably being overcharged and underserved by your internet-service provider.

For those in the Boulder bubble, be sure not to miss the Daily Camera’s three-part series on racism in an alleged haven of progressivism.

Letter to the Boulder City Council on municipal broadband

In advance of the meeting tomorrow, I would like to write in support of moving forward on expanding our city-owned broadband resources. Several years of research on municipal and other community-based broadband solutions has made clear to me that communities need to take an active role in ensuring that their internet access is accessible, affordable, and neutral. Although our situation is different from neighbors like Ft. Collins and Longmont, I believe Boulder is in a position to be a national innovator on community broadband.

Having gotten to know the city staff members involved in this effort, I’ve been very impressed with the rigor and thoughtfulness that has gone into the process. Boulder will most likely not be in a position to deliver fiber-to-the-home without a municipal energy utility, but I think starting now with a backbone buildout would create the following opportunities:

+ Faster, more affordable service. Over and over around the country, we see that the large ISPs will not provide fast, affordable service without being somehow compelled to do so. A city-operated backbone could enable new competitors to enter the market and raise the bar for all. This will help strengthen our already vibrant tech business community and benefit consumers.

+ Opportunities for serving the underserved. Troubling, often disguised inequalities plague the country’s connectivity map, and Boulder is no exception. We already have good evidence that lower-income neighborhoods receive far poorer access opportunities than others. Recognizing this, the school district has been developing programs to use civic networks to serve underserved students. Expanding the city’s backbone would allow us to extend such services and ensure that all of our neighbors have affordable connectivity. We can show other communities what it looks like to treat internet access as the essential infrastructure that it is.

+ Leverage for fairness and neutrality. Today, as I write, net neutrality has officially been repealed on the national level. This is a development that could change the meaning of internet access in fundamental ways. It’s now up to local jurisdictions to protect their citizens’s rights of speech and access. Here, again, Boulder can be a leader. A city-owned backbone network could give the city leverage to negotiate arrangements with ISPs that ensure we are a net neutrality zone. This is an issue of concern to many people in town, and while it could be a difficult fight, it would be a fight your constituents would surely support.

In a sense, it is fitting that your decision to proceed with the broadband expansion comes the day after our federal government significantly relinquishes its regulatory powers over internet service. Tomorrow, we have the opportunity to step up and fill the void. Thank you for your consideration and your attention to this important matter.

Radical Tradition

Do you like the cover?This May Day, this Feast of St. Joseph the Worker, I apologize in advance. But I also don’t. The next few months, I’ll be working hard to spread the word about my new book, Everything for Everyone: The Radical Tradition that Is Shaping the Next Economy, published by the good people at Nation Books. The book is done, and the final details are closing in. It comes out in mid-September.

I apologize because I’m entering this promotional phase. I’ll be reaching out again asking you to help, if you’re so moved. But I don’t apologize about that, really, because the book shares stories that I believe need to be known—stories of the promise and struggle in the new generation of the cooperative movement. At a time when democracy is on the rocks, when the economy seems to run on a mix of autopilot and superheroes, we need these reminders that cooperation has helped build our world and can shape its future.

Learn more here. Retweet this. Maybe even place a preorder. Let me know if you’d like to publish a review or interview, or to schedule an event. Together, let’s help bring this radical tradition back to life.

Various dystopias

In the meantime, there are powers-that-be to troll. Here are some recent publications of mine more or less in that vein:

Works not cited

Have you read what Mark Twain regarded as his best book? Ted Gioia wades through his pious, late-live tribute to Joan of Arc.

Jessica Weisberg points out that America’s favorite guide to the corporate ladder was himself a precarious gig worker.

Black Lives Matter founder Alicia Garza learned to organize in the kitchen.

Now is an interesting time to revisit Mr. Zuckerberg’s pre-IPO letter to potential investors.

Scott Korb wonders whether standardized testing has killed the first-person.

Students are already producers; what if they were co-owners?

My CU Boulder colleagues and I stand with our embattled local journalists.

Times and places

Serving the State

This month I have a new title—I’m an assistant professor of media studies at the University of Colorado Boulder, on tenure track. It’s not fully clear to me how this departure from the precariat happened, except that it involved a move across the country with my family, astonishingly supportive colleagues, patient students, and an opportunity to do some good that I hope I can live up to.

All this has gotten me reading about the origins of universities in self-governing medieval guilds and remembering my grandfathers—one a state-university professor and one who never made it to college because of a hail storm.

I wrote about them in America.

“a better internet is possible”

The enemy isn’t supposed to be this nice, but somehow Wired magazine chose Ours to Hack and to Own, the book I co-edited with Trebor Scholz, as one of the “best tech books of 2017.”

Buy it in bitcoin or dollars from OR Books.

I’ve also been getting kind of worked up lately about the potential for co-op and municipal broadband, especially in the wake of the FCC net neutrality decision. I’ve been writing on this for Quartz and The Guardian, and my congressman, Rep. Jared Polis, had me on a webinar to discuss it. Scientific American quoted me on the subject, too.

More to come. I’m currently (or currently should be) hard at work on edits for my next book, which will be out in time for Co-op Month from Nation Books.

Works not cited

Back in 1895, Hastings Randall was worrying about a lot of what university people today worry about when he wrote his hefty history of the medieval university.

Johann Hari thinks that worker co-ops might be at least as effective against depression as meds.

Kaya Oakes writes beautifully about middle age and the medieval women helping her embrace it.

Harvard says it so it must be true: community broadband is better.

I’ve been hearing from Kiera Feldman for years about her reporting among trash collectors, but what she published in ProPublica blew me (and lots of other people) away.

My kid isn’t that into Matt de la Peña’s Love, but I am.

Stops

  • 2018.02.17: Denver, CO – ETHDenver panel on the crypto-economy
  • 2018.02.23: Logan, UT – Talks on platform cooperativism and open research at Utah State University
  • 2018.03.07: Cambridge, MA – Platform cooperativism discussion at Harvard Law School
  • 2018.03.08: South Hadley, MA – Mount Holyoke College
  • 2018.03.10: Austin, TX – “Platform Co-Ops: Competitive Edge, Social Purpose” at South by Southwest
  • 2018.04.14: East Lansing, MI – MSU Student Housing Cooperative

What Happened to the Future?

Artwork by James SeiboldHi there! We’re just a few weeks away from the third #platformcoop conference at The New School in New York—a celebration and strategy session for a truly democratic internet. It’s called The People’s Disruption, and it runs all day November 10 and 11.

If you can come to just one part of it, come to our free, open-to-the-public Friday night event, “What Happened to the Future,” at 7 p.m. on November 10. It will include:

  • Alicia Garza, founder of #BlackLivesMatter
  • Yochai Benkler, Harvard University
  • Alicia Wong, Roosevelt Institute
  • Douglas Rushkoff, author of Throwing Rocks at the Google Bus

Learn about the Friday event here, and register for the full conference here. A million thanks to my co-organizers, Camille Kerr, Trebor Scholz, and Palak Shah.

Study and hone

I’m now in my third year of helping to create CU Boulder’s MA in Media and Public Engagement. I haven’t talked about it much, mostly because of the busyness of doing it, but now I feel like I should. My colleagues and I have worked hard to create a space where creators of diverse backgrounds can come and study together the crafts of media and social change—activists, social entrepreneurs, narrative hackers, solutions journalists, future academics who want to get their hands dirty, and more.

Maybe this is something you need. Maybe it’s something your community needs. We need you.

Please consider sharing this program with anyone you think might be interested. Let me know if you have questions. The application deadline for this year is January 10. It’s a lot of time and it isn’t.

Bibliography

This fantastic story of a weekend inside a black women’s secret society is just scratching the surface of the much, much bigger story Jessica Gordon Nembhard tells (h/t Phil Klay).

My Study Circle teammate Caroline Savery just published an epic on the Trumpocalypse via the young platform co-op Cosmos.

Bourdieu is useful for analyzing online reputation systems.

This is one of the better Zuckerberg think-pieces lately, but this one takes us to some solutions.

Isabella Bird’s A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains is helping me sleep.

Travels

  • 2017.11.07: New York, NY – Lecture on Catholic cooperative economics at St. John’s University
  • 2017.11.07: New York, NY – Lecture on Catholic cooperative economics at St. Joseph’s College
  • 2017.11.10-11: New York, NYThe People’s Disruption #platformcoop conference at The New School
  • 2018.03.07: Cambridge, MA – Platform cooperativism discussion at Harvard Law School
  • 2018.03.08: South Hadley, MA – Mount Holyoke College
  • 2018.03.10: East Lansing, MI – MSU Student Housing Cooperative

The People’s Disruption

[image: The People's Disruption]

Want to help bring democracy to the internet? On the heels of the successful platform co-op conference in Toronto, I’m now working with a mighty team of collaborators to organize November’s conference in New York, The People’s Disruption. It’s all about connecting the resources of the present with ambitious visions of a cooperative future online, featuring speakers from #BlackLivesMatter co-founder Alicia Garza to venture capitalist Brad Burnham. I hope you can join us! Space isn’t infinite! Register today (and retweet this).

Communists and Catholics

[image:Inside a wine co-op in Emilia-Romagna, Italy]

Over the summer I had the chance to join the MBA program at St. Mary’s University in Canada for a tour of the co-op sector in Emilia-Romagna, Italy. There was plenty to write home about, and I put it together in a dispatch for America magazine, which will appear in the next print issue. Read it and share it online now: “How Communists and Catholics Built a Commonwealth.”

It’s both a report from the field and a reflection on why, as we build a new economy, we should look to our past.

More Where that Came From

I’ve also been writing about stuff like how we can democratize ISPs and the little churches of St. Francis. I turned in a book draft, too! And then there are some live events coming up:

Thank you for reading, thank you for what you do.

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