Open Data for the Collaborative Economy
The collaborative sector is growing in New York City and around the world. More support, including funds from the New York City Council to promote cooperative development, means new opportunities for entrants into the new economy — an economy that promotes social justice, workplace democracy, and sustainability.
We want to see this sector grow bigger, stronger and more connected. This past summer, we connected with Amy Kirschner, who founded and administers a mutual credit system up in Burlington, Vermont using OSCurrency, a Rails-based free/libre/open-source platform that facilitates cashless barter-and-points based transactions amongst members of the Vermont Business for Social Responsibility (VBSR). We thought to ourselves, to each other, to Amy, and to anyone who would listen: “Wouldn’t that kind of platform be great for the cooperative sector in NYC? Great as a network-strengthener, an economic opportunity-generator? Great as an organizing opportunity?”
In exploring this idea, we realized that we first needed a robust open data solution to catalog all of the cooperative organizations in New York City. We needed something that could reveal which groups are out there doing what, so that we could collaboratively generate the kind of research and economic mapping necessary to reveal new opportunities in the space — opportunities like bulk purchasing, or shared technical infrastructure, or, yes, a mutual credit system.
This prototype is our first attempt at producing such a solution. We’ve started by taking information that was (mostly) available on the internet, and organizing it into an easily-accessible, exportable and shareable format, bringing data together into a single spreadsheet, streamlining the taxonomy and publishing it to the web using an easy-to-deploy WordPress-powered directory.
The data’s not perfect. We need groups that are intimately connected with this work to claim their profiles, issue corrections, and give us feedback about how we can improve the system. We need to build tighter relationships with those who know this information inside and out, but don’t have the time to build and maintain an outward-facing directory. We also need to bring in data sets from other cities and other sectors, including food coops, farms, housing collectives and more.
Maybe that’s where you come in. Want to get involved? Want to see this work grow? Get in touch and let’s see how we can work together.