Monday, September 5, 2011

What Web 2.0 can learn from medieval co-ops

There seems to be an ongoing proliferation of e-commerce sites offering bulk-purchasing services (and savings) to small businesses and individuals (groupon, anyone?) – made possible thanks to the blessing that is the internet and social media (I thought I'd try one out – co-deal).

But do we really need so many? There are various trade bodies that already exis
t that have negotiated discounts on core services for their members (the Institute of Consulting can get you cheaper professional indemnity insurance, Co-operativesUK can get you free banking, and so so) – a model which is largely based on the old Medieval Guilds (an early co-op model).

And in the 1970s there was a surge of interest in people forming food buying groups, from which many worker co-ops were 'birthed' – a trend that's captured peoples' imagination again today.

Ultimately, all these bulk purchasing schemes (whether they be for small businesses like me, or householders – also like me!) are based on a co-op model and exhibit co-op values – empowering individuals to achieve together what they could not alone.

But the co-op model fell out of fashion during the 1970s and 1980s and is only really just starting to come back into mainstream society's consciousness – so I hope that all these new and emerging group buying schemes recognise that they're using a co-op model and look to this proud and historical movement for guidance in building new sustainable businesses that offer economic benefit to their members and users.

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