Spotlight Interviews with Co-operators

Collective construction, the best strategy of the Argentine Federation of Technology, Innovation and Knowledge Worker Cooperatives (FACTTIC) to face current challenges

“Spotlight Interviews with Co-operators” is a series of interviews with co-operators from around the world with whom ILO officials have crossed paths during the course of their work on cooperatives and the wider social and solidarity economy (SSE). On this occasion, the ILO interviewed Leandro Monk, President of FACTTIC.

Article | 18 September 2020

What is the Argentine Federation of Technology, Innovation and Knowledge Worker Cooperatives? 

The Argentine Federation of Technology, Innovation and Knowledge Worker Cooperatives (FACTTIC) brings together cooperatives that operate in the technology, innovation and knowledge (ICT) industry.

FACTTIC was formed in 2010, mostly by young people, who chose this form of organization to develop their professional careers, in response to the incipient creation of professional cooperatives. This process is twinned with the recovery of companies and factories by their workers, which mainly occurred after the economic, political and social crisis that the country went through in 2001.

For some of the first technology cooperatives, scaling up the company with a greater number of members would have affected participation in decision- making; therefore they began to work on a model that promoted the creation of new cooperatives, with emphasis on local roots and development of different capacities. The figure of the federation emerged as a means to articulate this network, with the aim of organizing both knowledge and production methods, as well as support and collaboration for the strengthening of cooperative or pre-cooperative processes.

In its beginnings, FACTTIC was made up mostly of young men from both the software industry, the academia and also from other paths linked to social and artistic movements and the media. Over the years, more and more women members were incorporated into these cooperatives, not only in administrative or management areas, but also in the technical area. Several cooperatives created gender spaces within their organizations, and since 2019 the federation has a Gender board that brings together women and gender non-binary individuals, who also participate in the board of directors.

Over the years, FACTTIC has grown in number of member cooperatives and this has resulted in a constant modification of the federation's management and organization strategies. Currently the management is carried out through:
  • Board of Directors: meets once a month (all cooperatives can participate);
  • Inter-cooperative Work Flow (FIT): it is a space for inter-cooperative production and joint marketing. It meets once a month and is open to all members;
  • Gender Board;
  • The main communication channels are: general mailing list, team chat (Mattermost), Council Telegram channel (for decision or coordination updates), Wiki and repositories.
Due to the strong imprint in relation to free and open technologies, this approach is also applied to the governance and management of the federation. The information circulates freely and in a transparent manner, and the participation of everyone is encouraged beyond the formal structures imposed on us by specific regulations.

What are the key activities of the Federation? 

One of the key activities of the federation is the Inter-cooperative Work Flow (FIT). In this space various work dynamics are articulated, ranging from strengthening and guiding pre-cooperative groups and increasing the capacity to develop projects, joint marketing and training strategies and collective innovation. Thanks to the promotion of cooperation instead of competition between cooperatives, we have developed inter-cooperative projects, allowing us to provide a better service to our clients and generate links and exchange of knowledge between members of different cooperatives.

Among the agreements reached is the total transparency of the information, the non-subcontracting or outsourcing of services (a joint solution is offered) and the solidarity between the cooperatives when facing crisis or difficult moments.

What are the challenges and opportunities facing the federation? 

We are also facing similar challenges that all economic sectors are currently experiencing, and in particular as we belong to the social economy sector, we are not beneficiaries of some of the state aid or protection programs.
However, due to the prominence of the ICT sector in recent years, and especially during the pandemic caused by COVID-19, we understand that there is a lot of work to be done in terms of providing people, organizations and companies with technological tools according to their needs and respectful of the rights of their users.

Technological cooperatives can be a key actor, coordinating with the state, universities and other public or private organizations for the development of technology that is based mainly on people, that guarantees access, that takes care of privacy and that promotes the transfer of knowledge and local development.

Do you have collaboration or solidarity initiatives with other cooperatives that are in the platform economy in other countries and/or regions?

In 2019 we have begun a process of linking and collaborating with technology cooperatives from other countries, creating ties based on trust and on the articulation of common strategies to think about and improve our ways of production.
In this sense, we have started implementing projects with CoTech, the network of technology cooperatives in England, and to strengthen the link with HappyDev in France and technology cooperatives in the United States of America, Spain, Bulgaria and Israel.
In all cases, we work with the same principles of transparency, cooperation and solidarity. At the same time, we find colleagues in these cooperatives who share our search for new forms of production that are centered on people, both workers and users or clients, and take into account the different aspects that guarantee the reproduction of the social and environmental life.

How do you see the role of cooperative platforms in the context of a changing world of work, for example, in the context of the recent COVID-19 pandemic? How did the latter affect workers, and what measures did the federation take?

Cooperative platforms are presented as a valid alternative since they integrate the different actors that participate in transactions (users, workers, companies or businesses, etc.) and allow the democratic management of resources and governance procedures. There are several actions that we are carrying out from FACTTIC, on the one hand, in collaboration with INAES (National Institute of Social Economy) we are working on localizing the CoopCycle payment module, a free software that allows us to have a delivery or logistics application that can be used by worker cooperatives. Also, we participated as local representatives of the Platform Cooperativism Now! ‘Cooperativismo de Plataformas YA!’ Coordinated by Trebor Scholz (The New School) and Jose Mari Luzurriaga (Mondragón University), where people from different provinces of Argentina participated.

Regarding the effect of the pandemic, compulsory social isolation and the global economic downturn, greatly affected the member cooperatives. In April-May many of them had almost no jobs to undertake or saw their services diminished because their clients could not afford them. Various strategies were given within the cooperatives to take care of the jobs and “leave no one behind”. Many used their own savings or modified their withdrawal distribution schemes. But, with no doubt, the area that worked best was the FIT, since 4 months later, and thanks to an enormous work of marketing and joint strategy development, we managed to stabilize almost all the member cooperatives. Faced with an uncertain future, we will continue to strive for our mission while putting collective construction at the center of our work.