Previously on the DisCo Elements...
In the last chapter (Care Work First, Code Later: DisCO Philosophy 101) we focused on the personal stuff - how and why the recognition of care work is so crucial for change-makers and DisCOs.
What needs to happen for DisCOs to grow and flourish across the economy? This is the purpose of the DisCO Project: to provide educational tools and experimental spaces for the ongoing, transnational development of DisCO. It’s an undertaking that needs ongoing support to reach a broad base of potential advocates and participants.
DisCOs are designed to be developed from the bottom-up. To create the
desired cooperative economic counterpower, they will need to find each
other and network through agreements. Supportive legal and policy
frameworks would greatly enhance some of the potentials described in this publication. As explicitly political and federated initiatives, DisCOs also act as a training ground for deliberative, inclusive decision-making processes, preparing members for responsible civic action. In this way, DisCOs could act as pilots to prefigure new forms of policy around networked politics.
Given DisCO’s transnational orientation, the following recommendations
are general and non-domain specific.
Individual DisCOs and federated DisCO networks need to actively campaign for legislative change at various levels in applicable jurisdictions. Additionally, the objective is for the State to provide the necessary infrastructure to empower and protect the creation and upkeep of DisCOs, but not direct the process of federated DisCO development. 
Arguably, the development of DisCOs centered on ecologically and socially-oriented work can directly address urgent crises at their root, radically democratizing social and public health provision and large infrastructure management and upkeep.
This lessens the need for costly post-hoc state interventions and brings a more democratic distribution of economic power, alleviating government enforcement of redistributional strategies through taxes or benefits.
DisCOs also provide solutions for state actors by providing meaningful employment, narrowing the digital divide, and actively addressing the gendered aspects of work.
To support these goals we propose that states and municipalities enable DisCO development through:
1. The provision of special economic incentives for DisCOs, implemented as:
2. The development of legal frameworks to provide DisCOs with appropriate institutional (i.e., State, federal) support to facilitate their operation and innovative accounting practices.
4. Supportive municipal policies for provision or support for physical infrastructures for DisCOs, including hackerspaces, hackerlabs, maker and co-working spaces. Unused municipal facilities could serve as short- or long-term incubators for knowledge work, skill sharing and technology transfer, as well as for the development of new, federated DisCOs.
5. Support of community investment funds for federated DisCOs, with dispensations for:
6. DisCO-oriented work training programs with DisCOs providing practical education in their specific sectors, as well as the DisCO methodology and tools. This would include transfer and acknowledgement of credits for higher education.
7. Research and higher education support, leveraging existing DisCO open-access documentation, training programs and pedagogical materials.
8. Support of DisCO initiatives as bottom-up facilitators of Green New Deal projects. Compared to normative public-private solutions, this would:
9. Prioritization of DisCOs and DisCO federations over for-profit entities when capitalizing on products/services derived from publicly funded research, including healthcare and medicine, code and end-consumer products. This would ensure fair pricing, ethical application and open licensing.
Earlier we mentioned the first few DisCO LABS. At present a variety of additional DisCO LABS in diverse sectors such as the arts, textile recycling/reuse, permaculture, education, online marketplaces and medicine are presently being planned and launched. Research findings from these pilots would experientially validate DisCOs advantages and potentially facilitate policy uptake.
Complementarily, there is abundant existing research on many of DisCO’s formative influences, such as multi-constituent social solidarity and cooperative sectors, existing Commons-public partnerships, the benefits/savings of FLOSS, blockchain/DLT experiences in record keeping and inventory tracking, can be included into DisCO-focused policy proposals.
DisCOs are designed to be autonomous in operation and not State-dependent. From a legal standpoint, cooperatives are private entities. But in the interest of long term remediation — social, economic, environmental — governments would be called upon to prioritize support for generative, restorative industries, and to divert funding and subsidies away from harmful, extractive and exploitative ones.
If DisCOs, to paraphrase the WWI,  aim to ‘build the new world in the shell of the old’, it must be acknowledged that the old world still holds vast amounts of power. The affordances of radical, prefigurative projects such as DisCOs will always be affected by the constraints of existing systems, including public policy.
What DisCO proposes is radical economic subsidiarity: distributed production and economies not of scale, but of multi-faceted scope. With the increasing awareness and discussion (even if divisive) of our many global crises, taking a stand becomes more important, collectively and individually. Covid-19 has required countless people to work from home, which has also raised many reflective questions on the purpose and effects of those jobs.
For true change to happen we must first address the productive and reproductive spheres of work, the decisions about what we produce and why, and how we regard fairness in the way we treat one another. Lasting change can’t be predicated on individualistic patterns of consumption, but consider this question: as citizens (more than consumers), can we continue to support the exploitative labor practices of the ever-growing economic power monopolies exemplified by Amazon, or do we see ourselves capable of contributing to the revolution of work, as exemplified by DisCO?
While compatible with existing economic forms (i.e., co-operatives, the Social Solidarity Economy, etc.) and actively working to subvert the right-libertarian bent of most blockchain economics towards associationist ends, DisCOs also pave the way for decommodification and non-market exchange thanks to their commons orientation.
They train us to resist and create capacity for whatever the future may hold.
Finally, DisCOs place a new and more empowered political subject at the center. Beyond the precariat, DisCOs exist to care for and reproduce commoners — understood as people in communities who steward their own resources according to the rules, norms and values they set for themselves.
With the sustenance of 2.5 billion people depending on natural resource commons and an abundance of commoning practices taking place in digital spaces, mutual aid groups, food production, cohabitation and fablabs and makerspaces, the logic of commoning is evident in the ongoing Covid reality. DisCOs catalyze these practices into a feminist economic and care-oriented framework, paving the way for pervasively sustainable commons-based alternatives to the dominant order.
Wild facts and habit fables. Creatures, imaginations and impossible worlds. feminist scholar and all around badass Donna Haraway shows us how Science Fiction is a “critical germ/seed and point of eruption” towards better futures.
“No Experience Required”
Afterword by Ann Marie Utratel
I’ll keep this brief. If you’ve read some or all of this publication or its predecessor, the Disco Manifesto, it might seem like information best used by people with specific experience or expertise in fields like human resources, academic research, economics, organizational psychology, project management, accounting, team building, software design, cooperatives, or any of the other fields that may have been mentioned or implied. I don’t think that’s the case.
The teams we’ve helped build and work with do have members with specific expertise, but they also have some people – like me – with far more general experience, and perhaps even several careers in their past. When I say “no experience required”, what I mean to do is remind you that in some moments, it’s more important to take a beginner’s approach and see what you can do with some new ideas.
To someone who may be working from home now during the up-and-down pandemic crisis, I’d say try our time-tracking advice and understand where your precious hours go. If the research I’ve been reading is helpful to mainstream corporations, it’s helpful to you too: reports say that people are often more productive working from home, for a few reasons, one of them being that they’re simply spending more time working.
Why? In my opinion, it’s possible that people don’t know when to stop, don’t have good boundaries yet, and don’t feel like they’re seen as “doing enough”. That’s not going to be sustainable in a shifting work-life balance full of new expectations, but it’s better not to rely on feelings or impressions.
Capture your own time-tracking data and see for yourself. To someone who has a less secure position, or who is trying to move their side hustle up to the main focus, I’d say: consider if you might want to form a small, trusted team, make it a cooperative and share the workload as the side gig grows. Can you implement some mutual support practices? Are you interested in tracking care work, and opening discussions about how everyone’s work is valued? Can the team make decisions together and bring everyone’s strengths forward? What about creating something to share in a community you belong to? Building an information or material commons is another step towards changing how we share and create together.
All of the DisCO Principles and Values can be interpreted, adapted and
implemented at a very small scale, and every step counts. If it seems like you’d need to be a multi-titled expert to take this on, let me debunk that right now.
Cooperation doesn’t depend on titles, it depends on attitudes, goals and care. We care about the future, and we offer these ideas so that you can take inspiration and hope from them, starting exactly where you are right now.
We’ll be here if you need us. Take care.
This article is the Last chapter of Groove is in the Heart: The DisCO Elements, which is currently being serialised on HackerNoon. The featured image is by baddogwhiskas. Click here for full image credits.
DisCO stands for "Distributed Cooperative Organization" and it is a feminist, cooperative and commons-oriented alternative to the mainstream DAOspace. The DisCO Elements is a non-linear introduction to the "hows" of DisCO. Click here to download the full PDF or EPub with extra content or visit DisCO.coop for more resources.