The Quest For Paid Work: (Making a) Living On The Edge – Olivier Schulbaum

 

 

Olivier is part of a social enterprise called Platoniq and is based in Palma de Mallorca. Platoniq work on various projects mostly based on ICT, the latest of which is Goteo, a crowdfunding platform with crowdsourcing options so a project is not just asking for money but building a community. Platoniq have never believed in living off a service in Internet so they live off offline services through workshops, consultancy for social enterprises or cooperatives – developing tools on Internet and these tools bring them reputation and that is the base of the business which is giving services to public administrations, which is hard right now in Spain, and also to private entities.

Goteo is the result of two years research on alternative economy models based on Internet – P2P credits, microcredits etc. Goteo is based on crowdfunding and crowdsourcing with open DNA, only helping projects to be founded if they have, for example, open design, free software, open hardware etc., concentrating on these new business models. More than crowdfunding, it’s like micro credits which are paid back in the form of educational packages, code, design etc.

Open licensing is totally integrated in the Goteo platform so any project using it has these licenses right from the start. When a person helps a project through Goteo, they are helping to open up processes – an example is an open shoes project which is not just about buying shoes but putting money to “liberate” parts of the process like the design so everyone can build their own shoes.

Platoniq always have two approaches, online and offline so Goteo was conceived without code at first and this influenced the final design of the platform. It was really co-designed through workshops and other processes – which means it has more features and is much richer than other “similar” platforms. This is the capital that Goteo brings with it and is also where the money comes from, from workshops and not through the small percentage of money they get from the platform. The business model is selling services around it which is a common thing with many open practices.

Sprints & lemons

The enterprise moved from Barcelona to Palma de Mallorca in part because Susanne from the Platoniq team is originally from there and because it is nicer to live there. They have a garden where they produce their own tomatoes and lemons etc. and turn to the Internet when they need to know how to do something or share practices with other ecological producers. Before opening their new office they were spending half of what they spent in Barcelona, even though they had a free office in the Catalonian capital. Previously they were working with people full time in the Barcelona office but now they do sprints, coming together to work three days a month in a very focussed manner.

The crisis has produced a schizophrenic situation because there are lots of institutions that want Platoniq to help them develop participatory projects – they have less money than before and they think that participation will be cheaper and the users will provide the content. It’s a big mistake they have to fight. 50% of money they make is from institutions so it has been affected a lot by the crisis – if before clients were taking a year to pay, now they are taking two. However they are doing more workshops as crowdfunding seems to be one of the alternatives for projects to find a way of being funded. It’s important to use this moment to show that open models are much more effective and not as obsolete as closed ones, Olivier says.

Platoniq have both online and offline networks and are taking advantage of the fact that Mallorca residents pay half price travel to maintain them – meaning they can go to say, Bilbao, and work with interesting people for a few days, something they couldn’t do before. He thinks it’s necessary for people to meet each other and have a sprint from time to time and concentrate on the things to develop instead of having an online to do list – sometimes it’s good to be located somewhere and work with people for a few days and then to meet on Internet.

Testing the limits

A recent campaign on Goteo to fund a legal case against the ex-director of one the crisis-ridden banks in Spain has tested the limits of the platform – normally they have between 8,000 and 10,00 visits a day and with this campaign they had double that amount in the first hour, collapsing the server. So many people are fed up of the situation where banks always get public money whatever they do while there is no money for R+D, health, education etc. that they responded, he says. The server had to be changed in the middle of the campaign and the idea was to get €15,000 in six days, and they got it in 24 hours. If there hadn’t of been the server problem, they would probably have got it in 3 hours. It also created the schizophrenic situation of using a bank payment platform to go against the banks. It’s a very interesting sociological case to investigate, Olivier feels, being, he thinks, the first political/social campaign done through crowdfunding, and therefore a very interesting citizen evolution in his opinion.

The UrbanLabs Club?

UL2

It’s been a crazy, inspiring, tiring month or so with the Citilab presentation at the CCCB, my visit to Birmingham and then UrbanLabs – and a lot of time reflecting, analysing and plotting.

Something’s been bugging me for months now & I’m beginning to understand what it is – ever since my first visit to Birmingham I’ve been trying to put my finger on the “difference”, on what is happening there, what is (or isn’t) happening here, on the role of Citilab and on the part of Cataspanglish in all this.

It all seems to have gelled in the last 48 hours – the “difference” or “solution” is twofold, sharing & community.

The Birmingham scene is the way it is now after around two years of people getting together, doing things and having as much a relationship offline as on. Dave Harte showed in his UrbanLabs presentation how this had happened and backed up my own experience when speaking with peeps from Brum. Twitter seems to be the fabric that holds their community together and the other important point is the willingness in Birmingham of the people to come together and use their skills & knowledge to to participate in, criticise and construct a wider community (not just the geeks) throughout the city and now further afield.

Oh yes, and with a sense of humour.

Citilab Presentation October 2009 - Digital Cities-1

So everything seems so deadly serious here (usually – thank you Platoniq for the construction of the Twittometer for the Grande Finale of UrbanLabs!) and often the concept of sharing seems like something from another planet. There can’t be community when people won’t share and there are clearly many in Spain (& elsewhere of course) who are using social media as just the latest tool on the block. While I was in Birmingham I spoke about social media in Spain to a group of students and lecturers from the Birmingham City University, talking about the difference between the way social media is usually used in Spain and a few inspiring projects such as Copons 2.0 (created by Ricard Espelt). A Spanish student said that he doubted anything would change as in his opinion his fellow countrymen & women are too entrenched in the status quo.

Ironically while I’ve been writing this, Ana has already posted a call to arms – and that’s what I want this to be. If we are to form communities amongst those of us who are doing or want to do, we cannot have just have these great, inspiring events once a year. So what I want to suggest is taking the spirit and PRACTICE of UrbanLabs and turn it into something more frequent. Let’s have some sort of follow up on a regular basis, a Saturday morning every couple of months and with participation through video-conference for those who can’t be there in public. Let’s get the UrbanLabs Club going and continue the narrative, the dialogue and the sharing. Let’s make the bloody community!

If you are interested in making an UrbanLabs “Club” please leave a comment.

5 reasons why we'll be at UrbanLabs!

urbanlabs Around a year ago I went to Citilab-Cornellà for the first time to participate in UrbanLabs 08 – you can see my first impressions here. A year later I'm working at Citilab and taking part in the preparations for the event, which we will also be going to as cataspanglish. So here are some of the reasons cataspanglish will be attending:

  1. UrbanLabs is a hands-on get down & dirty event which aims to have a real impact and not just be a talking shop although there are some…
  2. Great keynote speakers – Adam Greenfield, Juan Freire, Ben Ceverny & Dave Harte. These are not your boring "circuit" speakers, but people with a real passion for what they're doing & thinking, people who get involved in things such as…
  3. The Ideas Bank which Platoniq are coordinating – real ideas & projects will be presented and the participants of UrbanLabs will be voting on the "best" one to give some financial aid to from the (low) fee from the event because …
  4. the motto for Urbanlabs  (a contribution of one of its founders, Enric Senabre)  is (read this post by Ramon Sangüesa): "Technocitizenship" (geeks with civic conscience and citizens with digital abilities) and "Socioinnovation"  (let technocitizens invent their collective future) – so come &
  5. let's invent our collective future!

See you there…