Trend 9: The Reinvention Of The Co-Op

The term ‘co-op’ and its principles are all over the Internet. It gives expression to a new trend in which people focus on working together instead of being in competition. In the game industry co-op games ask players to work together to create something fun, instead of killing other players. This tendency of working together has made a step from the Web to the urban space over the last years. People in cities around the world are looking for new ways to express their collective needs on a neighborhood level. One of the best examples of new forms of cooperative thinking in public areas are the urban agriculture initiatives. Groups of people reclaim public land and set up a co-op to organize costs and rewards. An appealing initiative is the Seattle Farm Co-Op, a community-based project supplying urban farmers in the Seattle area.

Co-ops mostly emerge from a dissatisfaction with the current state of service. They have an idealistic flavor, but are also an alternative way to collect money for collective action. A good example here is the London-based co-owned People’s Supermarket. Only members can shop at the People’s Supermarket, but they all get a 10% discount on prices as well as a vote in how the store is run. In exchange, members pay an annual membership fee of GBP 25, and they also pledge to volunteer four hours of their time per month working as store staff. As the supermarket is owned by its clients, it is the clients to decide about the range of products sold here.

The sudden emergence of co-ops nowadays is a consequence of three developments. First, governments increasingly take their hands off of public space. Second, the financial crisis has dramatically reduced confidence in classic financing methods (such as mortgages). And third, the Internet has brought new believe in collaborative efforts. Another interesting cooperative project to be finished in 2011 is the ‘Open Co-Op’ Partizan Publik is currently organizing in Amsterdam, along with the Eddy the Eagle Museum and DUS Architects. The Open Co-Op will be a co-working space built and lead by a group of future co-workers.

This article belongs to the Top 10 Trends For 2011. Over the last year we have been writing articles about urban culture and innovations in cities on a daily basis. Reflecting on 2010 and looking into 2011 we have put together a list with ten of the most remarkable trends that we spotted. We would like to deepen them out a little in a series of articles published this week on Pop-Up City.