Article by Jason Nardi, RIPESS Europe

In the age of internet, artificial intelligence, virtual reality and information and communication technologies it is practically impossible not to make use of the digital tools we are surrounded by. Many are useful, but are designed by and for commercial and marketing purposes – and use our data accordingly. But if we want to develop alternative, transformative economies (and not be transformed by the GAFAMs – the Google Amazon Facebook Apple Microsofts of this world…), then we must also create, adapt and use technologies that are designed in a cooperative and community oriented way – as well as transparent, respectful and non commercial.

This is why RIPESS Europe has been promoting the use of open-source, copyleft and ethically developed digital tools, which led us – after the experience of the World Social Forum of Transformative Economies and with the support of Dunia, Framasoft, Exemole, Lokavaluto and others – to write the Charter for Digital Tools for SSE in the General Assembly of 2021.

The Charter outlines the principles with which we approach the use of information technologies and the use of data as a commons.

We have therefore created an “ecosystem” of digital softwares and platforms for the use of the network and its members, all based on FLOSS (Free-Libre Open Source Software) and Creative Commons or GPL / Copyleft licenses. And though we still use some commercial media (such as the major social media), we are trying to promote their alternatives: decentralised, interoperable, cooperatively owned and community managed.

In the years we have experimented with many different online solutions. Some we have abandoned, others we are trying to improve and learn how to use better. The result is that we are using many – because there are many needs and functions they cover – but trying to make them more integrated one-another, either connecting them directly (single-sign on user; interoperable data) or linking one to the other, as they complete and complement each other for information – discussion – documentation – interaction – research – learning – networking – knowledge sharing – (economic) exchange…

Our main tools are the main website (and the connected newsletter), our multimedia library, the nextcloud (with its shared documents functions and archive), the CRM based on Odoo, which we address as Members intercooperation space and accounting / management. The latter also includes powerful group working tools (for projects, etc.) and is connected both to mapping tools (which are integrated into and to chat channels (with rocketchat). We also have a peertube site (to replace youtube), a moodle platform (for knowledge exchanges and e-learning) and the (renewed) solecopedia, which will use semantic web tools to “communicate” with other wiki-based websites. Discussions forums and decision-orientation for working groups are done through Framavox (a loomio installation by Framasoft) and for our online meetings we use BBB-Big Blue Button, thanks to Dunia.Earth (and in the future connected with

What else? There are many other platforms out there and the last thing we want to do is to close the network in a self-referential digital space… so we are co-promoting and collaborating with some of them, such as (led by Ecolise), (with TNI and many others), as well as the geo-social with which we have a pilot in Italy and the Smartketplace e-commerce with local currencies and a pilot being developed in Switzerland. We are also discussing with Openfoodnetwork and others about the interaction among direct consumer-producer online cooperative tools.

We’ve also been using Decidim and Civicrm for the World Social Forum of transformative economies, contributing to the development of tools for assemblies and open/social forum events…

and will further collaborate with other networks (such as ECOLISE, GEN Europe and Transition network) to find common solutions and synergies. Our limited resources (both economic and technical) do not allow us to integrate everything we’d like to, but we have seen some important progress over the last few years, as well as many challenges in promoting the use and dealing with issues that don’t make it easy to compare with commercial platforms. Finally, we still need to figure out the economic (and user) sustainability of all these tools!

In the next years we would like to work more with free tech (hardware and software) communities, cooperative IT providers, digital commons activists to imagine together, experiment and develop the tools to transform the economy for the benefit of all.