Thursday, February 16, 2012


Data Commons Cooperative news is now posted here:


Saturday, January 22, 2011

Welcome Joe Marraffino!

We're happy to say Joe Marraffino has agreed to come aboard as DCP project coordinator. Welcome Joe!

For the last seven years Joe has worked for cooperatives within the Arizmendi Association in the Bay Area, first as a baker and then later doing financial support for members and incubation of new worker cooperatives. He is the author of, a blog whose goal is to "assemble a contemporary history of the worker cooperative movement in the United States." He and the Data Commons Project are a great match, and we look forward to working together!

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Round one of selection process for coordinator complete

The Data Commons Project Operations Team has made its first round of selections for interview candidates for the position of coordinator of the RBEG grant. The selection process has been extended to mid-January due to the high volume of excellent applications.

If you applied and have not heard from the DCP, please write to us!

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Thanks to applicants!

Thanks to everyone who applied to our project coordinator job posting! We're working through the applications and will be responding as soon as possible. A final decision will be made and applicants notified of the outcome by December 31, 2010.

Friday, December 10, 2010 launched

Congrats to on launching! From the announcement:

"It has been said that cooperativism is an economic movement that uses the methods of education. This definition can also be modified to affirm that cooperativism is an educational movement that uses the methods of economics.”
-Don José María Arizmendiarrieta Madariaga

Dear friends,

It’s time to democratize our economy by democratizing knowledge:Cultivate.Coop is officially launched and live. Visit the website now!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Job Posting: Data Commons Cooperative Project Coordinator

Data Commons Cooperative Project Coordinator

The Data Commons Cooperative Project ( is the beneficiary of a $37,313 USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant, which is funding this coordinator position. The grant was obtained on behalf of the Data Commons by the Cooperative Development Institute (, a 501(c)3 nonprofit based in western Mass.
The coordinator would be expected to telecommute from a home office, preferably in North America.
Work hours are estimated to range from 6 to 10 hours per week, over the course of about 1 year.
Compensation: $15,000 set salary over the life of the project.

Primary Roles
Bottomline the following tasks, with input and support from the steering committee, operations team, tech team, and advisory group (together, the DCP groups):

Operations/Administrative Coordination
Encourage and actively support democratic participation as an integral part of the organizing process.
Schedule, set agendas, and maintain records for meetings of DCP groups.
Maintain the Data Commons management googlesite.
Coordinate communication among the DCP groups.
Coordinate communication with Data Sharing Organizations.
Coordinate logistics for in-person meetings, with support from CDI staff.
Administrative tasks as needed, with support from CDI staff.

Organizational Development
Create/add to current database of potential members, with an emphasis on building a broad and inclusive pool of members and data sharing organizations.
Research and present different organizational models that may be suitable for the Data Commons Cooperative; facilitate a process for the Steering Committee to reach a conclusion on desired structure (e.g. consumer, worker, or hybrid co-op; or other).
Draft articulation of benefits and contributions of cooperative membership for each membership tier or class.
Develop and implement plan for recruiting members and promoting the DCC.
Assist with development of job descriptions for 2-3 worker-members.

Feasibility Study
Solicit input from all DCP groups and conduct market research, with the assistance of a business consultant and CDI staff.
Coordinate with CDI staff to complete a feasibility study.

Business Plan
Lead DCP groups through a business planning process, with assistance and support from a business consultant and CDI staff as needed. Gather and consolidate input from all these sources, and develop a business plan that includes both narrative and financial projections.

Legal Formation
Assist with development of organizational & governance structures and facilitate input from DCP groups to ensure that structures reflect the desired goals and principles of DCP groups.
Assist with incorporation process, including proofreading and editing Articles of Incorporation, Bylaws, and membership agreements.
Develop board policy handbook.

Grant Management
Write quarterly status reports for the USDA on progress toward project’s goals.
Draft a final management report for the USDA detailing goals, activities, and milestones reached; and draft a detailed plan of management objectives for subsequent 12 months. CDI staff will assist in drafting and in finalizing the reports and plan.

Knowledge of working models for worker ownership, consumer cooperatives, and/or non-profit cooperatives.
Experience with business planning and market research.
Community and/or cooperative organizing experience.
Knowledge of the breadth of the cooperative sector in US and Canada.
Strong organizational skills; attention to detail.
Ability to communicate effectively in a variety of formats, including strong written communication skills.
Experience with and commitment to collaborative or consensus-based decision-making.
Ability to work independently and within a team, while managing a variety of tasks.
Computer skills: experience and familiarity with word processing programs, spreadsheet programs, database programs, email programs, client management systems, and website publishing.
Ability to problem-solve and self-teach.

To Apply
Interested applicants should send a cover letter, resume, and at least two references to Applications are due by December 17, 2010. A selection will be made and applicants notified of the decision by December 31, 2010.

CDI is an equal opportunity employer. In accordance with Federal law and the U.S. Department of Agriculture policy, this institution is prohibited from discrimination on the base of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability. (Not all prohibited bases apply to all programs.)
To file a complaint of discrimination, contact:
Director, Office of Civil Rights
1400 Independence Avenue S.W.
Washington, D.C. 20250-9410
or call (800) 795-3272 (voice), or (202) 720-6382 (voice and TDD).

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Whatever happened to Swivel was a popular data visualization site that recently failed as a business. Some information is starting to trickle out about what happened, through an interview with its founders. Some choice quotes. First, expenditure:
We got a Round A funding of two million dollars. By the time I left, we had spent about three to four million dollars on the idea.
Second, income:
[How many paying users did you have in the end?] It was single digits
Ouch. Lessons learned? I'm cherry-picking my favorite here:
I think what we learned, like Roseman is saying, that the interface is not that important, that there are analysts who are really good at tools like R, SAS, etc. and prefer to continue to work in those tools to do powerful things with datasets.
Please read the article for the full context. I just wanted to highlight this point, which I think may be important for the Data Commons Project. I think it argues for letting people maintain their data with the tools they are expert with, rather than expecting them to use a new service. My personal theory is that distributed revision control systems are the way to go for collaborative data projects. Web-based services could be part of such a distributed ecosystem, but would not be its "hub".

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

FaceBook gives users access to their own data

Good news from FaceBook: users can now download everything they've ever put on the site. This is an important step towards transparency. The move is being welcomed by the DataPortability project, whose mission is to help people to use and protect the data they create on networked services - although they are careful to note that being able to download one's data is not the same as being able to control it (read Alisa Leonard).

Monday, October 11, 2010

FACT Social Justice Challenge 2010

Voting for the FACT Social Justice Challenge 2010 is now open on NetSquared. The goal of the challenge is to use web or mobile technologies to foster collaboration around social justice issues. The DCP has a proposal in there, which we invite you to vote for:
We propose building a collaborative directory of the rooted economy.

Our goal is to develop a democratically controlled, accurate, comprehensive, publicly searchable and updatable database of cooperative economic initiatives in North America. Rather than building just another website, we're experimenting with doing so in a (de-geekified) version of how programmers develop the open-source Linux code.

A vibrant movement for a cooperative and democratic economy is growing in North America. Offering innovative and effective alternatives to the “business as usual” of the distant, unaccountable corporations that dominate our economic, social and political landscape, cooperative enterprises and the organizations that support them are building an economy that truly works for people and the planet. But these efforts are often fragmented by geography, sector, and even organizational form. To succeed in changing the economic status quo, people need to find each other, help each other, work together, and be counted.

We're working on several fronts to make this happen. We're compiling a list of directories of the rooted economy (see and let us know about more to add, big and small). We are on track to create a Data Commons Cooperative to foster collaboration in the long term. We are developing free and open source software to show directories and make them editable, wiki-style (see, source code at - this directory will be used by Cooperative Maine, the California Center for Cooperative Development, and the Regional Index of Cooperation). In the course of our work, we've found that plenty of small and large groups are willing to share their data, but that right now it costs a lot more (in time) to do so than it ought to. People like to keep their data in spreadsheets or databases on their computers, and many are reluctant to move those online (e.g. to services like Google Docs). This is understandable, since it is most comfortable to edit data this way, and databases often have fields that should not be made public or stored externally. But that means sharing data can be a tedious and messy business of filtering, exporting, emailing, hand-merging, etc. Another sore spot is making updates to information: any update made in one spot filters slowly or not at all to other locations, and takes a good deal of effort to get there. We want to create a free and open source tool to speed up the process of sharing data and maintaining it up to date.

As it happens, a lot of the pieces are already in place. Programmers have created awesome tools for collaborating in comfort among themselves, which we believe could be just as useful for stream-lined knowledge sharing. What is needed now is a small, committed team who can bring “distributed revision control systems” to our communities in a useful form.

We've already developed a free and open-source program for merging tabular data, ssmerge. There aren't many such programs out there, and we believe ours out-performs them. We are integrating that with the fossil system ( for managing shared repositories. Fossil is free and open source, by the makers of Sqlite, a database used in Firefox, Skype, Apple Macs, many smart-phones, and plenty of websites. Fossil is uniquely lightweight and dependency-free, making it a pleasure to adapt to new uses. There's a first prototype of this work at (with links to documentation and download for Linux, Windows, or Macs). We believe it could be extended to become a great tool for easily sharing parts of spreadsheets and databases, with pain-free two-way flow of updates and additions between collaborators. That would really change the culture, just like similar tools have revolutionized the software world in favor of openness and distributed collaboration. We hope FACT will support us in bringing this change to life. For programmers, distributed revision control systems such as "git" and "bazaar" have proven their feasibility, and can scale from the smallest personal project to the largest (e.g. the Linux kernel). The Data Commons Project has data-sharing partners of all sizes, so we have a strong need for a similarly flexible tool. We suspect others have this need too. Our practice and commitment is to release all our code as free and open source, in ready-to-reuse form. If successful, the tools we build will have no need for central coordination, so there will be nothing to stop our work being used in any country, by any community, without needed to talk to us.

Here are some concrete examples of who we are working to benefit. This work will benefit large umbrella organizations such as NCBA (National Cooperative Business Association) and SEN (US Solidarity Economy Network). They will be able to systematically pull data (with filtering) from small, active networks and pool data with other large peer organizations with overlapping fields of interest. Just as importantly, the work will magnify the impact of data collection activities of smaller networks, such as Cooperative Maine, that focus on specific geographies, sectors, and/or organizational forms. The data-sharing tools and repository we build will assist collaboration between those networks and the overlapping umbrella organizations that represent their interests.

In general, through the proposed work and our other efforts, here's the "status quo" we're trying to improve on (quote anonymized on request):

“For [our co-op directory] we used a database that [a large co-op] had used previously and we added minimal additional data to it—I’m not sure what its origins are, however. I found that [a large sectoral umbrella group] was unable to provide a database of their members due to agreements with their members not to share data and [another large sectoral umbrella group] does not share [member organization] data because changes occur so frequently that the database would quickly become outdated. Those two entities hold a good chunk of the database info I had hoped to collect. The smaller cooperative organizations often do not have a well organized database—I got a [small co-op sector] list in a Word doc. So, those are some of the challenges I faced. That said, I think there are many in the cooperative community who would love to see a comprehensive cooperative database come to fruition.” – a co-op data aggregator

We are excited to find ways to systematically "hold a mirror" to bottom-up community driven organizations of all kinds, so that they become visible individually and in aggregate to their peers, to researchers, and to civic institutions.

Want to help? Vote here before October 15th: