Most experienced IT folks have faced the choice of freelancing versus working for an established business. Freelancing offers creative autonomy but not necessarily steady income. A job with a larger company provides a steady paycheck but often comes with creative and personal constraints. We are part of a growing movement among creative professionals who want an alternative to traditional business structures. The worker-cooperative business model enables IT professionals to maintain control of their work and life, produce excellent work, and retain the benefits of the value that they create, without sacrificing security. Our tech cooperatives offer the support and team approach of a firm but are entirely owned and democratically governed by the folks who work in them - us. This is a moderated panel with a focused, first-person discussion of different experiences of working in tech cooperatives. We will explain why a growing number of IT professionals prefer working in a co-op setting, the advantages and drawbacks of a democratic workplace, and the processes of starting and maintaining a worker cooperative.
Drew has been a part of C4 Tech & Design since 2008, working as a web developer and project manager for a diverse client base that includes dozens of local businesses and non-profits, as well as regional and national organizations. A native of Massachusetts and a graduate of La Salle University in Philadelphia, he brings several years of web development and internet organizing experience to the web team, as well as a background in writing and editing for print publications around the country. Before joining C4, he was the lead web developer for the Public Interest Network, a national network of over 100 non-profit environmental and consumer advocacy organizations. When not behind the computer, he enjoys playing drums with his band and taking time to appreciate everything about the city, including the year-round biking weather and New Orleanians' seemingly inexhaustible joie de vivre.
Jack Aponte is a worker-owner at Palante Technology Cooperative, a NYC-based coop that helps community organizations move forward with the aid of technology. Jack specializes in building Drupal sites, technology planning, and training and documentation. Jack is an erstwhile blogger at AngryBrownButch and Feministe and is involved in organizing & movements around social, economic, and media justice and in queer, trans, and people of color communities.
Designer and web Developer, Design Action Collective — Poonam came to the U.S. in 1999 from her home in the United Arab Emirates. With a long-time commitment in social justice work, she has has contributed her skills to numerous progressive non-profit organizations and community projects. She has been at Design Action Collective since 2004 and among other things, she is currently an active participant in the worker cooperative movement in the Bay Area.
Raeanne Young is a worker-owner at Quilted, a worker-owned, cooperatively-managed web company. Quilted provides strategic consulting, graphic design, web development, as well as game design and development services to progressive arts, education, and non-profit organizations. Prior to Quilted, Raeanne worked in technology policy promoting digital rights at the Center for Democracy and Technology. She spends much of her time thinking about how to create better value-driven development processes, collaborative design projects, and business practices that support workers as whole people.