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Jeffrey Elkner

Goals for NOVA Web Development "Decidim Summer 2021 Sprint"

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On Tuesday, July 6th, four Arlington Public Schools PRIME interns, Ivy, Karim, Marian, and Max, will begin a four week internship with NOVA Web Development. The goal of the PRIME internship is to "provide students with an opportunity to be placed as interns in professional organizations that relate to their fields of interest" in which they "will be involved in all aspects of the career they explore, including the opportunity to sample higher-level functions of the occupation".

To both accomplish these goals for the interns and at the same time provide real value to NOVA Web Development, we will spend the month investigating, exploring, and evaluating Decidim, a free open source participatory democracy web platform developed in the city of Barcelona, Spain for the use by its citizens.

The motivation for this focus is simple. As IT infrastructure becomes an ever more essential component underpinning the economic relations that govern our lives, relying on big-tech corporations to provide that infrastructures threatens our democracy. One of the three principles of our cooperative is that "we want to help build the world we want to live in." We want to live in a world that values all human beings and supports their full development as the rich, milt-faceted, creative beings we are. Helping to build the world we want to live in is completely opposed by having undemocratic tech oligarchs exercising dictatorial control over our essential IT infrastructure.

Barcelona is alone among major cities at this point in both having a deep commitment to participatory democracy, and in allocating the resources stemming from this commitment needed to create an IT infrastructure built on democratic principles. The result of their effort is Decidim, and contributing to the development and spread of this platform for democratic participation is an obvious choice for a workers cooperative with the values we hold.

While it may make ethical and ideological sense for NOVA Web Development to gravitate towards a platform like Decidim, it is not at all clear that our small, struggling, limited capacity cooperative could effectively contribute to the project. Determining whether or not we can is the central question that will drive the activity of our 2021 PRIME interns during the next month.

Specifically, they will be asked to investigate and explore Decidim, with the goal of answering the following two questions by the last day of their internship on July 30th:

  1. Is providing deployment, custom configuration, and training support on the Decidim platform possible (and reasonable) for a business with the size and skill set of NOVA Web Development?
  2. Is there reason to hope that enough interest in using Decidim by municipal governments and other potential users within the United States can be found to make supporting it a viable part of NOVA Web Development's business plan?

The first question addresses the technical challenges of the platform as related to the technical capacity of our coop. The second question requires a first pass at market analysis to determine if NOVA Web Development's goal of "making a living, not a killing" can be at least partially met through providing support for Decidim.

We have two running instances of Decidim for use during the sprint. The first, the website titled US Tech Worker Cooperatives, is intended to be used by US tech worker cooperatives interested in creating a cooperative federation along the lines of FACT[TIC] / FIT in Argentina. The second is a temporary playground called "Decidim Dogfood" that interns can use initially to explore Decidim.