We’ve all heard of Wikipedia, and Wiki-How, and Wiki-Answers, and wiki everything else. A wiki is a way of producing something through widespread and thoroughly collaborative processes. Some technology watchers and organizational theorists are saying this new wiki thing is a game changer. The wiki concept has created not just new possibilities in the on-line world but also is changing the way we think about the production of everything from knowledge to healthy foods. Wikis are re-shaping our ideas about how to structure and manage organizations, and perhaps also our lives.

There is a new book, published just a few months ago called Wiki Management. The subtitle of author Rod Collins’s book is: A Revolutionary New Model for a Rapidly Changing and Collaborate World. The model emphasizes collaborative and democratic processes, rather than hierarchical ones. Collins suggests that top management should no longer be looked to as the decision makers. Rather the customer (or client, or member) must be seen as the boss, deciding the direction of the organization. Ideally, customers and employees all the way around should feel and act like owners. Better yet, they should be owners. And it is emphatically quality that is key, not quantity.

This “revolutionary new model” sounds very much like a co-op. Cooperative businesses have been organizing and managing themselves by very similar principles since at least the mid-19th century. Co-ops are, it seems, being rediscovered and re-invented in our internet-era as the way of the future. The Industrial Revolution, with its emphasis on mass production is long over. And the modern economic dependence on concentrations of private capital may also be shifting. Capital can now be raised via “crowd funding.” In some cases employees and suppliers can take the form of entrepreneurial “crowd sourcing.” We now live in a “new hyper-connected world… a ‘wiki’ world where mass collaboration is not only possible—it’s often the best solution,” writes author Rod Collins.

It is very exciting to be part of a cooperative start up movement here in East Aurora. As the East Aurora Cooperative Market blossoms into the reality of a thriving store, we are carrying forth long-held cooperative principles as well as embodying the wave of the wiki future. Our EACM is being organized and capitalized through member ownership, and democratic processes, thoroughly focused on quality over quantity, and set up to respond quickly (via member input and ownership) to the needs of our community.

That’s what a wiki literally is, by the way—“wiki” is a Hawaiian word meaning quick action via collaboration for immediate, effective results.

While the process of getting our store up and running may seem slow at times, it is being structured in ways that enable maximum flexibility and effectiveness in meeting our mission “to cultivate a sustainable food cooperative that is built by and for Southtowns residents through the maximal efficient use of our local resources… [and] a democratic governing process….” It’s what co-ops have been doing for nearly two centuries.

— Ted Brelsford
Board member, East Aurora Cooperative Market