I am a freelance with a technical background based in Manchester, UK. Here you can find information on projects I am involved in, along with articles I have written.

July 2023

I enjoyed being interviewed by Stefan Ivanovski for his podcast ‘Lifestyle Democracy’. If you have half an hour to spare you can watch here (Youtube), also available as an audio podcast (search for ‘Lifestyle Democracy’). Stefan has also written a blog here.

The ’thin layer model’ that underpins CNI (Cooperative Network Infrastructure - see below), uses two key characteristics of the cooperative model that are often overlooked:

  • Neutrality - which generates trust. Cooperatives often emphasise democracy as a key feature, but for a cooperative like CNI, one-member-one-vote guarantees neutrality. This enables cooperation between independent and sometimes competing organisations.
  • Access - which the cooperative can mediate. Cooperatives often stress the importance of ownership, but for a cooperative like CNI the key issue is open access. With the right governance arrangements that is as good as ownership, sometimes even better.

Cooperative Network Infrastructure

CNI logo

CNI, the neutral host cooperative we set up to share digital infrastructure assets has continued to grow.

The spine network now covers Tameside, parts of Manchester, Blackpool and, most recently, Brighton, Burgess Hill ad connecting other towns in Sussex.

CNI has over 40 organisations now in membership, the most recent being Lancashire County Council and Neos Networks.

CNI members now have access to over 250km of 'spine' fibre to help them reach customers. 

With CBN colleagues I am working with other local authorities elsewhere interested in using a cooperative neutral host and applying the Thin Layer Model.

Blackpool: Ethically Powered Data

Blackpool Council and Lancaster University have been leading a project to create a cluster of CNZ (carbon net zero) data centres. The aim is to take advantage of assets available in Blackpool and the north west: a new, low-latency transatlantic fibre to the US (10ms closer than the Slough data centre cluster), unrivalled off-shore wind capacity, now and in the pipeline, and a strong political will in the council to overcome some of the difficult technical and commercial challenges involved, for example, in re-using heat from data centres.

It's an 'Innovation Catalyst' project (UK Government funded). The key outcome so far is the creation of a group of collaborators including local and national businesses alongside investors, and the possibility of using a cooperative neutral host (thin layer) approach to local energy market mediation.

You can find out more here

Innovation Cooperative

Graham Mitchell and I wrote a paper for Midcounties Cooperative back in 2008 that proposed the creation of a new type of cooperative designed to provide an alternative framework for start-up and early stage (mostly digital) businesses, avoiding the 'Silicon Valley' investor-driven model in favour of a collaborative model.

Now, some 15 years later and following the inclusion of a similar idea in the report of the GM Cooperative Commission (recommendation 38), we've been working to make it a reality. Fellow commissioner Cliff Mills working with Anthony Collins Solicitors has enhanced the original concept with the innovative notion of cooperative governance as a low-friction, flexible alternative to contract law - in creating consortia for example.

We're just getting started now - you can read more here.