In 2015, several cooperative supermarket projects were launched in Europe based on the model of the American cooperative Park Slope Food Coop, including the BEES coop project in Brussels. Within this project, a volunteer IT team was formed with the aim of adapting the Odoo management software to the specific needs of a cooperative and participatory supermarket. Little by little, other structures contacted them for similar developments. To meet these demands, the Coop IT Easy cooperative was created in 2018. Over the years, new cooperative supermarkets in Belgium, France, Switzerland and Germany call on Coop IT Easy to implement the Odoo solution. Each client contacts the service provider directly: there is little or no exchange on IT matters between supermarkets.
Moreover, new developments in the software used by all are influenced by the supermarkets that have more resources than the others and that finance their development requests by contacting Coop IT Easy directly. A need for mutualisation is then felt. It is therefore important to define a common framework for collaboration and mutualisation so that each actor is consulted and heard, and can have a say in the strategic evolution of the IT solution. This is all the more important as in 2022, there are now 12 cooperative supermarkets using the same software. Thus, Coop IT Easy signed up for the “Prove Your Social Innovation” call for projects at the end of 2021 to finance the construction of this mutualisation framework: Komunigi is born.
The project is divided into 2 axes:
- Axis 1: Intercooperation. The objective is to build and maintain two communities: the user community on the one hand and the developer community on the other.
- Axis 2 of the project aims at reducing the barriers to technical collaboration. The code used by the cooperative supermarkets is public and under a free license (AGPL-v3). However, it is only being developed by Coop IT Easy and Coopdevs. The objective of this axis is therefore to allow others to contribute to the code.
The project will allow us to answer practical and governance questions, especially for the user community:
- How to determine the next mutualised developments?
- How to finance these projects, according to what cost distribution
- How to finance the vitalisation of the intercooperation after the subsidy?
- How to integrate new partners in the community?
- Should we sponsor new partners in order to attract more projects and later share the recurring costs?
- How to integrate the migration costs in the business model of Coop IT Easy?
For the community of developers, it will first be necessary to identify the members: the Coop IT Easy developers of course, but also the volunteer programmers of the supermarkets, and other IT service providers such as Coopdevs in Barcelona who also support cooperative supermarkets in their territory.
In order to allow these actors to contribute to the code, we will work on a common vision of the evolution of the IT solution, in close connection with the user community.
To meet the needs identified in Komunigi, the following actions are undertaken:
- A core group of users is formed to make concrete proposals related to governance to the community (19/11/2021, 17/12/2021, 11/02/2022).
- A meeting cycle for the user community (frequency: once a month). This is where exchanges on good practices, new requests, and funding take place.
- Regular information sessions for new cooperative supermarkets will be organised.
- The code used by cooperative supermarkets (in particular obeesdoo) is analysed to identify the code that is specific to supermarkets and the multi-purpose code (which can be useful to other types of structures)
- The modules are renamed to be more generic and are proposed to the Odoo Community Association (OCA). A call for volunteers is launched to participate in this part of the work.
In parallel, a tool to allow the collection of user requests and a voting system is being investigated. A logbook is published regularly on our website to inform the communities about the progress of the project and invite them to participate.