The argument that public assets were always poorly managed because of the lack of market motivation is not really the case. Bureaucracy has a certain stagnation and thus lacks quick innovation and adaptability but it has a tenacious stability. This is an organizational development issue and has political and personal motivation and security factors attached to change. But change it must.
Sustainable development requires community empowerment in local economic development, social well being and environmental health to meet goals such as those dictated by the sustainable development goals. If a bureaucracy cannot adapt to meet the needs of sustainability and private market forces are self-interested, the public must self-organize and leverage assistance from other institutions.
Now the public is becoming the ‘third institution’. Government has been shown to follow capital to ensure funds and investment but following lacks a sense of entrepreneurship and creative thinking. The public is an open institution of which everyone is a part and can develop on the fly through ad hoc gatherings, information sharing and resource pooling. Now the public is sufficiently organized and decentralized to collaborate on asset management. This could have a very interesting future trend – something akin to social innovation.
The latest example and perhaps the most clarifying to date of this ‘publicization’ of private assets is Twitter. From the newsletter ‘Shareable‘ “Next month, Twitter’s shareholders will vote on a proposal to explore the possibility of the company converting into a user-owned cooperative”. This is a continuing exploration of a member base of users collectively owning a platform that they use.
The primary drive to own a platform is to ensure its usefulness in terms of democratic participation and adaptability for social change. As author Maira Sutton states, “If the proposal passes next month, that still doesn’t ensure that Twitter will become a user-owned cooperative. But even if it doesn’t, this process is raising interesting questions and sparking dialogue about how technology companies could turn into platform co-ops. We’ll keep you posted on how things progress for the #BuyTwitter movement — stay tuned.”