Incom ist die Kommunikations-Plattform der Fachhochschule Potsdam

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Incom ist die Kommunikations-Plattform der Fachhochschule Potsdam mehr erfahren


Co-op.comm is a project that was created in the university course “Organigrams for/from future”. Within the course, we visited different collectives, cooperatives and other company models that were on a path towards cooperativism. These structures communicate with each other in interwoven, self-determined and fluid ways. Through this unique communication, they jointly develop sustainable and subjective solutions.

Communication can help transport values, ideas and benefits of collectives and cooperatives. But because of the individuality of each co-structure, explaining them is often not easy. It takes curiosity and exploration to gain an understanding.

I understand this work as an attempt to visualise the complex communication structure of cooperatives and verify the hypothesis if this can function as a mirror of the complex co-operative work environment.


The initial idea of focusing on the communicative aspect of co-operative structures is based on two impressions I gained during the course, while interviewing people that work and life in a co-operative or similar to co-operative environment:

  1. Within the discussions at our visits, when we had questions about structural change, dealing with challenges, etc., often there was no clear process behind it, but rather the answer was „we'll talk about it and make a decision“. This repeatedly emphasized the importance of communication.

  2. It first came as a surprise to me that communication was not noted as a co-operative principle in the paper about the Rochdale Pioneers. But communication is found in or follows many of these principles. Communication is not so much a dedicated principle as a reflection of the co-operative structure itself.

I started to collect every aspect that was related to communication which I gained during the visits and while reading related papers (see sources).


With the help of this collection I defined project goals of my visualisation for different user groups:

Co-operative interested users

  • Show through communication visualisations what differentiates co-ops from other more hierarchical structured companies
  • Understand the complex communication landscape of co-operatives as well as „every co-op is different“
  • Underline the benefits of co-operative communication
  • Use this as an inspirational input to transfer to ones own workplace

Members of co-operatives

  • Use the visual representation as a basis to talk about their own co-operative communication structure
  • Recreate upon the co-op communication structure examples; their own „sort of organigram“ communicative structure
  • Potentially: using the exploratory part to visualize their own communication structure

And last but not least, I myself wanted to evaluate whether my thesis that communication can serve as a mirror of the cooperative structure is correct.

Based on this, three account focus points have emerged:

  1. Delimitations and peculiarities co-op communication
    When showcasing and explaining communication aspects in co-ops the focus should lay on what distinguishes co-op communication from communication in other work setting. Nevertheless, there is still place for showcasing present agile and new-work concepts in work-related communication
  2. Communication intimacy
    It should be clear that communication in co-ops can always be very intimate, as members bring "more" into discussions and decisions through ownership and resulting higher responsibility.
  3. No co-op is like the other
    Since one present learning is, that every co-op is different and there are lots of "classical working structures" that contain a sense of cooperativism, it should be exemplary shown, that every co-op differs from another.

Communication Layers in co-operative environments

Through my research, I recognized that communication in cooperatives is multi-layered. As in any other business model, cooperative members communicate about personal interests as well as work-related issues. In a cooperative, where each member also owns the business and community work is an important aspect, another level of communication occurs: cooperative-related communication. These levels can be extended to multiple entities involving either work-related or cooperative-related communication, and quite often both.


I encoded the above levels visually, and in order to do justice to the multi-layered nature of cooperative communication, I  decided to use them in my visualization as well. In addition, this has the advantage of allowing personal preference exploration as the levels can be explored in sequence and the complexity of the visualization can be controlled. The prototype linked in the following section reveals more about the visual coding of the visualization.


Visualizing the communication landscape

The final visualization is presented in the form two-sided website that currently exists in its prototype stadium. The webiste consits of multiple engangement elements.

Monologue View

Exemplary, guided, linear tour to understand the basic features and elements of cooperative communication as well as to be introduced to the visual elements of the representation. At every point the Dialogue page can be reached.

Dialogue View 

Building on the elements of the visual monologue, this page offers space for exploration. Different levels of complexity can be made visible and individual elements can be examined in more detail. A drop-down menu makes it possible to switch between different cooperative structures that are generalized but based on the cooperatives and companies visited. This feature underscores differences between each working models presented and enables comparison.


This pending subpage will displays all cooperatives listed in the dialogue as a gallery view and provides additional textual information. 

To better understand the structure of the website and the connections between the individual elements, feel free to take a look at the following flow chart.


The current version of co-op.comm is presented as a Figma prototype and contains 3 visualized cooperative models. Read the oulook for more information about continuing work regarding this project.


Unfolding the edges of communication

Unfolding connections goes beyond just looking at the line of communication. Talking about a topic or with a person is never purely an exchange of information. It is shaped by values and perceptions and in turn has an impact on the relationship of the communication participants. Therefore, the unfolding character lies in showing the levels that contribute to, favour or hinder communication. This expands the planar view of a line of communication to include various depth dimensions. The following diagram illustrates different properties of communication edges.



Since each cooperative is unique in it's structure, members and problem solving-approaches, the individual showcases included in „co-op.comm“ are based on the models of the following interviewees:

  • Smart eG
  • Regionalwert AG Berlin Brandenburg
  • Backstube Vollkornbäckerei
  • Gruppe F Berlin - Freiraum für alle GmbH
  • Regenbogenfabrik e.V.
  • SuperCoop Berlin
  • WeiberWirtschaft eG
  • Madia Potsdam

Apart from self-gathered information during the visits, several papers were read during the course. Major ideas and information were collected from the following sources that were combined in this project:

Lueder, C. (2013). Diagram utopias: rota and network as instrument and mirror of Utopia and Agronica. Journal of Architectural Education, 67(2), 224-233.  

Fairbairn, B. (1994). The meaning of Rochdale: The Rochdale pioneers and the co-operative principles (No. 1755-2016-141554).  

Weeks, K. (2020). The problem with work: Feminism, Marxism, antiwork politics, and postwork imaginaries. Duke University Press.  

Ostrom, E., Burger, J., Field, C. B., Norgaard, R. B., & Policansky, D. (1999). Revisiting the commons: local lessons, global challenges. science, 284(5412), 278-282.  

de La Bellacasa, M. P. (2017). Matters of care: Speculative ethics in more than human worlds (Vol. 41). U of Minnesota Press.


Both the course „Organigram for/from the future“ and the topic of communication in cooperatives were rather challenging for me. It was not always easy to collect and sort out the enormous flood of information we were given and to find my own approach to the subject. Once I had decided on the communication aspect, I quickly realized that I had to find my own interpretation and entry point. This is because communication is omnipresent in professional and private life, its influences cannot be measured to their full extent, and the diversity is enormous. This may be one reason why I had a very hard time finding a visualization form and content focus, which I only managed to do after the most intense brainstorming of my life with Jacky.

The nomadic structure of the course and working closely with people was a highlight for me. I often feel that gathering sources and creating an opinion based on them falls short in many projects at this university, so it was very nice to be able to do this and directly gather content from people involved in a co-operative environment. In addition with the paper reads I really felt like the work I did is based on evidence. Even though I wish I had more time to develop my project and have the opportunity to discuss it more. But I haven't given up hope yet (see Outlook).

Aside from the final projects, I feel that this course has really improved my attitude towards work. I have learned that work can be more than just a source of money and how beneficial it can be to look at it without the capitalistic lens and with a sense of community and personal well-being. I've reached a point where I don't even think I can work in a „classically structured“ work environment anymore. Some of the papers and discussions have even pushed these thoughts to the point where I sometimes question the ubiquity of work, even though it is a made-up concept to a point. You see, I think I will carry this course in my mind for a long time to come.


Since I developed the prototype of co-op.comm with a real website in mind, my goal is to translate the existing visualizations into an online accessible version. Apart from that, and since - as I now know - every co-op is different, I aim to include more showcases based on our visits.

Ein Projekt von



Art des Projekts

Studienarbeit im zweiten Studienabschnitt


foto: Prof. Dr. Marian Dörk foto: Prof. Myriel Milicevic

Zugehöriger Workspace

Organigrams for/from the future


Sommersemester 2023