In 2018 we set about finding ways out of the grim economic reality many UK interpreters are faced with. We have come up with three solutions and then carefully developed each one:
The first solution is a digital platform. We set up technology to let clients book interpreters directly. We make sure it is quick and simple to do. The result? A bypass around translation agencies in the UK market.
Next, we implement a proper business model. Designed to make the platform profitable, and to ensure we deliver the best value for money. For service buyers, service users, and interpreters alike.
And third, we run things as a co-operative society. Interpreters who use our platform have a say in how it should be run. We put profits at the service of the people. Never the other way around.
This plan is a recipe for a platform co-operative. A brand new type of business that creates a fairer and more inclusive economy. Some of the things we planned haven't been tried before. Our challenge can be great. But so can the reward!
We have more details to share below... (and lots more in the coming weeks)
Automation. Platforms are made possible by technology. Activities that until recently required staff to be done, can now be handled autonomously by computers. We will have our platform take over the usual responsibilities of booking management teams. The following tasks will be automated:
Communication. The platform will set up file sharing facilities and enable clients and interpreters to contact each other freely. All files and data shared by clients will be stored securely in the cloud for the duration of the booking. Unauthorised access will be prevented.
Disintermediation. Or in other words: cutting out the middleman. This is the outcome we want to bring about. After all of the admin work has been taken care of by the platform, what is there left to do? Only to provide the actual service. But that is precisely the one thing translation agencies cannot do. Because they are not service providers. Interpreters are.
IMPROVEMENT. We thought carefully not only how to automate the booking management process, but also how to make it better for interpreters. Here are some of the improvements you can expect:
Platforms are two-sided. They connect two distinct user groups who need something from each other, e.g. clients and interpreters. A platform can function only when both groups are present. It means that, as the platform operator, we must be focused on attracting and retaining users. How do we do that? By looking after the interests of both parties and making the terms of the bargain good for everyone. Neither group must be favoured over the other nor exploited for the sake of profits. We made sure our business model will reflect that:
Regardless of subscription or membership status, wages and terms will be the same for all interpreters:
Our project is supported by The Hive programme from Co-operatives UK, the trade organisation for the British co-ops sector. Since summmer 2019 we have been receiving advice and guidance from a dedicated co-ops expert. We have used it to improve our business model and platform design. More importantly, we have drafted our governing document, a.k.a The Rules. It sets out the goals of our organisation and how all decisions will be made within it. We are now ready to apply to the Financial Conduct Authority to be officially registered as a co-operative society.
We have also made some valuable contacts:
We have only scratched the surface of the plans and designs that we drafted. Step by step, we will be sharing more information about the #platform and its many features and usage. We will also set out the #business terms and conditions, and rates that we will be rolling out. Finally, we will be explaining the details of our #co-op set-up and membership requirements. All our updates will be labelled with one of the three category tags and linked together on the website.
With the research and general planning almost done, we have completed the first phase of this project. It is now time to move to the next stage and start building the platform. This will require more people, more focus, and more funds. That is why, if you want us to succeed, please engage with us in the coming weeks and months. There are a lot of things we will need help with, and we are counting on your support.
Look out for updates with the #contribute tag. It will be used whenever we need your help. We may ask for your input, or volunteers, or networking on our behalf. If we launch a crowdfunding campaign early 2020, we will ask for donations too. Without your involvement, no more progress can be made. So please keep an eye on this website, our newsletters, or Facebook and Twitter profiles. Share!
We may be busy, but never too busy to answer your questions! Send us an email whenever you feel you need to know more. We also welcome any feedback, input, or a valuable lead. We will be recruiting more people to join our Steering Group soon, so expect to receive more details about it. But if you already know you would like to be at the centre of it all and help us out, drop us an email today.
If you haven't registered yet, please do so by clicking the button below. You will then be able to receive newsletters with progress updates about our project. Registration is also the first step needed to receive job offers through our platform in the future. Please check our access criteria first. Only qualified interpreters with work experience will be able to use the platform, or become members of the co-op.