CoTech Network Coordinator


#1

Hello!

A recurring suggestion in discussion groups at Wortley Hall 2017 has been the creation of a network coordinator position for CoTech. I have drafted a job description based on what people have been saying they’d like such a person to do, and made suggestions for various other practical considerations of creating the role.

You can find the full job description here - please take the time to read it before commenting: https://wiki.coops.tech/wiki/Wortley_Hall_2017/CoTech_Network_Coordinator_Job_Description

In brief, the responsibilities of the CoTech network coordinator would be:

  1. Foster, inspire and originate collaborations and joint ventures between CoTech members
  2. Report regularly to members on the capacity, skills & resources within the network
  3. Field enquiries from prospective members and onboard new members
  4. Seek out and represent CoTech within other networks and communities that may contain prospective members or key stakeholders and partners
  5. Organise the annual CoTech retreat

Joaquim D’Souza is working on an internal crowdfunding/cobudgeting platform for CoTech, and the intention is for this role to be proposed on that platform for CoTech member orgs to contribute to funding it. If the requisite amount is raised, then it will go ahead.

Look forward to your input, either here or on the talk page on the wiki!


How best to build a livelihood within the CoTech network?
#2

From the workshops a flurry questions that arise:
Who is the employer?
Freelance or employee?
How are they paid? If freelance, who do they invoice?
Reports to whom?
How is this paid for? (A suggested model is £100 per coop member per Cotech member coop
Full-time, part-time, 1 day p/w development role?
Short-term contract to start with ?
Method of agreement process from CoTech membership?
How to insure inclusion eg. Advertising the job publicly
If there are issues with their performance, who tackles this on behalf of the network?

Or … as there are real practical issues for transparent and responsible management, do we do the role ourselves as orgs in rotation in the network for a few months / a year while we develop the concept for this and sort out the practicalities (for eg bank account and how invoicing & line management will be organised) ?

It’s all great but just needs more detail and a bit of transparency to enable all members to buy into it.


#3

The full description proposes answers to most of these questions.


#4

First thoughts;

A very full/challenging remit which, to execute meaningfully, would require someone with a wide knowledge of the Cotech member’s product line/s - from dev to marketing and everything in between - and how these can be put together to ‘inspire and originate collaborations and joint ventures’.

Does someone of like that exist out the box, or would it take a candidate a year (at least) to get there? Then, once they’ve got there would they/should they be the same person who organizes the retreat?


#5

Well done @edsaperia on making this.

I feel like this would be a really HUGE task for a human, echoing what @royAB said.

One comment:

The HR administration for this person will be done by the member organisation that makes the second largest contribution, or by any other member organisation that volunteers.

So, your coop donates a lot and in return you’re given the responsibility of managing the HR which will cost you a lot as well? Not sure that makes sense. Also of note, a part of the proposal of the CoBudget platform was to limit size of donation, to stop any one coop having more power - this seems to be at odds with that.

I also think that for anyone to volunteer to manage the HR side of this, means that overhead would have to be low, which means there is potential to want to hire someone who can take care of their own benefits, and therefore they’ll have no support for sick pay, pension, etc., which is not great. Can we make a commitment on base line for work benefits? That’d be nice.


Is there a link to somewhere which explains the need for such a role?

I’m all for more coordination of the network and I think that it will be a lot of work to do this but I’d personally like to see CoTech bring this about internally. Can we create inter-coop working groups to tackle these issues - for example, https://www.loomio.org/p/He0yzESa ? Who better to do this but ourselves (Marxist nearly dying to pop out of me here - nothing to lose but the boss, etc. etc.).


#6

I am not sure we should be starting off from the proposed solution of a single full-time employee to meet a range of needs which we have not yet really worked out.
The proposal would centralise power considerably and would probably incentivise the role holder to want to perpetuate their position.
I would rather we work out specific pieces of work which need doing and then find people to do the particular piece of work - with other people to validate that the work has been completed satisfactorily and sign it off.


#7

They wouldn’t be trying to do this entirely unsupported - there was a lot of talk at the retreat about trying to coordinate together to tender together for larger projects, and I see the role as a facilitator for this, working with the sales functions of the individual organisations, and keeping track of the capabilities and capacity of the members, particular the newer and smaller ones who are likely to be overlooked in such a process.

So, your coop donates a lot and in return you’re given the responsibility of managing the HR which will cost you a lot as well? Not sure that makes sense. Also of note, a part of the proposal of the CoBudget platform was to limit size of donation, to stop any one coop having more power - this seems to be at odds with that.

My assumption was that the main (financial) beneficiaries of this position would be the larger coops in the group, certainly in absolute terms. They’re also more likely to have a more scalable HR function. I thought there was a danger that the largest contributor would end up also doing the HR administration, which I think would give too much influence, so suggested second largest as an alternative.

should they be the same person who organizes the retreat?

My reasoning here is that they could organise the retreat as just one part of their overall network development programme, and so would be designed with their strategic goals in mind, i.e. to foster joint ventures, onboard new members, etc. Currently, nobody has a particularly good overview of the CoTech community, so I think this person would be the ideal person to do this.

I’m all for more coordination of the network and I think that it will be a lot of work to do this but I’d personally like to see CoTech bring this about internally. Can we create inter-coop working groups to tackle these issues - for example, https://www.loomio.org/p/He0yzESa ? Who better to do this but ourselves (Marxist nearly dying to pop out of me here - nothing to lose but the boss, etc. etc.).

A common sentiment expressed in discussions was that members, particularly of smaller coops, had limited time/capacity to fully engage with the community. I think a dedicated network coordinator could help socialise this. Also, no reason why they couldn’t also become a member of a coop!

I am not sure we should be starting off from the proposed solution of a single full-time employee to meet a range of needs which we have not yet really worked out.

I think it’s a good way to force the needs to be expressed concretely. If the community feels it can achieve these things without a dedicated person, that’s fine, but the effort involved in coordinating a community is high, not very visible, and tends to fall disproportionately to the biggest and most connected. This way, it’s a separate, self contained process that can be transparently funded and managed by the consortium. If after a year the general feeling is that the post doesn’t achieve enough, it simply won’t get funded when it comes time to renew.


#8

What is the latest on this? Has there been further discussion on Loomio? (I’m no longer in the group).

Disclaimer: I’m very interested in exploring if I might be a good fit for a role very much like this :slight_smile:


#9

Not much attention has been given to this, but I still think it’s a worthwhile idea. Perhaps you’d be interested in canvassing with it and collecting feedback?


#10

You might be perfect, Josef – on the other hand, what occurred to me was that a small close-knit team might be more effective than an individual?


#11

An individual allows for accountability and focus. By the very nature of the job they’d be working with others to get things done. The point here is to have someone that thinks about this problem and nothing else.


#12

I feel that we would need to have a legal entity and quite a lot of money before we could start employing people, currently we have neither of these things.


#13

My proposal addresses both.


#14

I’ve been thinking about this quite a lot.

The closest we have is Polly, who’s the Space4 co-ordinator and has been doing a lot of outreach work on behalf of the network.

If we could get contributions from other co-ops we could do a lot more, and it would be more sustainable, but I’m not sure how up for that people are. My impression is that money is really tight in the network, and that co-ops are more likely to want to pay their own people to do some CoTech work, rather than employing a single co-ordinator. We’ve made various attempts to get funding for the position.


#15

It’s disappointing - if we truly believe that the network itself is valuable, then it ought to be a role that would very quickly pay for itself.


#16

Yeah, even before seeing this proposal for a Network Coordinator I was thinking about pitching some kind of self-financing CoTech sales position - basically offering to get my head around all the products and services offered by network members and then trying my best to generate lots more sales (for a cut, obviously). Lots of overlap with your proposal.


#17

Help with sales is something Webarchitects could really do with…


#18

In Radical Routes all member co-ops have to commit to contributing a certain amount of person-hours towards doing shared network tasks. Could something similar work for CoTech?

Most successful co-ops networks also systematically pool financial resources too:

  • The Arizmendi Association of Cooperatives support the development of new member cooperatives by the Association by pooling the lower of 4% revenue or 25% of profit. Older more established co-ops pay the equivalent of 1 full time wage per 20 full time equivalent members.

  • Individual members of Japan’s Seikatsu Club Consumers’ Co-operative Union contribute 1000 yen (about £7.50) a month, and also invest substantial sums in the association. In 2010 the accumulated contributions of the members was roughly £220 million, an average investment of about £750 per member.

  • In Mondragon individual co-ops are federated into four sector-wide co-ops: Industry, Knowledge, Finance and Retail. Member co-ops contribute between 15-40% of their profits to these sector co-ops in order to fund joint marketing, branding, and research projects etc. These contributions also help smooth out and share the losses and gains made by individual co-ops – losses made by one co-op can be partially offset (up to 40%) against profits from another. 10% of sector profits are paid to MCC Investments to fund co-operative development. In addition to this, individual co-ops contribute 10% of their profits to the MCC Foundation, 2% into an education fund and 2% into a solidarity fund. About £20 million a year is invested in educational and social projects alone.

  • The Valley Alliance of Worker Co-operatives (VAWC) pay dues of 1/8 of 1% (i.e. 0.00125%) of their revenue to cover the association’s operating expenses and pool 5% of their profits into a co-operative development fund. If the UK’s 7000 co-ops pooled the same amount of revenue and profit as VAWC members it’d generate about £70 million a year.

It was researching all this stuff (trying to work out what %'s of income/ revenue successful network pool) that I re-discovered Enspiral and discovered how they work - no fixed % but a mutually agreed regular contribution (which I think still averages about 5% of revenue per venture, which is VERY high).

Here is a quote from the Enspiral Handbooks section on venture contirbutions:

Venture Contributions

Financial contributions by Ventures fuel the maintenance and development of Enspiral as a whole, and non-financial contributions make up the web of support and opportunity that makes Enspiral much more than the sum of its parts.

Each venture defines how they wish to contribute to the network, financially and otherwise. This could be a flat monthly fee, a percentage of revenue, discounts on services, or any other contribution they wish to make. The basis of the Enspiral model is reciprocity and generosity - the expectation is to contribute at a level reasonable to the resources and stage of the venture.

Financial contributions are made to the Enspiral Foundation, ideally on a monthly basis. Ventures are invited to participate in our collaborative funding process to decide how the discretionary portion of their contribution will be spent (as defined in the Financial Agreement).

Adjusting Contribution

Ventures are free to adjust the contribution level specified in their Venture MOU at any time. It is expected that as a venture evolves, so too will its contribution. Ventures are required to communicate clearly about any such adjustments.

  1. Venture contact person lets the Operations team (via foundation@enspiral.com) and their stewards know the new contribution they wish to commit to.
  2. Operations team prepare a new Venture MOU, which is signed by the Foundation board without negotiation.
  3. Operations team notify Enspiral News to include an announcement in the next newsletter.
  4. Venture Stewards ensure the Venture profile is updated with the new contribution information.

#19

I feel your frustration @edsaperia and agree it’s a good idea @jdaviescoates - it’s the main thing we’re working towards.

Regarding the need for the role @edsaperia one of the issues is that having a single person with 30/300 bosses who all expect some sort of equal return would potentially be quite challenging. Some people sell ‘core’ easy-to-sell services and other more specialist stuff. Some co-ops (e.g. WebArchitects and MediaBlaze) do not have clearly differentiated service offerings, so working as an agent for both is complicated.

There is a cobudget instance for CoTech - https://fund.coops.tech/#/ - though I don’t believe people are that clear on how to login, etc. There are a few applications for a few hundred pounds that have not been funded.

My approach to dealing with this situation has been to try to make more of the co-ops profitable - we’re making a lot of referrals, sharing how we do stuff, etc. - I believe we’ve generated a reasonable increase in revenue for at least a few of the co-ops.

We’ve also done an alternative ‘pooled sales’ approach with a few of the larger co-ops putting together a collaborative pitch to some big companies. Outlandish, Wave, Go Free Range, Agile and Co-op Web (who all sell software) pooled some money to hire The Dot Project to lead on the proposal generation, which is going well (I think).

For our part, we’ve now managed to spend all our money and have got better at giving it away than making it, to the point where we don’t all have enough work to keep us busy, so we’d be more likely to spend money on giving ourselves sales work than on giving it to a third party (though of course we’d chip in whatever we could afford for a central fund if others were up for it).


#20

Well after the last CoTech Community Call, more effort and commitment is going into co-ordination. See the other thread here.
This mainly serves as building up co-ordinated communications - community calls, newsletter and wiki - each of which acts in a quite different way.
I also think that having a single person in the role of co-ordinator would not really meet the needs of the full range of co-operatives. As we proceed we might well find areas we want to throw money at, as we did when we took on three facilitators for Wortley Hall 2017. But then that becomes choosing people with precise roles to complete a specific task with no long term status as an office holder.

all the best,
Fabian