Suggestions for my talk at Coops Congress re. worker ownership

Hey everyone,

This Saturday I’ll be up in Manchester to present at the Co-op Congress. I am on a panel which is titled Expanding employee and worker ownership through start-ups and conversions

I am just writing my answers to the three questions that the host will pose, and thought I ought to see whether anyone here has any good insights. I can relay Outlandish’s experience of conversion, and I have a fair few ideas about startups, but less on conversions. Please let me know if you have any thoughts to input. Also, is anyone else going up for it or in Manchester at the weekend?

Here are the questions:

  • what is driving the expansion in employee and worker ownership (motivating factors; benefits of model)
  • what factors (human, structural etc) make employee and worker ownership a reality in practice (or example, makes conversion actually happen, or makes a business evolve into a worker co-op early on)
  • what are the big challenges along the way? what are the big stumbling blocks we need to try and remove or help people past?

From my perspective, in answer to “what is driving the expansion in employee and worker ownership”, the two main motivations, 8 years ago, for Webarchitects to become a co-op were:

  1. In order to formally embed our existing values in the rules of our organisation, we had been developing, working on and hosting progressive websites since 1998 but were going through a hard time and needed to almost start from scratch.
  2. In the hope that we would get to work more with other co-ops, in our experience this is something that only really started to happen after some years — people should be aware that this takes time, but it is worth waiting for :slight_smile:.

I have no suggestions for the second question.

For the third question I think of our two biggest problems have been:

  1. Getting enough work, this is an ongoing issue.
  2. Lack of access to capital.

Yes! See this thread, which of the sessions are you speaking at?

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I’ll be there on Saturday, all being well, but I’m not sure which sessions I’ll attend. I’m not speaking at any.

  1. The lost decade since the financial crisis; the overall shift to companies that are mostly services, with no capital, makes a an alternative social structure easier to experiment with ; partly fashion, I heard from someone that coops were very trendy to set up in Newcastle in the late 80s. So maybe there a cyclical trend as well.
  2. Control of the surplus. Communication. Control of duties at work.
  3. Entrances to the co-op networks. We’ve only just started doing this properly, getting our name around as a coop software development firm. Previously we were mixing with standard commercial entities and not getting very far.

What expansion? I’ve not seen the data, but my guess is that even if it is expanding it remains a very small fish in a very large pond (less than 200 co-ops registered in 2018, of which only a proportion would have been worker owned/controlled).

Not sure I actually understand the second question, but if I do, it’s most probably about one or two passionate champions inside the organisation driving the process.

Challenges? Too numerous to mention. The default settings for pretty much everything are in opposition to the goal, despite all of the benefits.

I’m in Manchester on Saturday for the CECOP event. If your session is a freebie (I don’t have a ticket for Congress) I might even get to it. Hope it goes well.

Good luck with the presentation Poly -

Would anyone from CoTech who is attending Coops Congress like to come to OPEN 2019 on the 27th and 28th June for free to update the OPEN community about what happened at Congress and any outcomes? It’s all about joining the dots between these communities, right!?

And you’ll get to hear about Aragon, Colony and a bunch of other cool decentralised projects :wink:
Ping me via the OPEN contact form if you’re interested - ta

According to @Sion, we should able to attend Congress with the CECOP registration, the session @polly is speaking at, “Expanding employee and worker ownership through start-ups and conversions”, is at 1:30pm in the International Suite, this doesn’t clash with the CECOP events in the morning, so we can come and heckle offer our support :stuck_out_tongue_winking_eye:.

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Hey Polly, thanks for taking this leap!

Could you please consider referring to NESTA’s report that @lbj brought up earlier this year in the Platform co-op thread? I feel that co-op start ups have to learn how to operate withdrawable shares if they are to scale and preserve integrity.

Go get 'em Polly!

Thanks @chris that’s correct about my session. I’ll look forward to the heckling!

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Thank you all for the input, this is really useful. I’ll do my best to reflect the network!!