Templating the Co-op Start-Up Process


#1

When designing software, i found that it was better to put more time into the set-up, so as to save time in future, especially when writing for re-use.

I would like to use this method for setting up, and maintaining the legal infrastructure of a co-operative.

We will all have to do these tasks in one form or another, as it’s the basic tasks required for every business.

I would like to propose the creation of some form of template system, that we can use to automate the founding of a co-operative.

This will be for the benefit of other people who want to start a co-operative, as they can use the same templates, so it becomes easier to create a co-operative business.

This means more potential members for CoTech, and a great improvement in the whole Co-op ecosystem.

Extra benefit is that we share the cognitive base-load of the de-bugging process so it runs more effectively, and we all make fewer mistakes. :smiley:


#2

There is the One Click Co-op stuff the One Click Orgs lots did with Co-ops UK but it is very basic (and I think remember Mark Simmonds from Co-op Culture telling me that it doesn’t even really work :-/ ).

Still, I’d love to see something similar but one that virtualises all the various versions of both the Somerset Rules and FairShares Rules as opposed to just the Co-ops UK Multistakeholder Rules that One Click Co-op uses (because the former allow you to giving varying power to different stakeholder groups - e.g. workers 50%, customers 25% investors 25%, or whatever - whereas all members in the latter have equal say whatever stakeholder group they are part of.

I like being able to weight stakeholder groups as it allows one to approximate the Participatory Economics Decision-Making principle that “everyone should have a say in decisions proportionate to the degree to which they are affected by them”.


#3

Webarchitects is a multi-stakeholder co-op with a common ownership structure and voting weights for the different classes of members, workers have 50%, clients and partners 25% and investors 25%, see our rules:

However with hindsight I think I might prefer the option that the New Internationalist opted for, “75% of board members must be user members”, (see their rules) as this means you don’t have any complicated maths to work out votes.


#4

Just seen that the FairShares webpage http://www.fairshares.coop/ownership/ has a link to a Rules Genertor, https://sites.google.com/view/fairsharesrules

These are the rulesets for co-operatives, https://sites.google.com/view/fairsharesrules/cooperatives

More chewy reading. :smiley:


#5

I’d forgotten about that! :slight_smile:


#6

I’ve just had a reply from Chris Mears, the dev from the OneClickOrgs project.

To quote his email,

The project has been pretty much on hiatus for the last few years. [UTF-8?]I’ve been keeping the website up and running, and releasing occasional security updates, but other than that I [UTF-8?]haven’t had enough time to do any real work on improving the software.

All that said, if there is interest from anyone in working on the project, [UTF-8?]I’d be very happy to facilitate that!

I don’t really have the required skill-set, as i’ve been concentrating my efforts on hardware.

Would anyone be interested in taking this on?


#7

Does anyone know which co-ops within CoTech have good Ruby on Rails skills? @Kayleigh @laura @chris @polly - semi-randomly asking you 4 as you seem to have the best handle on this so far :slight_smile:


#8

@jdaviescoates check out our site :wink:

https://www.coops.tech/technology/ruby-on-rails


#9

although I’d guess that if we wanted a much more featureful and powerful piece of templating software (and I think we do) it might actually be easier to start again afresh than to develop on top of the already existing One Click Co-op work?

As mentioned above I’d personally really like to see all the Somerset and FairShares Rules virtualised.


#10

Ha! So basically Go Free Range (my understanding is the Fairmondo don’t really have much developer capacity at all) who last I heard generally charge £13k/ week per iteration! (so even if they did it pro-bono quite large opportunity cost for them)

As I’ve just said, quite likely easier/ better for us to start from scratch…


#11

Perhaps contact Fair Shares to see if they could raise some funding, there does appear, from the outside, to be a moderate amount still sloshing around in academia…


#12

Yes, but it will be worth talking with Chris Mear5s.

It’s always cheaper to learn from other people’s mistakes.

The other thing to consider, is that the OneClickOrgs project was featured by the Co-ops UK organisation, so they’ve got a lot of the legislative infrastructure in place already.

If the interested people talk with Chris, then i’m sure that he will be open to a OneClickOrgs 2.0 :smiley:


#13

There isn’t really any legislative infrastructure need - it just a matter of a form for filling in a set of model rules and sending them off to FCA or Companies House. All modern rules allow for electronic decision-making.

But yes, of course it’d be good to Co-ops UK on board with this, but I’m certain they would be were it to happen :slight_smile:


#14

This is what i meant.

They’ve already won an award from the Co-ops UK for the project, as well as having the goodwill/governmental-recognition from the success that they had.

The Co-ops UK were also giving them free legal support to get the rule-sets digitised in a legally valid way.

This would be a free-as-in-money route towards getting the Somerset Rules and FairShares rules digitised as well. :smiley:


#15

But like i said, Chris Mears is willing to talk with people about this.

Don’t listen to my second-hand commentary.

Best to hear it from the horse. :smiley:


#16

Hi all

Just caught up on this - probably its a good time to mention I’ve been working on something parallel with Co-ops Uk over the last 6-9 months.

We’ve workshopped and templated a super stripped down process for registering a basic co-op, to the point where it will be possible to go from filling out a simple online form to having a registered co-op within 48 hours, without needing any specialist input. We’re starting with a simple worker co-op structure, with a bunch of default options that can then be tweaked after formation as needed. The idea is to market it to busy people starting businesses who while they might have the right values, don’t have the experience, time or interest to immerse themselves in the complexities of different co-op models and choices needed to pick between all the other options on offer. So to start with they just need a quick and cheap way to get a co-op set up and start trading, and can get into that stuff, with external support, at a later stage.

Currently we’re just putting working out the simplest way to finalise a prototype - shouldnt need to be complicated as we’ve got it down to just a set of forms, feeding into a database and sending out emails at different stages with the info entered. So should be able to use existing software - if anyone wants to help with working on this do let me know.

Where it differs a bit from one click co-ops I think is we’re not looking to cover the complexity of different types of co-op or require much if any working knowledge to start - its a simple individual product aimed at people who are just considering different options for founding a business with no prior knowledge. More mass-market focussed maybe, and we may well give it a separate identity also, if that’s needed to attract people. So I think theres definitely value in doing other stuff alongside this to give access to the other models as well.

Anyway, let me know if you want any more info - and as I say, would appreciate any help anyone can offer in selecting software

Dan


#17

Sounds great Dan - who are you working with from Co-ops UK, and elsewhere?
I like the strategy of getting something super simple which works really well for setting up worker co-ops. But there’s clearly a need for a more comprehensive tool which caters for other kinds of legals structures too… seems a shame to do this without planning for that too, in the future… if you see what I mean?
I’d be very interested in more info and possibly up for helping too (probably post July after https://2018.open.coop/ )
:slight_smile:
Oli


#18

It sounds great. :smiley:

Could you contact @polly from space4?

We have a regular meet-up, for the London branch of CoTech.

We’re always looking for relevant speakers, and talking about this project would be ideal.


Also, do you need any alpha-testers?

I’m going to have to go through this process anyway, so i would be interested in taking part in the walk-through’s.


#19

Sounds interesting. I don’t know whether this would be a Co-operatives UK product or stand alone. Certainly I think that the Platform 6 group would be interested in this, and maybe we could build it/host it - sounds pretty straightforward.


#20

The idea is to build it separately to begin with, and cater for one market at a time, then iterate and expand to other sectors as we go. So the first prototype will be for ‘natural’ worker co-ops - i.e. a small group of people looking to found a business where they will all be on a level. So a first target sector may well be tech developers starting their own businesses (would have the nice side effect of producing more potential cotech members too).

We have thought about other legal structures and there’s nothing to prevent us going through the same process to try and simplify the setup journey for those. There should certainly be some advantages having done it once. This is currently quite focused though on attracting people who aren’t currently considering co-op models, and one of the big blockers there is perceived (and actual) complexity and slowness of the process currently.

With a worker co-op we can cut it down to such an extent that we can really push back on those expectations - i.e. 15 mins on your mobile and you can have a registered co-owned business 48 hours later. With the more complex models it adds multiplying layers of questions - i.e. with platform/multistakeholder you get into what balance of power/votes you should have between different types of member etc. And theres currently not one simple answer to that question, as it really depends on a number things. May well be that we can find a default model or process, but first I think we need to nail the simpler challenge, and theres still a bunch of work to do on that.

In terms of presenting, testing etc - we’ve been through a fairly extensive design process now, so keen to just get the prototype up and then start running it past some of the target market, probably potential potential startups or new developer businesses who haven’t heard of or aren’t considering co-ops as a model. Those are the people we’re really looking to get - though hopefully will also be useful to people within the co-op movement as well.

What I would really appreciate at this point is a chat with someone who has a good overview of the different out of the box software that you could use for something like this (form/database/automated emails based on info entered) - we will need to build something separately at a later stage I think, but at this point I want to just do a quick prototype that can be quickly tweaked and optimised based on feedback and testing. I have a few ideas (Nationbuilder? or something cobbled together with Zapier?) - but suggestions welcome.

Dan