Co-op Series Part II: Getting Started

Created on November 12, 2023 at 10:17 am

We kicked off this series by announcing our decision to pursue a worker-owned cooperative model. In this and subsequent posts, we will be providing updates and learnings as we progress.

Last fall DATE , after nearly two years DATE of research and discussion, we made our first ORDINAL major step toward cooperatizing: Bocoup PERSON is now a member of The United States Federation of Worker Cooperatives ORG ( USFWC ORG ). We’re honored to be finding our way alongside this powerful network of aspiring and long-standing worker-owned co-ops.

USFWC ORG values education, as do we. Accordingly, we’ve promised to share our progress and learnings publicly along the way. In this post, we will focus on some critical learnings during the research and planning phases. At a high level, this included:

Internal information-gathering to better understand the team’s needs

to better understand the team’s needs Formation ORG of an opt-in committee to implement our process, and appointment of a project manager

to implement our process, and appointment of a project manager Landscape ORG and legal analysis of worker-owned cooperatives

of worker-owned cooperatives External ORG interviews of existing coops, cooperatization partners, and other experts in the field

of existing coops, cooperatization partners, and other experts in the field Evaluation of potential cooperatization partners

of potential cooperatization partners Selection ORG of USFWC ORG as our partner

Even at this nascent stage, we’ve encountered considerable trial and error. Though it seems obvious in retrospect, we learned mid-way through planning to take the same structured approach we do with our external projects and partnerships. Here are some of our key takeaways.

Ensure alignment from the start

This isn’t Bocoup PERSON ’s first ORDINAL time exploring cooperative ownership. Back in 2014 DATE , leadership and select team members investigated a co-op model, but didn’t have a clear plan for engaging the full team at every step of the way.

This time, we made sure to start with plenty of full-team groundsetting. Once the team had given input on the path forward, we set up an opt-in committee to conduct initial research, both externally and within the company.

Incorporate it into your annual DATE plan

In our first year DATE of co-op research, we found ourselves deprioritizing it whenever “business-essential” needs emerged. So in 2022 DATE , we shifted to incorporate it into our definition of business-essential.

As part of our annual DATE strategic planning, Bocoup NORP sets goals and corresponding quarterly DATE success measures. For the past two years DATE , one CARDINAL of our annual DATE goals has explicitly referenced our investment in “collaborative decision-making.” Our quarterly DATE outcomes related to collaborative decision-making required specific and consistent action on our cooperatizing work. Within a few months DATE of adding it to our goals, we’d made more progress toward worker ownership than in the entire year prior DATE .

Create intentional structure

Structure exists whether or not you formalize it, which is why we so highly value project management in our day-to-day work. Our volunteer committee was moving forward, but lacked intentionality in the roles and habits we’d fallen into. Starting in 2022 DATE , our fantastic Operations ORG Manager, Ashley PERSON , stepped in to project manage our committee’s process. We scheduled recurring meetings, and set an agenda for each. Ashley PERSON continues to manage our progress, including coordination with our cooperatization partner.

Find a cooperatization partner

For many of us at Bocoup GPE , this was relatively new territory. But so many others have gained meaningful expertise in this subject over years of dedicated study and hands-on experience. We’re glad we decided to collaborate, rather than figure it out on our own. And as we navigate the financing and governance planning phases of the work, we’re relieved to have a partner to guide us.

To help us identify our cooperatization partner, we created an interview guide and evaluation criteria for determining alignment with our company’s needs. While the USFWC ORG ended up being the best fit for us, there are a number of resources available to companies at the early stages of their cooperatization process. Here are a few organizations we either researched or had the opportunity to learn from as we explored our options:

We’re immensely grateful to everyone who helped us get off the ground, including current and past team members who’ve pushed for cooperatization and dedicated time to research and exploration. We’ll continue chronicling our learnings as we go.

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