Doug Belshaw mastodon (AP)
I've realised that people might not really have any clue about how #coops are different from regular businesses. So I'm going to write something.

🤔 Questions?


There are no stupid answers. You might want to ask about things related to everything from politics to money to the history of the co-operative movement. It could be that you just want to know how co-ops make decisions when everyone owns the business? Up to you.
coop marque
2 people reshared this
no worries if this is a bit too left field but I was wondering if you had any thoughts on co-ops and b-corp certification and how they might overlap (my understanding is that you can structure your business as a co-op AND be a b-corp since the latter is more of an audit/certification layer on top of your company structure)?
Doug Belshaw mastodon (AP)
@jamesravey Excellent question, thank you
I'm interested in the ownership structure and how you deal with tenure. Ie. How does a new employee-owner get treated vs someone who was there from the very beginning and how does that change over time?
I'm not sure how to phrase this...

What does sustainability look like? If a coop is membership based, how to build that sustaining membership group so that rotating members in and out isn't A) onboarding all the time, and B) volatile because of member turnover?
Ateriath mastodon (AP)
What does the initial set up of a coop look like? Person I know tried to start one with their colleagues and were under the impression that they all had to form their own LLCs then combine as shareholders into a coop. Is that true? I’m sure it’s different depending on locality, the specific profession, and many other factors, but an idea or example of how one starts a coop would be great to hear.
Doug Belshaw mastodon (AP)
@Ateriath Good question, and depends on territory - will ponder 👍
DeepBlue V7.X mastodon (AP)
I know almost nothing so everything is welcome. One big concern is probably how funding works as well as conflict resolution.
I work at a very large co-op right now that has, effectively, insulated the governance from direct action by co-op members by having elections and electing officers, but only from a pre-selected group of candidates. The group that pre-selects the candidates are the current board of directors. I know this is how *my* co-op works, but what I don't know is if this arrangement is common, the larger the co-op gets, and whether the author thinks this is desirable in some cases.
Steve E mastodon (AP)
@spaceraser I'm slowly coming to the notion that coops don't scale well without creating these types of problems. They DO federate well, so the answer might be to create lots of smaller cooperatives and federate them for buying power.
This entry was edited (2 months ago)
@steveediger yeah I think that natural response to the other, the desire to protect the co-op/“our thing” from people that “don’t share our values”, can cause incremental change that leads to somewhere you don’t necessarily want to be. I don’t know if you can *guarantee* the culture and mission of a co-op won’t change *and* preserve democratic, “flat” heirarchy.
@steveediger the way our co-op managed growth was drawing the board from the business/retail professional executive people that happened to be co-op members and making retail executive experience a de-facto requirement for board membership. I don’t know if thats great, but I also don’t know if you don’t need experience leading groups of people at scale to effectively lead a “co-op” that is itself the largest retailer in its sector. Maybe the solution is to never get that big, like you said
Doug Belshaw mastodon (AP)
@spaceraser@steveediger Yeah, Principle 5 is explicitly about upskilling people
@steveediger been digging in to the WAO site and I’m currently in the weeds on badges. Is there a co-op principles course on Participate I could dig in to?
Doug Belshaw mastodon (AP)
@spaceraser@steveediger there's not, but that's what we're talking to the new about (which is being formed out of CoopsUK)

This work is six years old at this point and we're planning to revisit it soon, especially as it uses our old logo!

(image by @bryanmmathers)
Co-op badges representing ICA Principles 5, 6, and 7
Steve E mastodon (AP)
@spaceraser@bryanmmathers so you're involved with the new venture. We, the USFWC Peer Tech Co-op Network, were just informed about it by John Atherton. I hope your venture is successful!
Steve E mastodon (AP)
I saw questions and started answering them. I'll let you do your writing and am available as another set of eyes / editor.😁
Dr Robert N. Winter mastodon (AP)
There are no stupid answers?

Very confident about your responses to our questions aren’t you? 😂

As for a question, I’m interested in governance models. I’ve been doing a little bit of reading of late on various options in relation to open source, e.g., do-ocracy, founder leader, etc. Could you speak to governance challenges in the co-op space?
Doug Belshaw mastodon (AP)
@robert Yeah yeah 😜

Thank you for the non-stupid question Dr Winter, I shall address it in my upcoming paper!
M. Grégoire mastodon (AP)
What is the average lifespan of a co-op business? Why aren't they more common? What are the largest co-ops in the world? How does their level of democracy change with scale?

(Here in Canada, the #AntigonishMovement of the 1920s and 1930s favoured co-ops as a system for economic empowerment. In #Antigonish itself, the only surviving co-ops are a grocery store and the credit union. In Québec, 80% of residents have accounts with the Desjardins credit union group.)
Doug Belshaw mastodon (AP)
@mpjgregoire Thanks! Good questions 😄
Leo Sammallahti mastodon (AP)
Dajb provided some good answers, would add one; incentives for founders can be weaker.

Once co-ops are up and running, they tend to outperform other firms. But for the founder(s), it can often be more profitable to start the firm as a conventional capitalist firm they fully own.

Made an infographic/article article about the topic.
Doug Belshaw mastodon (AP)
@LeoSammallahti@mpjgregoire Thanks, Leo. That's a really difficult thing to get across to people, especially in the current economic climate:

"Hey, that cool idea you've got will be more financially profitable to you personally if you set up as a traditional corporation with a hierarchy. But it's better for the world and your community if you set up as a co-op."
Leo Sammallahti mastodon (AP)


We also need to develop mechanisms by which founders of co-ops can be better rewarded if they take disproportionate risk/effort in the early stage.

It is one reason why I'm so optimistic about #exit2community movement. The founder starts off as a conventional company and then sells it to the workers/customers/etc. for a compensation they both agree on.

Ideally they would start off with a coop right away, but #E2C can be a more appealing approach for many.
Given that so many companies nowadays are announcing layoffs, how do co-ops handle layoffs? Or maybe a better question would be how do co-ops handle the underlying issues that would often lead to layoffs?
Doug Belshaw mastodon (AP)
@hubert Thanks Hubert! Good questions
Doug Belshaw mastodon (AP)
@hubert Also, in terms of the underlying issues, you may be interested in this post from earlier in the week: