Being a worker cooperative
About worker co-operatives
A co-operative (or co-op) is a group of people who organise together as equals for mutual benefit. A worker co-op is a business owned and managed collectively by its workers. It is organised democratically and fairly by (and only by) its members.
Workers’ co-ops differ from consumer co-ops, in that they are set up to benefit workers, not consumers. They’re also different from employee-owned businesses (like John Lewis) since these aren’t necessarily democratic and don’t follow the co-operative principles and values.
All co-ops follow the seven internationally agreed principles of co-operation. These are:
- Co-op membership is open and voluntary.
- Co-ops are controlled only by their members, who each have equal control.
- All members have a fair stake in the co-op. Investment does not give control and only gives a small return.
- Co-ops are autonomous and independent self-help organisations.
- Co-ops educate and train their members so they can contribute to the co-op. We also inform the public about the benefits of co-operation.
- Co-operation among co-ops benefits members and the wider co-op movement.
- Co-ops act with concern for the community.
Co-ops are also guided by the cooperative values of self-help, self responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity, along with the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and care for others.
As you can see from the Co-operative Principles and Values, co-ops are by their very nature more than just about making money. In fact many within the co-op movement would emphasise that the economics are purely a means to an end, and that those ends are socially useful and educational.
Overview of cooperative governance
This deals with the Cooperative Principles mentioned above as they apply to the overall direction, supervision and accountability of Agile Collective.
- All salaried employees of Agile Collective (except those on Probation, or are otherwise ineligible) will be offered membership of the co-operative, pending agreement by the Members. We hope that each eligible worker will wish to be a Member and at all times the majority of salaried employees of Agile Collective must be co-operative Members.
- Membership training will be offered to all employees.
- Members should attend the Annual General Meeting (AGM).
- Co-operative principles are enshrined in Agile Collective Articles of Association.
- The General Circle and its sub-circles takes care of the day-to-day running and core function of the company. It answers to the Members Circle and acts on their behalf for the good of the company. The General Circle meets on a weekly basis.
- Members Meetings take place every month; Members are normally expected to attend. The minutes of these meetings are available to all Members.
- Members or employees may express an opinion on the running of Agile Collective at any time by raising it in a General Circle meeting or asking to present an issue at a Members’ Meeting.
- Agile Collective will allocate a percentage of its surpluses to collectively owned financial reserves and capital.
- The pay structure and benefits will be agreed by all members at a Members Meeting.
- We will have good financial controls and management, including cash flow forecasts and internal audits of all parts of the business. A quarterly financial review will be conducted.
- We will actively manage and assign responsibilities for our operations, personnel, marketing and other business functions.
- We will invest in equipment, premises and technology sufficient for all employees to carry out their work and longer term development. This will normally be assessed at the Members’ Meetings.
- Members should discuss and promote the nature of cooperative governance, where appropriate, to the public and local community.
- Agile Collective is a member of Co-operatives UK.
- The fact that an organisation is a co-operative will mean that we are more likely to take it on as a client or use as a supplier.
- We should be active in the co-operative community, by being represented at co-operative trade fairs and by building links with other co-operatives on both an institutional and personal basis.
Our work and the community
- We try to reduce our impact on the environment.
- We promote the use of open source technologies.
- We encourage Fairtrade and other sustainable initiatives.
- We are guided by our ethical policy, established in the early days of the company.