From the outside, a co-op may look like any other business
–it’s what happens inside that makes them different.
A worker cooperative –or co-op– is a business owned and operated by its workers which are members of the co-op. Each member has an equal share of the co-op. In a worker co-op, the members get to propose and vote on decisions and profits are invested back into the co-op and distributed to members, as opposed to shareholders or investors. The primary goal of a worker co-op is to create a better and fairer way of working for members.
There are many types of worker co-ops, and they can operate in different ways. For example, some are equal pay whereas others follow more traditional salary models. However they all adhere to the seven basic principles and ten basic co-operative values; Caring for others, Democracy, Equity, Equality, Honesty, Openness, Self-help, Self-responsibility, Solidarity and Social responsibility.
We had traded as Creative Coop since 2003 and although we followed the co-op values and principals it wasn’t until 2013 that we officially became a registered society co-op. Our founding members had very similar reasons for leaving behind working in traditional agency jobs. We had various frustrations that were very similar and these included working for clients we didn’t feel were ethical, not having a say in decisions at the agencies we worked, multiple levels of management often resulted in a lack of involvement in the creative process and we often we worked long hours that mostly benefitted shareholders. The obvious solution for us was to go freelance however we missed certain elements of working in an agency like collaborating with other specialists. We couldn’t provide clients with the same level of skills and services on our own. Buying software, equipment and insurance multiple times over was inefficient and increased costs. Forming a co-op meant we could retain a voice in what we worked on while also working with others and gaining shared efficiencies on costs.
For clients working with a co-op like us has benefits too. Our members are passionate about the projects we work on and all members get a say in projects that we take on. As a result we really understand the challenges and opportunities in the third sector. Clients are in safer hands working with a co-op as the majority of private-sector agencies go into liquidation within 5 years, for co-ops 80% are still in business. We invest our profits into creating a stronger organisation, building reserves, rewarding our members and helping to support good causes. It also enables us to occasionally work with clients that may not be able to afford our usual rates.
Profits generated by a worker co-operative are reinvested into the co-op and distributed among the members in a manner agreed upon by the cooperative.
Worker co-operatives promote active participation and democratic decision-making among their members. Important business decisions, such as planning future strategies or defining company policies, are made collectively through a democratic process.
Wellness of members
Worker co-operatives care about their members as they are the core of their business and sole owners. Education and training is more likely to be provided as well as being supportive of development adaptable to members. Communication is more transparent and members know what’s happening within their coops.
We care about the people in our co-op and in turn this provides better client experience
We reward our members fairly with competitive salaries and a share of the co-op profits
We choose to work with clients we think are making a positive difference
Your own voice
All members get a chance to input into the direction of the co-op and have a say on key decisions