reflections on the ethos and workplace culture of Coexist

I began working for Coexist two months ago, recruited to be responsible for the social media side of the organisation, and to help communicate the work that goes on here. Having settled into my role, I’ve been reflecting on the ethos and culture of my new workplace.

One of the most noticeable aspects of working here is the high level of participation that all members of the team contribute, not only to the running of the organisation, but to its continual development and evolution.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Coexist’s core purpose is to create ‘spaces that best provide for the community’. But there are also a number of related aims which coalesce to form a vision of individual, collective and environmental transformation.

Since the outset, Coexist has been engaged in exploring alternatives to conventional ways of organising the workplace. While we do utilise a form of hierarchy, (in contrast to the more horizontal structure of a co-operative, for example), and employ a board of directors, in practice this board is embedded within the team and responsive to its needs and wishes. The values of the workplace are grounded in a search for collaboration, harmony, wellbeing as well as the empowerment of individuals to fulfil their roles.

The most publicly visible aspect of this has been the Pioneering Period Policy, which garnered a huge amount of media attention in March and April, for the way it aimed to bring about a paradigm shift in terms of how natural cycles are understood and utilised within workplaces.

But that is only one example of the types of conversations that take place within Coexist on an almost daily basis. When it comes to decision-making, the intention is to try and reach consensus, to continually gauge the feelings of the group — for example, by using hand signals — and to enable everyone to be able to participate without fear of judgement and in an atmosphere of mutual respect.

It’s an ambitious approach, one which finds its most concrete expression during TMMMM (Tuesday Morning Mega Management Meeting). This is an opportunity for the team to meet and share ideas and problems, and find ways to resolve them collectively.

These are not your average workplace meetings. They are intended as empowering spaces, full of passionate and energetic exchange of ideas, illustrating the level of idealism and commitment that has nurtured the project since the outset. They can also be intense affairs, and a little daunting, especially for those new to the project. Tensions and frustrations inevitably arise, but these are welcomed, and seen as opportunities for further dialogue.

This week’s meeting, for example, focused on some members’ fears about a loss of integrity of the project, as two of the founding members of the team are taking a step back from its running, while one is leaving altogether.

It was a chance to explore different ideas about structure, hierarchy and what the role of directors should be. Being newly part of this process is fascinating, refreshing, but also a little overwhelming. To paraphrase one of my co-workers, it’s very rare to be part of an organisation that continually challenges and questions itself, that is never static, and that is always open to discussion and new ideas.

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