We are Co-op 2.0

Laura Hilliger
Oct 14 · 5 min read

Last week, We Are Open Co-op met in London for our first IRL Co-op Day since January. We went deep and broad and forwards and backwards and all around, and we all left inspired by the day.

CC-BY-ND @bryanMMathers

After a rollercoastery year for the co-op, we’ve turned a corner. We are on Co-op 2.0.

Earlier this year one of our members decided to press pause on co-op work and reflect and/or re-adjust his working style, focus and commitments. We called him “Dormant Doug” and the idea of Dormant Co-op Membership was born. In practice, we released him from our membership expectations of coming to the weekly meeting or otherwise engaging with the co-op. What we didn’t do is have a conversation about what “dormant membership” actually means. Now we have.

CC-BY-ND Bryan Mathers

Any We Are Open Co-op member is welcome to press pause and deal with life. We might even encourage it if we see that one of our members needs a break. Our (evolving) principles for Dormant Members are:

  • A dormant member is not expected to come to the weekly meetings (active members are)
  • They won’t be asked to work on projects until they decide they want to (we’re not going to hassle you)
  • They have to continue to pay yearly membership dues (no dues, no membership)
  • Dormant members can stay informed by reading slack or coming to any meetings they want (we’re not taking away your access!)
  • They are welcome to join co-op days, and regardless of their dormancy, the Pot will take care of their IRL Co-op Day expenses.
  • Dormant members have a voice. They have access, and ALL members have the co-op’s ear. If a dormant member sees something and wants to comment on it, the co-op will take their comments into consideration.)
  • While members absolutely have a voice, they may not have a vote. If a member is dormant, the Co-op is not required to solicit a vote. The member can show up to a vote, but we make decisions about the business in our weekly meeting. If a dormant member isn’t participating, they might not know we’re voting on a thing.
  • A member may be dormant for up to a year. After that time, the Co-op reserves the right to “retire” the member (though we didn’t talk about how that works exactly!) — I think it would trigger a conversation about the value being in the co-op is bringing them (and the value of their being in the co-op to the co-op…)
Offline by @bryanMMathers is licenced under CC-BY-ND

The theoretical situation that led to this discussion was about adding a new member to the co-op. Let’s say three of the four active members have worked with someone they think would be a great addition. The fourth active member is in agreement. Theoretically, a dormant member could insist that “No, not this new member”. We thought that’d be a bit unfair because a dormant member would not have been part of the recruitment and suitability testing.

The other theoretical conversation around dormant members and their voting rights was about how we spend money in the Pot. The We Are Open Co-op wants to spend some of it’s own money to do some business development and marketing tasks that members don’t have the capacity for. If we want to hire someone on a project basis, do we have to convince dormant members it’s the right thing to do? We thought maybe, no?

Do you have feedback? We don’t set things in stone. We write them on editable wikis :)

The Dormant Doug conversation made us realize is that we don’t have our Administrative Ducks ordered. For certain things, only Doug had access. This led to a situation where the Co-op didn’t have insight into it’s own business :O Now of course, Doug was forthcoming in helping us out, and providing system access, but that’s not the point. Any member should be able to go on vacation, take a sabbatical or otherwise be away without the Co-op needing them. We’ve decided to put a little process around where and how we store access codes, paperwork and some admin things. All Co-op members should be able to take over the bits and pieces of running the business.

We all track our time differently, so we’re looking into some apps that will allow us to have insight into each other’s Co-op workload. We have made some decisions, but not documented them in our All the Things Wiki, so we recommitted to making sure that is up to date. We agreed that we would have a thorough look at this documentation at our AGM meeting each year. We’ve been having good experience with a spreadsheet we’ve been using to calculate estimates and committed to making one for every proposal we do. This way, we know how and why we calculated something. If we have a contract, we add a tab to that spreadsheet that compares the actual days spent versus what we bid, this will help us have more realistic bids on future work.

Maybe this stuff seems a bit boring or even “heh, you aren’t already doing this stuff”, but you have to understand the kind of work that we do and the kind of people that we are. We are creative, big brained thinkers. Our policies, processes and systems evolve and change. This is a good thing.

Laura Hilliger

Written by

Writer. Maker. Techie. Power tool user. Founding member @WeAreOpen, Open Ambassador for Opensource.com, work @greenpeace alum @mozilla http://laurahilliger.com

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