We know that apart from wondering what you’ll make for dinner tonight, the burning question on your mind is why The Broken Spoke is a cooperative? Well, apart from ‘cooperation’ being a word we’ve liked since nursery school, the cooperative model gives everyone within the organisation a voice. In practice, we work for the benefits of our workers and volunteers rather than external shareholders.
From the beginning we’ve been working closely with the Cooperative Enterprise Hub for advice and training. Thanks to their assistance and support, we became a fully fledged not-for-profit Industrial and Provident Society Multistakeholder Co-operative in December 2012.
Phew, that’s a mouthful.
Here are the essentials: Our members are people who have given a significant time investment to the Co-op. Employees and volunteers who meet the criteria agreed by our Board of Directors can become members. Thus, individuals who have made a concerted, long-term commitment to our cause will be able to contribute to the governance of our humble organisation. And how exactly do they contribute, you ask. Well, informally they contribute as members of teams within Broken Spoke, like Team Beryl or the Staff Team. On a more formal level, our members can stand for and elect our Board of Directors. These guys oversee the Co-op, make sure we’re on track and sticking to our Rules. They also attend our AGM and contribute to decision-making on the big questions (like how often should you really lube your chain?).
According to Wikipedia (not the most reputable source, I know, but a good example of cooperation), the first successful cooperative enterprise was the Rochdale Society of Equitable Pioneers founded in 1844. One member received one vote, thus challenging the idea that a person should own property before having a political voice. The concept spread rapidly, and now there are thousands of cooperatives around the world. According to the International Co-Operative Alliance, cooperatives provide 100 million jobs worldwide, 20% more than multinational enterprises.
Enough history though, you can read more on the International Co-operative Alliance website. To make a long story short, cooperatives are base on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity, and solidarity. They generally adhere to the following guiding principles:
- Voluntary and open membership
- Democratic member control
- Economic participation by members
- Autonomy and independence
- Education, training, and information
- Cooperation among cooperatives
- Concern for community