Today, marks the official beginning of the United Nations’ International Year of the Cooperative. This took a lot of work on the part of the International Cooperative Association and now it is our responsibility as members of cooperatives to make something of it. It would be a true shame if the only thing to develop from this energy is a thousand Facebook posts and some Youtube videos.
Those of us in the US/Canadian worker cooperative movement need to envision what we want our movement to look like in a year. A great leap forward has already been accomplished with the creation of CICOPA-North America. What will we consider a successful year?
I know that in my cooperative, my personal goal is to get rid of the “boss” position. Currently, I am filling that role as the interim General Manager. I hope that by this time next year, that position has changed in scope or title so that it no longer has the formal power of the boss in our organization. In fact, there are a number of visions of what our cooperative should look like. This year, we took the power to discipline and fire away from the General Manager and create a series of peer councils that handle accountability issues. My hope for this year will be to change the concept of “manager” from a person who makes decisions and can order people to do things to a person who help democratically run teams make decisions and then helps work groups implement those decisions.
Of course, the is the world of minutiae that I find myself immersed in right now–it almost feels like an internal exile from the national and international movement. Still, ours is a movement of small organizations that combine to become something incredible. If the small worlds of our independent coops don’t embrace the spirit and challenge of the International Year of the Cooperative, then what is the point of the energy. It is a year to embrace our values and principles at every level, but most importantly, at the level of our cooperatives.
It is only by making our cooperatives a true difference in the economic world that we can truly be an answer to the needs and desires of those occupying wall street and elsewhere. We do know the answer and we live and work it everyday.
How will we improve our cooperatives? How will we improve our participation with other worker cooperatives? Finally, how will we educate the public, especially the 99%, that worker cooperatives offer a real solution to the economic woes of the world?
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Remember that old worker co-operative saying: “Management is a function not a status.”
In the UK worker co-operatives that have them, either elect or appoint using internal job interview process. Rather than have a boss with all the functions they may seperate some of these roles into different people – operations, personnel (performance management/discipline), strategy/policy etc.
They will then report to the Governing Body, who set direction and make sure they are accountable.
I did a blog on it here if your interested: http://www.uk.coop/blog/johnatherton/2011-07-26/governance-and-management-structures-worker-co-operatives
Oh and Congrats with CICIPA North America, great move!