Blue Scorcher: Bread and Circles

The Blue Scorcher Bakery and Café in Astoria, Oregon is a very unique worker co-op. This worker co-op started out as The Bread Collective, a small group of bread bakers. As the collective grew in reputation, production, and staff, a governance shift was needed. In 2012, the collective converted to a cooperative. The focus also shifted to include the café and chocolate along with the incredible bread.

Astoria itself has a rich history in cooperatives that is worth noting. In 1897, Finnish gillnet fisherman formed the Union Fishermen’s Cooperative Packing Company.  The co-op shuttered in 1950s due a unique changes in the fish market, but a 53 year run definitely created a co-op culture within the community.

Blue Scorcher adds to that legacy by adopting sociocracy for its governance and management style. They even take it a step further by holding seats on their board of directors for non-member “experts”. This is a relatively unusual situation in worker co-ops. However, Blue Scorcher follows sociocratic principles (see the governance chart below) and recognizes getting outside viewpoints serves the co-op. I have generally not thought that this is a good idea, but since those days have come around. Many worker co-ops tend to be to internally focused. By bringing in outside viewpoints (and they are targeted for certain areas: co-op governance, legal, financial), the board gains perspectives that they may not always see while immersed in the day-to-day operations.



There is a webinar featuring Blue Scorcher produced by Sociocracy for All (it is 47 minutes):

About John McNamara

John spent 26 years with Union Cab of Madison Cooperative and currently helps develop co-op in the Pacific Northwest. He holds a Ph.D. in Business Administration and Masters in Management: Co-operatives and Credit Unions from Saint Mary's University. He has served on the board of the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives and the Board of Governors for the late, great Democracy at Work Network. He currently sits on the Co-op Circle for Sociocracy for All. He has taught on worker co-operatives and democratic management in the summer at The Evergreen State College and Presidio Graduate School.
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