Eric Magnuson

My unique intersection of cooperation, sustainable business and local living economies.

Until I re-prioritize blog publishing, all my contributions to the noise can be found on Twitter.

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

How long does it take to incorporate a worker cooperative?

This is a question that I haven't had an answer to for quite a while. What I am learning is that the process of creating bylaws is not in itself difficult or time consuming, however going through that process with seven people is. The progress we are making is rewarding and probably as fast as it can be given we are all working full-time delivering Web Collective services. Are you wondering how this works when creating a worker cooperative?

Me and the two others on the bylaws committee are spending our time uncovering the key questions relating to how we want to structure and govern ourselves. For each question we come up with a proposal and then we present those proposals to the rest of the Collective. Proposals sometimes generate more quesitons and get sent back to committee which means we conmtinue our work. We didn't start from scratch, we started with the model bylaws published by the ICA Group combined with the bylaws of Oly Washington's coop Beluga Software. With these bylaws we identified about 30 questions and 30 proposals. We've been working on bylaws now for about three months.

What I've learned is that while much of bylaws are boilerplate and seemingly obvious, there are plenty of points that invite deep introspection into what kind of business you want to be. Combine that with the process of dialog with others and education of the rest of the members and we are really discovering who The Web Collective is.

We are all optimistic we can have these bylaws wrapped up by the beginning of April. If you are interested in what we came up with let me know. We're happy to share.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Web Collective unveiled

There is a project I am involved in that has been so all-consuming that I have not even thought to blog about it. In fact, I have been so consumed I haven't blogged about anything in my life! The project is called Web Collective and it is the largest undertaking of my professional life.

The Web Collective is currently a group of seven people who are combining their talent and energy to serve large-scale projects. We manage ourselves and our projects as a collective, meaning we use consensus decision-making and perform as equals. Together we have decided that we like operating as a group better than a collective of individual businesses so we are also undertaking the process of incorporating as a worker owned cooperative.

The cooperative structure of business is not one that many people have experience with. Sure, lots of us belong to consumer coops, like food stores or REI, but few of us know what it's like to participate in a cooperative workplace. We are attempting to create a truly democratic workplace where every worker is an owner and every owner has one vote. If we can't get democracy to work in our government then why not try it at work!

This is a massive undertaking for me and the six others. It challenges me on more levels than I am probably even aware of, which is probably why I am loving it so much. I never like taking the well-worn path.

I am committing to continue blogging about this project and what I am learning in the process. Consider this my first dispatch from the forefront of workplace democracy.

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