Check Your Principles!

We were really pleased to see that the Co-ops Unleashed report from the New Economics Foundation, commissioned by the Co-op Party, referenced co-operatives undertaking a co-op principles audit every 5 years.  We have long advised co-ops to take a look at how they put the principles into practice, offering DIY guidance and an audit service (which provides external validity).  We also frequently deliver training sessions which include a section on the Co-operative Principles. As recently as last month, we delivered workshops with co-ops to discuss and understand what the coop principles mean in their co-op, and how they could be better put into practice.

Co-ops Collaborating for a Sustainable Future 12th October 2017

Next week (12th October) Co-operatives South East is hosting a regional co-ops conference and AGM in Brighton entitled “Co-ops Collaborating for a Sustainable Future“.  It is focusing on how co-operatives can forge trading partnerships to reduce unnecessary waste and carbon emissions while boosting their trading activity.  Nathan from Co-operantics is going to be helping facilitate the day, as an outgoing Board member of Co-operatives South East.  He has served a 3 year term in a regional federal body for co-ops as part of our commitment to the 6th co-operative principle (Co-operation among co-operatives).  The full programme can be viewed here and if you are late to booking, use this form. Did we say it’s free?

So what’s it all about?

Sustainability has multiple meanings: Continue reading “Co-ops Collaborating for a Sustainable Future 12th October 2017”

1 week left to apply for Co-op support

The Hive programme from Co-operatives UK (thehive.coop) is still open for applications for support until 13th June.  That’s just one week away.

As a reminder, we are providers to the programme, and through it, heavily subsidised support is available for existing co-ops and groups who are ready to form their new co-op.

  • One-to-one advice
  • Group advice
  • Peer mentoring
  • Training courses

Head over to the Hive and apply now!

Free and subsidised support for co-ops

We are support providers for The Hive, a new business support programme for co-ops and community businesses.

Latest: Deadline for applications for the first round close on 13 June!

The Hive offers:ScreenShot_20160422125547

Through The Hive, we can deliver tailored advice for your co-op. Apply now (and please mention Cooperantics!)

We are happy to chat if you need help identifying your needs.http://www.uk.coop/the-hive/about/advice-and-training

How to set up a Freelancers Co-op

The rise of the “precariat” is well documented. Young people find themselves freelancing more and more (not just young people we might add!) and there is a real desire for structures that provide solidarity and insulation from the poor treatment an individual can suffer at the hands of unscrupulous quasi-employers or customers.  A Freelancers Co-op can be many things. It can provide marketing of members’ services to customers with more reach and punch than an individual; the ability to tender for larger pieces of work; a “whole offer” for customers combining the skills of many members in one package; back office services like invoicing, accounts or factoring; shared office space; mutual support etc.  Whatever the members want to source or provide collaboratively can be made available to members either as a “take it or leave it” offer or as a menu of services.

Having met when we co-delivered a weekend workshop with Alt Gen for young people setting up co-ops as part of the Stir To Action summer events programme, Jonny from Stir To Action asked if we could put together an overview of the key steps people might take to put together a freelancers’ co-op, to empower, inform and inspire people.  Jonny got one of the STIR designers to turn our clunky diagram into a thing of beauty (excerpt below).  We will make it available in the new year (update: available as PDF to download) but meanwhile if you want to see the goods you need to order the magazine.

Freelancer Co-op Guide excerpt

Appraisals and personal reviews

The issue of how to carry out appraisals and personal reviews comes up as a common theme among worker co-ops.  Reviews can help us to:

  • ensure that our worker-members are adequately skilled, suitably trained and capable to perform their duties
  • identify issues that are making life difficult for members so we can provide support or training
  • identify opportunities and untapped skills/potential within our co-ops
  • ensure that the day to day job role reflects what people want to do with their life or ties in with their career progression so we don’t lose members
  • identify weaknesses and risks within the team

Personal reviews should be able to feed into or draw upon a “global view” of the whole co-operative, enabling it to assess whether or not it has sufficient skills, and spread of skills, among its worker-members to provide the goods or services that produce its income, and where risks to the business lie (such as reliance upon the skills of one member).  Reviews can also reveal weaknesses and gaps such as the jobs that are being carried out that aren’t actually anyone’s responsibility but are crucial to success.

If you are interested in reading more, we have gathered some information on different approaches we have come across which can be viewed on this page.  We also offer consultancy services to help your co-op design a process or get it right.  Check out our Appraisals and Reviews service.

Co-operative Networking Breakfast in Southampton

Cooperantics and Rice Up Wholefoods are collaborating to provide a co-operative networking breakfast in Southampton.  Rice Up is providing venue space and taking care of catering.  Cooperantics is providing facilitation and promoting the event.  Both co-ops are contributing worker time for the mutual benefit of local co-operatives. All we are asking is that participants pay £5 to cover the cost of the breakfast.

  • Tues 14 July 2015, 8 am
  • at Rice Up Wholefoods, 20 Hanover Buildings, Southampton SO14 1JH

Why come?

  • Get that elusive contact that will help your co-op increase sales
  • Promote your co-op to a wider audience through other co-ops
  • It’s a great opportunity to brush up on your pitching skills in a safe environment
  • Meet members of other local co-ops – the first step to creating a mutually supportive network

About the session
We are using the “Principle 6” approach to co-operative networking, developed by Sion Whellens of Calverts/Principle Six.  It provides a simple but effective framework for co-ops to pitch their needs to each other and access each other’s networks, strengthening our individual co-ops through co-operation.  If you were at the recent Co-operatives South East networking session or at the Worker Co-operative Weekend you will have seen how easy it is, and how effective it can be.
For those interested in reading more, the Principle 6 methodology is available for download here but the great thing about this approach is that anyone can participate. Principle 6 slides link

Timeline
8.00 Breakfast
8.15 Introduction to Principle 6 networking
8.30 Pitching session
9.00 10 min extended pitch: Rice Up will give an extended pitch about their co-op
9.10 Referral session

We will finish sometime between 9.30 and 10.00 depending on numbers but you can carry on networking once the session is over.

Breakfast will be suitable for vegetarians/vegans. If you have any other dietary requirements please let us know.

How to book
If you want to attend please contact nathan@cooperantics.coop.  Booking is important!

And don’t forget to share with other co-ops who may be interested.  Thanks!

 

Got the picture?

A picture is worth a thousand words, or so the saying goes. Pictures & diagrams can help us to simplify complex relationships. Imagine, for instance, if you were trying to describe all the lines of communication in your co-op. If you try it in words it might run to 30 pages, but you could probably sum most of it up in one (albeit complex) diagram.

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How the different parts of your co-op might relate to one another?

That’s not the only reason you might find diagrams useful:

  • Some people understand images better than words
  • Some people don’t have the time or attention span to commit to a long written document
  • It is easy to “zoom out” and get an overview, to spot fatal flaws in a process or proposal

When trying to develop a new strategy for our co-op (e.g. new marketing strategy, or new way of organising the workload) one of the best tools I have found is to try and assemble the ideas in a diagram or picture – even if it is just words connected with arrows.

Have you ever spent a day working hard to develop a strategy or process, the group creates a diagram and then someone is given the soulless job of spending half a day turning those pictures into 4 or 5 pages of words. Somehow, the meaning gets lost in translation. Not enough people read the document because it’s just too much, too dense or becomes more complicated once it is put into words. Those that do retreat to solitude so they can focus enough to understand it. Readers have to construct a mental diagram to make sense of it. There is scope for people to not quite “get” the plan or get it in the wrong way. When the diagram is presented, everyone looks at it together, they challenge it and describe what they like or dislike, they grab the pen and make corrections, suggest improvements, add the missing parts or spot the “fail”.

Here are some sweeping observations I’ve made watching groups of people presented with diagrams or strategy documents:

  • Diagrams tend to provoke questions, challenges, declarations of not understanding (which is a good thing), identification of faults and problem solving suggestions. They also provoke physical interaction – people crowd together around the image.  Emotional responses such as enthusiasm or rejection are declared.
  • Written papers prompt semantics (arguing about the meaning of words), arguments about grammar, boredom, yawning and switching off. Discussion papers provoke a retreat into solitude.  It is difficult to gauge responses as emotions are guarded.

I’m not saying there isn’t a need for detailed procedures or guidance to accompany the overview – that is the next level of detail – but if developing understanding is the first goal, why do we turn pictures into words?

Diagram
Example: An overview of the strategy for developing new services for members in a co-op, and recruiting other service users as members. How many words would this take to desribe?

Among the services that Co-operantics offers are:

  • Faciliation of strategic reviews/away days
  • Reviews and development of your governance and management
  • See an overview of typical services here

If you are looking for those services please get in touch