Mon 25 Jan 2021 2:38PM

Approve ChangeLab's application to join CoTech

HR Harry "Outlandish" Robbins Public Seen by 77

We've had an application to join from https://www.changelab.io/

I believe they meet the criteria for membership and should be admitted on the basis that:

  • they clearly state that they are a worker co-op on their website

  • they have confirmed in writing to me that they support and abide by the seven co-op principles

  • they work in the tech sector designing and building campaign tools for progressive organisations

They have not formally incorporated the co-operative principles into their company articles, but I've sent them the example from uk.coop and they are looking at how to incorporate them. I believe they would benefit from the support of the network in this area.

They are not against joining the fund, but want to understand more about the network before committing


Shaun Fensom Thu 28 Jan 2021 6:34PM

@Harry "Outlandish" Robbins On the general point, keeping as much as possible in the open is a good aim. But cooperatives have an inside and an outside. There are things shared between members and not shared with non members. That includes some information.

On the specific point, there might be a worry that I have about someone joining that I want to share in an atmosphere of trust, confident that if I am proved wrong there’s no harm done. But I am sure there are other examples.


Harry "Outlandish" Robbins Wed 3 Feb 2021 11:44AM

I guess if you'd had a bad experience with one of the members of a co-op for example that could be something that you'd want to raise or not publicly unless, maybe, everyone agreed when they heard what the issue is.

I think it's still got to be weighed up against the reduction in transparency and potentially making CoTech seem more cliquey/esoteric.

Maybe we could have a special thread for discussing that sort of thing? There is a private thread on Discourse I think.


Shaun Fensom Wed 3 Feb 2021 5:00PM

Well, I think there’s a balance. If a discussion is fully accessible to the world then things that maybe should be aired might not be. So that decreases transparency among the people involved in the decision.

It’s here on Loomio, where decisions are made, that I think there’s a need for some privacy.


Autonomic Co-operative Fri 29 Jan 2021 2:20PM

Thanks all. We had voted in favour on the proviso that they follow through on their commitment to moving towards a co-operative structure. Shall we give them a year to make progress?


Aaron Hirtenstein Mon 1 Feb 2021 2:49PM

Sorry for the late post, I think Agile Collective would be happy to support ChangeLab joining CoTech. I am confused about the legal constitution front, we are a company limited by shares with amended articles from CUK, this is one of the options available when setting up a coop as far as I understand it.

@shaunfensom @graham2 can you explain why this is not ideal to a layman such as myself? (or have got the wrong end of the stick?)


Graham Tue 2 Feb 2021 9:17AM

Hi Aaron. I'd echo what @Shaun Fensom has said. At the very basic level a group of well intentioned people can set up as a co-op using an off the shelf share company and agree amongst themselves that they'll behave as a co-operative. That's all well and good until they hit a conflict, or some people leave and others come in, and then all of a sudden they are on shaky ground. If using a share company structure for a co-op, make sure that the co-operativeness is absolutely written into the articles and nailed down hard. Much simpler in most contexts to use a society structure, where all of the co-opness is built in from the ground up (and backed by the legislation that underpins it), or a well-crafted guarantee company (Co-operatives UK have suitable models as you say).


Shaun Fensom Mon 1 Feb 2021 6:45PM

@Aaron Hirtenstein (Agile Collective) I’m not a lawyer.

I think there is a coherent argument that while you can re-wire a structure, such as a share company, to make it one member one vote and to build in the values and principles, that wiring is vulnerable.

The share company model is built on the idea of one-share-one-vote, and the notion that the share gains/loses value as the company does well/badly. The company is worth what people will pay for the shares - not how well it treats its employees or customers.

You can sort of fix it with special share classes, but it’s not ideal. So for example, as I see it, if a majority of the shareholders sell to someone, that person gets control.

A company limited by guarantee is usually considered a better fit - because there are no shares that can be traded in that way. It also has the notion of ‘members’.

A cooperative society is often an even better option because one-member-one-vote and the notion that the society must be run for member benefit are actually regulated by the FCA. If you try and change the rules to make it an autocratic model, the FCA will overrule you. Of course the members can still vote to demutualise, but it is possible to make it so that a super majority is needed.

That said, people who know much more than me argue that none of the legal forms in the UK is great and that we need new legal forms - to take account of the idea of indivisible capital for example. I used to think this stuff didn’t matter, but I’ve changed my mind.

In my experience, most worker coops are either companies limited by guarantee or cooperative societies. Not many are share companies.


Aaron Hirtenstein Tue 2 Feb 2021 4:21PM

Thanks both for your detailed replies, food for thought.. I think the intention was to enable us to disburse profits easily via dividends on shares but then we ran into tax problems that CUK hadn;t advised us about (because they are not experts on tax law) so have not done that since the very early days. I have a job to reread our articles so I will do so with your words in mind. Solid.