Fri 25 Nov 2022 2:50PM

Cooperative Development Working Group

BS Billy Smith Public Seen by 146

From https://www.uk.coop/understanding-co-ops/what-co-op/co-op-values-and-principles

There are seven co-operative principles that define how a co-op operates:   

  1. A co-op is owned and controlled by its members. It exists for the benefit of its members, who may be customers, workers, suppliers or the wider community.

  2. A co-op is democratic – this means every member has an equal say in how it’s run and how profits are used.

  3. Every member contributes financially in some way – from buying products, working for the co-op, investing in it or deciding how to spend its profits.  

  4. A co-op is an independent business, owned and controlled by its members.

  5. It offers education and training to everyone involved, so they can develop the co-op and promote the benefits of co-operation.

  6. It co-operates, works with and supports other co-ops.

  7. A co-op supports the communities it works with.

From principles 6 & 7, we should all be working on creating local co-operatives that help support our respective local communities. :D

Is anyone interested in a working group to share our idea's and experiences?


Michael Potter Fri 25 Nov 2022 4:13PM

I'm definitely interested in this, both for general co-op talk and to possibly meet people who are interested in starting co-ops. Maybe we can set up a meeting at some point to discuss.


Billy Smith Fri 25 Nov 2022 4:14PM

There are a large number of opportunities that only make sense economically if you set up a coop to use them.

Templating out this process will mean that we can create coops with reduced levels of risk, as we have all learned from each other's mistakes. :D


Ananta Gauranga dasa Fri 25 Nov 2022 4:21PM

I'm interested as well. I've been part of a number of cooperative structures, but those were "almost coops" because we didn't know how to make the principles operational.


Michael Potter Fri 25 Nov 2022 4:32PM

I've also experienced some disappointing false starts with cooperatives. What sort of templates are you talking about, Billy?


Billy Smith Fri 25 Nov 2022 4:55PM

Creating Templates for everything. :D

  • Create a standard legal structure that works;

  • Create the regional variations that have validity within each different legal jurisdiction;

  • Create Templates of Open-Source HardWare Designs that can be Locally-Manufactured for every form of climatic conditions;

  • Create Templates of Open-Source HardWare Designs to supply all of our Survival Needs, and Thrival Needs;

One useful bit of advice that i was given decades ago: "Always make it simple for the customer to give you money." :D

The Cooperative Corollary: "Always make it simple to help other people start a cooperative." :D


Michael Potter Fri 25 Nov 2022 5:20PM

These are worthy goals. I'd like to just say, for the record, that I don't want to get into any "selling the dream" stuff. As in, we build a template and charge people to use it. I think such things present a barrier to the adoption of co-ops.


Billy Smith Fri 25 Nov 2022 5:27PM

No :D

Selling the Templates won't work.

Giving the Templates away, and helping other people set up coops is the aim.

We have had the technical capabilities to feed, clothe, house, educate, and, provide medical/social care, to everyone on the planet, since the 1850's.

It's a social problem, not a technical problem, but my engineer's approach involves empowering people to build their own solutions.

Using Templates reduces the friction and reduces the costs, so more people can do this.

"Hand washes hand till we all rise together." :D


Saul Shanabrook Fri 25 Nov 2022 5:33PM

This sounds good to me! I would love to talk to others and share knowledge. I’m working to start a housing cooperative locally.


Marcelo Avelar Cohen Fri 25 Nov 2022 5:58PM

Yes, add me on! I am doing my Master's in Cooperatives, and I would love to participate :)


Michael Potter Fri 25 Nov 2022 6:27PM

Thanks Billy, I had to check ;-)

One design problem for cooperatives that I've observed is a tendency to rise from a small direct democracy that might even be consensus-based to something with close to a hundred members, or more, leading to a representative democracy at best, with all the flaws thereof.

Do you have cooperative templates assembled already? I think this is what platform cooperatives are intended to provide, but I find them quite confusing. Maybe our first goal should be to gather a list of existing resources to avoid re-inventing the wheel?

Do we all have access to Nextcloud to share notes at May First, or is there a place we can all access a document?


Billy Smith Fri 25 Nov 2022 10:00PM

  • The issues involved from scaling is a case in point. :D

The procedures that suit a 25-30 person group won't scale to a group of 150 people, or a group of 5000 people. This was an issue that i saw directly with the internal friction within the London Hackspace.

The LHS's search for solutions is still a work-in-progress. :D

  • I have a list of templates and model rules that i have looked at, including the Radical Routes models for Housing Coops, the Somerset Rules for Housing Coops, and Worker's Coops, the One-Click-Org's rules for Mutuals ( Based on the CoopsUK models), which are rooted within the UK legal system.

  • I have also come across, but not directly worked with, or fully understood, some of the models used in the USA, the Mutuelles in France, and the Uhistu models for Mututal Associations from Estonia. Again, a different set of legal jurisdictions and legal requirements.

  • Nothing set up yet for the file storage, or the wiki. That's something i was going to ask the TWG about. :D


Michael Potter Sat 26 Nov 2022 6:09PM

We do have changes coming to the wiki, and that would be an ideal place to put any notes, etc. I guess we need to clarify the purpose of this group. There's a ton of information out there for the different co-op types in many different localities. Many attempts to create comprehensive directories of co-ops have been done, and it's a monumental task that I'm not sure has ever really been done.

I feel that what's needed is a place to come together to talk about co-op development, and to maybe find others to maybe start said co-ops with, who have similar interests. I'm primarily interested in worker co-ops in California, USA, and federating these with international groups.


Geraldo Fernandez (@[email protected] Fri 25 Nov 2022 9:45PM

Maybe instead of calling this a working group, we could call it an interest or collaboration group? Just so it’s not confusing for new members trying to understand all the different groups, making it clear that this is distinct from our internal operational groups.


Billy Smith Fri 25 Nov 2022 9:49PM

We'd be getting advice from the internal working groups anyway, as they will be ideal for squaring up the necessary legal, financial, and, technical infrastructures that every coop will need. :D


Django Sat 26 Nov 2022 4:58PM

I haven’t yet been involved in any coop development, but eager to learn!


Antony McMullen Sun 27 Nov 2022 10:12AM

Love the principles and you've done a beautiful paraphrase. Interested in this.


Mark Simmonds (Co-op Culture) Mon 28 Nov 2022 9:32AM

Platform 6, based in the UK, maintain a few on-line co-op development (CD) resources:

Wiki of useful CD resources

CD Loomio Group


Thomas Beckett Mon 28 Nov 2022 3:21PM

The Cooperative Principles are not the full description of a cooperative. The ICA promulgates a statement on Cooperative Identity that is much more detailed and, to my mind, the first principle.

"A cooperative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly-owned and democratically-controlled enterprise."

The "needs and aspirations" language in particular is both focused (on needs) and forward looking (on how we want to be).

What are our economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations at social.coop? Governance structure is one thing, but to what end?


Nathan Schneider Tue 29 Nov 2022 8:08PM

I propose thinking of this as more of an "interest group" than a working group (which is more focused on the specific business of running Social.coop). This could be similar to the book clubs that we've had in the past. Perhaps it could be organized around a hashtag and a monthly call on meet.coop?


Billy Smith Wed 30 Nov 2022 5:33PM

That could work. :D

It's how we organised the sub-groups at the LHS.

A bunch of people interested in a specific domain met up regularly to work on things. :D

A good example is the Amateur Radio Club at the LHS.

  • Two members started studying together for the UK amateur radio certification exams. Another member who had already sat the exams, found out about them, and was helping them practice for the practicals.

  • A couple of other members became interested, as they thought it would be an interesting way to explore the technology. When they started to organise attending the exams as a group, they realised that the only qualified test was in Reading, an hour's train-ride West of London.

  • They also found out the criteria required to qualify as a test-centre. They realised that getting a room in the hackspace set up to act as a test-centre was cheaper than 6 return tickets to Reading. :D

  • It became one of the only test-centres for amateur radio exams in London. ( A couple more opened up after people saw how we did things. )

  • This in turn became another anchor point for the London Hackspace. One of the rooms was booked out for 8 hour-blocks, three days a month, for formal classes, and the exams. Other members were asked to be quieter in the workshop on exam days. :D

  • It also became another source of new members who initially were interested in radio, but also learned to use the other facilities we had built. :D

Getting regular talks from subject-domain experts in the specific technologies that we are working on would also be good. :D

  • The TWG would be able to explain the best way to keep the tech-stack running.

  • The Legal WG would be able to explain the pitfalls involved in writing effective Articles & Memoranda, as well as the differences arising from the underlying foundations of other legal jurisdictions.

  • Got to chew over other sources of interesting speakers. :D


Graham Thu 1 Dec 2022 9:10AM

Whilst I wouldn't necessarily agree with the opening post on this thread, I do think there is a need within social.coop to deliver on the 5th principle:

'Education, Training, and Information

Cooperatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives. They inform the general public - particularly young people and opinion leaders - about the nature and benefits of co-operation.'

Creating a well educated and well informed membership will deliver benefits in many respects and turn social.coop into a powerhouse of cooperation. If there is a desire amongst the membership to establish or become some sort of explicit cooperative development organisation, creating/supporting the creation of other cooperatives, again the focus on principle 5 will be invaluable in underpinning that activity.