Tue 31 Mar 2015 2:57PM

Freelancers Co-operative?

R Rhiannon Public Seen by 146

Hello all, its Rhiannon from AltGen- excited to be introduced to the world of Loomio!

So AltGen is about to come to the end of its year project with Co-ops UK helping young people set up worker co-operatives. Alongside developing and building this network of young co-ops we are setting up a co-operative of Freelancers from different sectors. I know there has been a lot of discussion on a previous thread around co-operative consortia/ LLPs/ worker co-ops for a business of people working together in the same sector. However we are interested in something much broader that provides space, services and mutual support for a wide range of freelancers in the social & creative sphere. We have been looking at the Bread Funds in Holland that provide sick pay for freelancers, Coopaname in France that 'employs' 700 individual people working in different areas and provides them with shared space, accounting legal, status of employee (more beneficial in France than here) and a community that works together and bids for projects. The final model we have been looking at is Smart Belgium an organisation of 60,000 creative freelancers that pay a % of their income for support with legal, admin and invoicing services. We are bringing a version to the UK that combines examples of best practice across Europe. What combination of options do people think would be valuable and viable as a co-op business? What is most relevant to freelancers as well as the co-op values? What do you think would be legally viable in the UK?

Thanks in advance!


Rhiannon Tue 31 Mar 2015 2:58PM

Here is a link to our research survey that has already been filled in by 100 freelancers. It take 5 mins and would be great to get your input there as well as here!



Nathan Brown (Co-op Culture) Tue 31 Mar 2015 4:48PM

You've started in the right place with gauging demand: identify the need and work out how to meet it. Legal stuff comes later.

I am sure that Radical Routes were doing some similar research a while ago, specific to self insurance but relevant. @cathmuller Did I get that right?


Josef Davies-Coates Tue 31 Mar 2015 5:08PM

I think this is utterly brilliant @rhiannon1

I've been thinking of doing something very similar with UnitedDiversity LLP but perhaps we should just wind that down, join forces with you and focus on building the United Diversity Commons community benefit society instead! :)


Josef Davies-Coates Tue 31 Mar 2015 5:10PM

@nathanbrown as @cathmuller will no doubt confirm as well, yes, Radical Routes' Stuart Field has been researching Bread Funds for the UK. Reminds me to email him and ask about the latest developments about that...


Dave Hollings Tue 31 Mar 2015 8:14PM

I wouldn't recommend a LLP for a co-operative with so many members. LLPs are not really designed for large numbers of people joining or leaving in a year. Calculating their share of the tax liabilities would be a major undertaking.

I think you are looking at a Society (expecially of members are expected to put in any equity - and with so m any members, even a small amount of equity each would create a largish pot) or a Company Limited by Guarantee. Societies are more naturally co-operative.


Josef Davies-Coates Tue 31 Mar 2015 8:47PM

Yeah, @davehollings is right that in some ways LLPs don't scale too well (although the large accounting and auditing firms manage it) because all members have to submit a related tax return. Saying that, with great platforms like http://www.freeagent.com/ so long as all the relevant data is entered calculating their share of the tax liabilities needn't be that much of major undertaking. Certainly well worth considering. Co-operative Society very possibly a better option.


Antony McMullen Wed 1 Apr 2015 1:22AM

Hi there!

Check out: https://www.freelancersunion.org/


Rhiannon Wed 1 Apr 2015 9:43AM

Hi all, thanks for the advice so far. Yes we have approached Radical Roots about sharing their Bread Fund research and potentially working together on this and are waiting to hear back from them. Similarly we have quite extensively researched the Freelancers Union as well as others.
What we are now most interested in is what combination of services/ mutual support we provide. Is it shared admin and invoicing along with a sick fund? Is there a way of creating intergenerational solidarity- for example the Bread Funds in Holland have built up huge amount of capital- could this be loaned to young members starting new businesses in the co-op? Should it also involve a co-op incubation and education space? And you are right @nathanbrown once we have decided this then we can look at specific legal structures. It would be great if people could become 'employees' of the co-op as then they would get so many of their workers right back but I am guessing that is not tax efficient in the UK? If you haven't already please have a look at this survey that is being widely shared and let us know what combination you would recommend... https://docs.google.com/forms/d/1sRhaiogg3U5KUEHPmZ3irtv3J-mVo3zj0BKQ_pEPbYc/viewform


Ian Snaith Wed 1 Apr 2015 11:30AM

This is a great idea and meets a real need. I've now completed the questionnaire. Also, I imagine you've seen this Co-op News coverage from last year: http://www.thenews.coop/87829/news/general/co-operation-but-not-as-we-know-it/#.U-jpFvldW4E On the information you've provided here, the co-operative society looks like a good option but I think it's wise to decide what you plan to do and how you plan to structure it before choosing a legal structure.


Mark Simmonds (Co-op Culture) Mon 13 Apr 2015 4:27PM

Hi Rhiannon,

I'm currently working with the Kindling Trust to design a rural social enterprise hub that will likely be run as a collaborative workspace. Would AltGen be willing to share the results of your survey to assist with our market research? You can contact me directly at [email protected]

Re your question, I would be looking at a Co-operative Society structured as a consortium rather than as a workers' co-op. The problem I have when planning something similar is that we would like to incentivise supporters to finance the project through loanstock but cannot do this using SITR with a Co-operative Society legal form. Could we start to see co-ops set up as Ben Coms in order to access SITR?

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