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I’m looking for examples and experience of work coops, that allow a group to collectively market themselves, get contracts, and work together to deliver project based work.

I’m working on not-for-profit social innovation projects. I travel around Europe a lot and meet organisations with challenges, and many skilled people who work alone or in small communities, e.g. on open source projects, and have no interest in getting a ‘day job’. I perceive of a gap where the organisations are unable to present their work in a way that’s interesting to or manageable by the people with the necessary skills, and the people with the skills rarely self organise into a body the organisation is capable of communicating with.

I’m hypothesising this creates the need for an intermediate layer ‘the work co-op’, which groups people together, markets itself as a collective, acquires work agreements, and then manages the group of people to deliver the work, and distributes the benefit. If there was that need, I’d further suggest that the coop could be created in a way that serves the values of its members, as opposed to e.g. profit motive.


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    In France (and other countries I suspect), there is a legal structure for coops, where everyone in the company gets a share and a voice: for instance, I think that bearstech.com (IT hosting, and services) is built using this same structure.

    I have found that coops are very attractive mode of organization, and have seen it work just as well as the usual pyramidal company. I may experiment in this direction in the future too. Cheers! :)

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      @oz cheers, yeah in the UK too there’s a pretty comprehensive range of legal structures for co-ops. I’m pretty interested in the process and organisation of the co-op. I’m thinking once you understand how it works, it will be easier to map onto the available legal structures.

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      The design studio Pentagram is interesting. Not a co-op but a partnership, or a design firm, or whatever. The firm was founded in 1972 [1], but old partners leave and new ones are promoted. If I recall, partners run separate offices but share resources and can market themselves under the name “Pentagram”. Talented designers add to the prestige of the group, which in turn adds to the prestige of its members.

      [1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentagram_(design_studio)

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        Two other structures to look at are Mondrogon Cooperatives (including Bay Area analogues such as Arizmendi and, of all things, law firms. Many such are organized as limited partnerships (not full partnerships), and have a similar organization of work to what you describe.

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          Enspiral is an organisation in New Zealand similar to what you describe.

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            I very recently started working with a co-op focusing mostly on web design and development. We’re called the CoLab Coop and have members around the world. I have been working for the past few years as an independent contractor and love the freedom afforded by this sort of lifestyle and approach to work. The co-op offers a similar approach plus the mutually beneficial collaboration with other members.

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              This is pretty close to what I’m envisioning! Looks awesome. How is it so far?

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                I’ve enjoyed it so far. I’m not a full member at this point so I don’t have as much say over the direction of the company but I think it’s really great how transparent everything is. For example, the coop’s bylaws are in a Git repository and changes are made via pull requests. Collective decisions are made using a tool called Loomio (made by Enspiral, mentioned above) and everyone has the opportunity to participate. I definitely plan on continuing to become more involved with the group.