@dajbelshaw I'm intrigued by the WeAreOpen coop, but have difficulty understanding what the coop is 'for'. Is it mainly a means for collaboration between members (more tangible/structured than a network, less strict/more flexible than a Ltd might be)? (where I'm coming from: my understanding of coops historically here in NL is that the coop would have a specific purpose, e.g. own shared production means, like a farmer owned milk processing plant, mutual assurance/bank etc.)
@dajbelshaw I did read all of that, and it is what makes me ask.
@ton Oooooh, well we've done a poor job then.
Basically, we're a member-owned business that provides consultancy services. We have no hierarchy, so decisions are made by consensus (or consent) and we're all directors of the company.
@dajbelshaw Thanks "we're a member-owned business that provides consultancy services." was the bit I was looking for. And do you run all your work through the coop or part of your consultancy work? (you may have very different topics/fields you're active in)
@ton Right, so this is the interesting bit and probably worth documenting somewhere. Here goes...
@ton So this all started when I had set up as an independent consultant after leaving Mozilla. There were times when I had too much work on, so had started to sub-contract.
A former colleague of mine suggested we set up a co-op instead. There were plenty of people interested, because I'd set up a Slack channel for people I wanted to keep in contact with.
In fact we realised there would be *too* much low-level interest so we decided on a 'speed bump' of having to already have a limited company.
@ton That separated the wheat from the chaff, as it were, and we ended up with four of us (three in the UK, one in Germany) who were up for exploring further.
We sought advice from people we knew in the co-op world already, and narrowed it down to something like what we've got right now.
The difference between then and now is that you no longer have to join the co-op as a limited company. You join as an individual.
@ton It's pretty simple in practice, but it takes a while to get there because of the default to hierarchical companies limited by shares (rather than guarantee).
We currently harmonise our day rate, and charge clients 25% on top of that for the 'pot' which pays for various things like:
1. Admin time (my wife!)
3. Infrastructure stuff (SaaS, Digital Ocean, etc.)
4. Contributing to other orgs
5. Internal projects
@ton Right now, we're at an interesting inflection point because there's now six of us (four in the UK, one in Germany, one in the US) and we're getting to the point where we're hitting capacity.
Four of us are working full-time through the co-op (I've previously worked part-time for Moodle, for example). So we'll have to interate the model again, thinking about how to use the 'pot' more efficiently, and perhaps change our day rate to guarantee work, etc.
@ton The thing I really like is that I'm working with people whose work I massively respect, who (mostly) work at the same speed as me, and whose ideals and values I share.
Business is as complicated as you want it to be. And liberating creative people from accountancy and admin tasks is a very good reason to band together to create something like this.
It does take time to settle down and get going and bed in, but once it does, it's awesome.
So, for example, right now I'm 'on loan' to Outlandish (https://outlandish.com) for a couple of days per week to help them with project management, etc.
That kind of working in solidarity happens because of networks of trust.
Ultimately, then, instead of me going out into the world as a consultant by myself, I'm backed firstly by my co-op colleagues, and we're backed by CoTech. 👍
@dajbelshaw Thanks Doug, for that background info!
@ton No worries, and if you're ever interested in working with us, let me know!
@dajbelshaw "the thing I really like is that I'm working with people whose work I massively respect..." That is an extremely precious thing, yes. Cool.
Ton's personal Mastodon instance