The employees are all members of the cooperative, and thus have equal joint ownership of it. In our case everyone acts as directors as well. There are no shareholders, so it cannot be bought out or taken over without the members' consent.
As all members/employees have control over the cooperative, they are not answerable to an owner or to shareholders as conventional company employees would be. This means co-ops can operate according to their members' needs, concerns and beliefs. Although financial sustainability is important, any other factors can be taken into account in decision-making.
We operate as a Workers Co-op because we believe in non-hierarchy, collective ownership and useful work. We are responsible for our own work and business sustainability, not dependent on a boss or shareholders, whose bottom line is most likely to be profit, rather than our needs.
Most workers co-ops have a very limited management hierarchy, usually limited to an elected management committee. Many smaller ones have no hierarchy at all and work as collectives; this is how Footprint operates.
We make important decision by consensus and most day-to-day matters get discussed, although each of us uses our own judgement as required. There is a lot of individual trust and autonomy which is empowering and makes work fulfilling. That also means that we trust that any of the others will check with another about any unusual decisions. Every six months we take time out for a review of the business and ourselves.
We see the company as a useful resource, not just in terms of cheap printing, but to also provide resources that others can use such as access to IT & office facilities, use of a vehicle, donations to radical projects and advice and skill-sharing. We source supplies from other co-ops to help grow the co-operative economy and we are promoting the 'Made by Co-op Hands' symbol to identify co-operatively produced goods and services.
Co-operative living and working means
- learning to share resources
- seeing yourself as part of a team, and seeing the team's interests as your interests
- learning to communicate directly and honestly, so that good decisions are made and everyone's needs are met.
- Supporting each other and exploring your collective potential.
The bigger the co-op, the more difficult this all becomes.
We encourage you to use democratically-owned businesses wherever possible and to find out about getting involved in co-operatives yourself.
Radical Routes & Rootstock
Radical Routes is a network of radical co-ops, which are working to change society.
Here are our aims & principles:
"We want to see a world based on equality and co-operation, where people give according to their ability and receive according to their needs, where work is fullfilling and useful and creativity is encouraged, where decision making is open to everyone with no hierarchies, where the environment is valued and respected in its own right rather than exploited.
We want to take control over all aspects of our lives. However, as we are not all in a position of control we are forced to compromise in order to exist.
We are working towards taking control over our housing, education and work through setting up housing and worker co-ops, and co-operating as a network.
Through gaining collective control over these areas we aim to reduce reliance on exploitative structures and build secure bases from which to challenge the system and encourage others to do so."
The Radical Routes network is made up of Housing Co-ops, Worker Co-ops and co-operative Social Centres and promotes co-operative lifestyles as a good base from which to challenge society, while practising what we preach. We publish guides to setting up co-ops and are happy to do workshops on co-operative lifestyles.
Radical Routes can make loans to its member co-ops. Money for this is raised through Rootstock, a co-op set up to attract people to invest in RR co-ops. Most of the work for Radical Routes and Rootstock is done as a contribution by member co-ops. Footprint is responsible for sending out paperwork, maintaining the websites and email list, producing publications and publicity and a lot of Rootstock work. We also specifically promote worker co-ops within the network.