In this post, we’re presenting an exciting update as we transition our co-op from idea to reality. We’ve signed an engagement letter with our lawyer, Alix Devendra of Aligned Law, to begin formal incorporation this week. That may not sound exciting, but it reflects how much we’ve grown and how “real” our vision is becoming!
Soon, we will be an incorporated cooperative corporation with a Board of Directors, as outlined in our Ownership Model Canvas. So it’s time to update our organizational structure: our governance, decision-making processes, and work organization.
Up until now, we have been a loose and merry band of 15 or more “Organizers” working cooperatively on the initial creation of our new co-op. There were no titles, roles, or hierarchies – simply a flat self-described “Round Table” of people, using the “teal” advice decision making process from Reinventing Organizations. Happily, we have worked together quite seamlessly this way for the past nine months. The folks who want to work on this are passionate, cooperative, generous, and kind.
Since we are entirely volunteer-managed until we can afford to hire staff, it was necessary to have a big group of people working together, more than our future 7-member Board of Directors affords us. In other words: we need more structure, even though we still reject the idea of a formal and traditional corporate hierarchy, which we believe can silence opinions and creativity.
Luckily, we don’t have to reinvent the wheel to create a working and workable non-hierarchical structure. It’s called sociocracy, also called dynamic governance. Sociocracy is a set of tools and principles that ensures shared power and helps us make inclusive, collaborative decisions by listening to everyone’s voices.
The sociocracy concept was introduced to us early-on by community members on our Discord, going as far back as fall of 2022. Many who were passionate about platform co-ops and economic justice are also passionate about this governance concept. When looking at our current group and work, this structure made the most sense and represents an easy and incremental transition from our round table of organizers.
The nonprofit organization Sociocracy for All provides the best explanation and tools for this concept. Their mission is to help organizations, communities, workplaces and collectives to learn how to organize in a decentralized way and make their decisions with equity, efficiency, empowerment, trust and transparency.
A good starting place to learn about this structure is this 20-min introduction video:
Sociocracy organizes all the work of an organization into an interconnected group of committees, which are visually represented as overlapping circles (sometimes also referred to as bubbles). Each circle is an autonomous decision-making body, which decides by consent (not consensus).
The cellular circle structure is fluid, like bee honeycomb, and can be changed easily as the organization changes, and as we add paid staff. Circles can be added or archived as the work changes.
Where the circles overlap are at least two members in common, who make sure that information is shared throughout the organization and that no circle decides over another one. Within each circle, there is a structured set of tools and roles to make sure the committee works professionally and cooperatively, with notetaking, leaders, discussion structure, and more.
Our first sociocracy chart currently looks like this:
There’s a lot of work to be done, and we need your help to achieve lift-off in October.
To join the team and sign up for circles, fill out our Volunteer Interest Survey.
What do you think about sociocracy? Share your thoughts, questions, and concerns with us in the comments below or email email@example.com.
About Artisans Cooperative
We are crafting an online handmade marketplace for an inclusive network of creatives: a co-op alternative to Etsy.
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