As a cooperative, we are both developing a business model and a democratic ownership model. In this post, we’ll present our ownership model and explain how we developed it.
Don’t like wordy articles? Watch a slideshow instead >>>
Our Approach to Developing a Cooperative Ownership Model
To develop our ownership model, our organizers and business and governance volunteers enlisted in the free Start.coop Lean Co-op Course, and worked with an advisor from the USFWC Co-op Clinic (paid for with USDA grant funds!).
To ensure our community’s voices were heard, we reviewed survey data:
- Interest survey (Oct 2022 – Present)
- Marketplace priorities poll (Nov 2022 – Jan 2023)
- Handmade survey (Feb 2023)
Finally, we decided on the Ownership Model Canvas (OMC) as our tool for facilitated meetings. The OMC was created by Start.coop. It is modeled on the popular Business Model Canvas developed by Alexander Osterwalder and Yves Pigneur, and the Lean Start-up by Eric Ries.
The Ownership Model Canvas walks through all the high-level aspects of governance in a visual one-page format. This visual and concise format is easier to absorb than a long and wordy text document. It covers:
- Who are the owners? Who are the non-owner stakeholders?
- What are the benefits, rights, and responsibilities for each group?
- Who manages the co-op and who makes decisions?
- What sort of investment do we need to get off the ground?
Learn more about the Ownership Model Canvas:
Artisans Cooperative Ownership Model Canvas
In a series of meetings attended by Business and Governance volunteers, and members of the organizing team, we brainstormed, filled in, refined, and ultimately agreed on our governance model:
View the Ownership Model Canvas in Google Doc >>>
In summary, our ownership model consists of three classes of Member-Owners. Together, these make it a “hybrid” or multi-stakeholder cooperative:
- Artisans (producers / workers)
- Supporters (consumers)
- Staff (workers)
In addition to these member classes, we recognize that both Artisans and Customers should be able to use our marketplace without being Member-Owners, and these are our Non-Member stakeholders.
Members “buy-in” to the co-op with a one-time investment. For their investment, they receive governance rights, financial rights, and responsibilities, which are outlined in the OMC.
Each member class is represented on the Board of Directors with a designated number of seats, and any member can run for the board and elect their representatives. The Board of Directors will make day-to-day decisions until they can delegate to employees, make decisions on rewards schedules and financial decisions, decide on cooperative proposals, and choose which issues need to be brought forward to the membership for a vote.
Points and Tiers System
In the OMC, under buy-ins and financial rights, we talk about a Points and Tiers System. This is an innovative policy that we created.
The purpose of the Points and Tiers System is to incentivize member engagement, equitably value and reward all kinds of contributions (not just cash), and help the co-op be successful.
It allocates financial benefits flexibly based on co-op contributions rather than by “class”, uniting us as one co-op.
At this point, our governance model and the points and tiers system are conceptual. We have not formally retained an attorney or incorporated yet. We explain the concept in detail in our Policy Paper.
View the Slideshow
We walk through the OMC box-by-box, and talk through the Points and Tiers System item-by-item in a visual format in our slideshow.
What do you think about our new ownership model? Send us your thoughts via email or in the comments below!
About Artisans Cooperative
We are crafting an online handmade marketplace for an inclusive network of creatives.
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