Collective Agency will be accepting new memberships through December 18, and after January 4. We’ll be closed to non-members for an end-of-year staff vacation. As always, members have 24/7 access during the holiday.
My long-term passion is representative democracy. I know, those are big words for a business (or a city). I’m happy that Collective Agency recently joined the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives. We’re on track to be certified by the national board as a workplace democracy. Our sister companies now include People’s Food Co-op, Citybikes, and Equal Exchange.
The way that we have democracy in a business is, day to day, joyously, productively, cozily. People treat each other as equals here. Most of the time, people are productively working. The most obvious example of democracy here is the monthly optional member meetings, on the first Wednesday of each month from 2-2:30pm. We start by going around and asking, “What’s your name and something you’re passionate about, in 30 seconds or less?”
That sets the personal values for the next half hour, so people honor what we care about and don’t step on anyone’s values. It inspires conversations and connections later on. During the half hour, we talk about upcoming events and how to make them even better, and what we like and what could be even better here. And then, of course, staff and/or members make it happen.
We have community guidelines that are the core guiding principles of everything we do here, which for some people who don’t join is ‘a lot of rules,’ and for people who are here is an ‘of course, as basic consideration of other humans.’
A member who coaches non-profit executive boards told me that rather than just being cooperative, or just being competitive, or just being bureaucratic, it’s even better to be a mix as appropriate. Because of our administrative bureaucratic processes, the office supplies are always stocked here, and the phone is always answered the same way. We’re competitive, in a positive way, by always making things even better here. The community and governance here, the member activities and the interactions, are cooperative. It’s about being part of the same community, sharing, learning, laughing, relating, working.
And that’s how I expect democracy in general to be thought of (and to be, in reality). As productive work. As cozy. As community. As a place for socializing, inspiration, and friendships. As people coming together to make happen what we positively want. Open to different perspectives, which is one of my favorite words: pluralistic. With leaders who communicate high expectations of the great things they expect will happen, and who are responsive to the people they represent.