27 April 2009

ECC Elections now open for voting

Nominations for the Employee Co-operative Council have now officially closed and members should be receiving ballot papers through the post in the next week. There are four places available with 6 potential candidates so choose wisely! Biographies below, in no particular order:

Babs MacGregor
Greencity Wholefoods
I’ve been a member of Greencity Wholdefoods in Glasgow for 9 years, working across warehouse, accounts, personnel and kitchen (every army marches on its stomach – especially wholefood warriors!). During that time I was involved for 2 years, with friends in an entrepreneurial attempt to open a co-operative wholefood grocery on the Southside of Glasgow – Golightly and Gently – which eventually ran out of steam, but was a good learning experience.

I’ve been serving on the ECC for four years, and really enjoy the opportunity to look at our movement from a strategic angle , as well as meeting other committed co-operators and sharing experiences. Unity is strength, and I do believe we have gathered a good team together over the past couple of years.

Continuity has meant we can build ideas that better service worker co-operatives across the UK. Due to our 2 seats on the Board of Co-operativesUK, we have a bit of leverage, punching above our weight in fact. I would like to see increased membership as well as a more active member participation of the worker co-operative movement as a whole – which would feed into the ECC, and make elections such as these, a very lively affair! I would like to stand again, as I feel I’m just growing into my role.

It takes time – Hebrideans always move more slowly…

Nik Gorecki
Netuxo Ltd

Throughout my working life I have been employed in a range of co-operative and non-hierarchical workplaces, including having started up a not-for-profit music event co-op from scratch.

As well as having a good understanding of the problems and practicalities faced by worker co-operatives, I am also interested in co-operatives theory and history. In 2006 I completed a Sociology Master, writing my final dissertation about the efficacy or worker co-operatives in London.

At present I am coordinator of Netuxo, an IT Co-op providing support and development work to fellow ethically-sound businesses and organisations.

My key objective as a prospective council member would be to develop ways in which to increase co-operation between co-operators (Principle 6). My colleagues at Netuxo and I are currently investigating ways in which Internet based technology might be harnessed to increase such inter-co-op cooperatives, and I look forward to being able to share these efforts with the co-operative movement.

Ed Russell
Co-operative Web Limited

I have been working within the Co-operative sector for a relatively short time, the last 5 years: two of those within consumer co-op Midcounties (formerly (OSG) and for the last 3 I have been running the worker co-op, co-operative Web. I have been working in the IT sector for the past 11 years, am 32 years old and like things a little geeky.

Co-operative Web is a growing co-operative focused on delivering IT solutions to customers from a wide range of backgrounds. We currently have 10 members and are recruiting more.

My main strength is an understanding and use of technology, from websites and applications to blogs and twitter with everything between. There is a huge potential for co-ops to use these technologies to connect with their membership and I am passionate about exploring what can be done and using these to further the knowledge and involvement of people within the co-operative movement.

Dan Harris
Oxford Cycle Workshop Limited

I left university in 2001 to join a busy Oxford bike shop. After four years I was given the responsibility of managing a new flagship store at the end of its first year of trading. I was tasked with forging its identity, managing its rapid expansion and re-energising its staff.

I accepted an invitation to move to Oxford Cycle Workshop in January 2007 with the role of refining the company’s business model and supporting its conversion to a worker’s co operative. Tasks focused on developing core areas of the business, including marketing and operation duties like account management and book keeping.

The last two years have provided very hands on understanding of the challenges involved in converting an existing business into a worker’s co-operative in both structure and philosophy. The first hand experience of the pleasures and benefits of doing so has fuelled a passion not only for co-operative business model but also community.

Paul Schwarz
Cycle Training UK Limited
I was born and schooled in South West London and completed a 4 years Degree at St Andrew’s University Scotland before returning to the South of England. Unsure of where to go next I decided against pursuing academia and rejected the idea of turning a long-time freelance writing hobby into a career. I was delighted to discover cycle training in late 2005 joining the worker’s co-operative, Cycle Training UK.

I have embraced the co-operative ideal, devoting much time and energy to the company as a participating member. Recently I have sat on two working parties, one working to improve CTUK’s recently introduced contracts, the other focusing on making the company a better co-operative.

I attended Future Co-operatives 2009 Conference in January, and I’m enthusiastic about CTUK’s future as a co-op and the future of the co-operative movement. I have also recently applied to become a CTUK Director.

Britta Wermer
Unicorn Grocery Limited

I have been working at Unicorn Grocery in Manchester since 2004. Unicorn is a worker co operative selling organic wholefoods. Last year we won 'Best Independent Shop' in the Observer Food Monthly awards and Radio Four food experts named us 'Best Local Food Retailer'.

I am the company's secretary and I am also one of the Personnel staff at Unicorn.
Two years ago, my attention was drawn to the Employee Co-operative Council and I put myself forward for the election in which I was successful.

I feel that coming from a proven and renowned workers co-operative, I am a valuable member of the council. I am ambitious to see many other co-operatives like ours; and at Unicorn, I am helping to produce a toolkit “How to set up a Unicorn”. In April 2009, I will also represent worker co-operatives on the Co-operative & Community Finance board nominated by the ECC.

The deadline to return ballots papers is Friday 29th May.

23 April 2009

Worker Co-operative Forum in June

I have updated the Congress website with details of the worker co-operative forum taking place on the Friday 26th June. If you are interested in attending and want more info or have any feedback (have topics to fill the open session) please get in touch with me.

If the full package is too expensive for your co-operative we have found alternative accomdation for £33 a night which can bring the cost of Congress down, check the main website for more information and the rest of the programme.

A training and networking event for small and medium sized co-operatives.

Worker co-operatives are pioneering businesses using innovative employment practices and alternative approaches to business issues. These sessions are a chance for worker co-operatives to share knowledge with each other and the wider movement.

A day rate of £80 plus VAT is available for the Friday and any delegate attending the full weekend will have access to this special programme.

We are providing free exhibition space for all small and medium co-operatives that pay for the full package (£550) and if you book before the 21st May you will also receive a free advert in the Co-operatives 2009 Programme.


9:30 Arrival and help desk opens

10:00 Welcome and Introduction by the Employee Co-operative Council.
The representative body for worker co-operative and employee owned members of Co-operativesUK

10:15 How to promote your co-operative
A workshop on how to make the most of your co-operative status in the current economic environment - Sean Bish, Ethos PR

11:15 Effective meetings and reaching concensus
How to effectively run meetings and get consensus decisions within a co-operative – Mark Simmonds, Co-operativesUK

12:15 Lunch
An opportunity to find out more about other co-operatives, get contacts and network.

13:00 Dealing with Human Resource issues
Recruiting, supporting and when necessary disciplining workers within a democratic workplace.

14:00 Implementing the Code of Governance
A workshop on the Worker Co-operative Code of Governance and related resource as practical tools to deal with issues and improve performance in your co-operative – Bob Cannell, Suma

15:00 Open Session
This session will be open for attendees to propose topics for discussion on the day.

16:00 Wrap up and close
The Employee Co-operative Council will wrap up the day and discuss priorities for the future.

16:30 Finish
There will be a number of other activities after these workshops, check the main congress programme for more information. For those wishing to extend conversations and networking the Bar will be open for the rest of the night.

19:30 Welcome Reception
For those paying the additional £20 there will be an evening of food and drink celebrating the Co-operative Colleges 90th Birthday. A great opportunity to mix with all parts of the co-operative movement. Weather permitting there will be a BBQ held in the gardens of Beaumont House.

To book online click here, or contact:

Tel: 01323 637710
Fax : 01323 637777
Email : cooperatives2009@confpeople.co.uk

For all other enquiries about this programme please contact:
John Atherton
0161 246 2961
Email: john.atherton@cooperatives-uk.coop

08 April 2009

Annual Scottish Worker Co-operative Forum

Last Friday I was involved in organising an event with Co-operative Mutuality Scotland and Co-operative Development Scotland. The event was held in Glasgow, bringing together worker co-operatives from all over Scotland. We discussed closer working between co-operatives and getting the most out of the business support on offer from organisations like Co-operative Development Scotland.

Lisa McNair from Unicorn Grocery ran a practical workshop on HR issues and Bob Cannel from Suma talked about implementing The Code of Governance for worker co-operatives.

There was some really useful knowledge sharing and I intend to collect together resources from participants and make them available to other Co-operatives members. If your Co-operative has useful member recruitment, induction, disciplinary resources; please send them to me as it can save new co-operatives reinventing the wheel.

Members of The Employee Co-operative Council (Our representative body for worker co-operatives) also attended the event and held their quarterly meeting. There was also ample time for members to catch up with each other, and get to know new members like The Very People a PR and Marketing Business and City Design Co-operative an architect and urban design business.

CMS hope to make this event an yearly opportunity for worker co-operatives to get together and we hope to be back next year.