Co-ops and distributed leadership

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Shared Leadership Notes - Co-Op Session


What are the realities of politics and dynamics of a group

Does a flat hierarchy create chaos

Things we mentioned wanting to learn more about/discuss today:

How to enable self-management

How to have structure without hierarchy

Kinds of non-traditional leadership that we want to model

What does co-leadership and other models look like

Working with an established long tenure co-op/ collective

Collaborative leadership and interpersonal conflicts

Rethinking of how civil society organizes itself

Dynamic Hierarchies

  • Roles change or rotate
  • So if someone needs to leave, anyone can take over
  • Some specialty roles are static, some rotate such as:
    • Note take, liaison, coordinator
  • Having 3 co-directors = some redundancy
    • All partners, all signatories, can make decisions for each other
    • Vacations, sick days become much easier

From a Corporate Point of View:

Empowering People

  • Accountability
  • Scrum Methodology
    • People with Areas of focus communicate their goals for the year
    • Use Scrum to create point system for your task ( to quantify your work)
    • Helps relieve from competition or people who want to be the ‘star’
  • Github is used for everything
    • Make a pull request for anything
    • Adopted Decision Making Matrix from Ampled
      • Who can sign checks, etc


People want structure and sometimes equate it to hierarchy

Being very clear about Operational & Co-Op structure is very helpful

- Define structure with document about how decisions are made aka MOU (memorandum of understanding)

“If you’ve met one co-op, you’ve met one co-op”

Separate the legal from organization structure.

Be transparent about documentation

Tools do not matter, what matters is the culture

Collective responsibility is not a thing

Figure out boundaries / Agree upon expectations

Unlearn scarcity and trauma of finances

  • Deep sense of competition and scarcity are applied to things that are not scarce

The Power of Facilitation to replace the idea of Leadership

  • A really good facilitator is good if they are invisible and everyone says ‘I made it happen’
  • Collective Success vs Individual Success
  • Setting aside egos

Corporate Structure:

  • Co-Op C Corp (super worker protective language in the law) or LLC can be a co-op
  • Tip on Figuring out how to ‘comply with capitalism’: Create ‘Titles’ for the state but you don’t have to adhere to them
  • Some states do not allow EDs to be paid much more than other workers


SustainableEconomiesLaw Center - for worker directed non-profits, different types of co-ops and what makes sense

Tools for collective decision making for a more democratic system

  • Vote via Chat
  • Lumio for consensus-based tracking
  • Modified Consensus Matrix
  • RACY / DARCY Matrix - resposible, accountable, Informed