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Increasingly, people in movement spaces are demanding to work in democratic workplaces. One model often overlooked—the worker-owned cooperative—offers the benefit of having had to grapple with questions of participation, management, and governance for decades. To explore these issues in depth, this webinar, produced by NPQ in partnership with the Democracy at Work Institute (DAWI), features three worker-owners in worker cooperatives, who discuss both the joys and the challenges of managing workplaces democratically.

Our panelists:

  • Nicole Koch is a member-owner and cofounder of Technicians for Sustainability, a solar installation cooperative in Tucson, Arizona that converted to employee ownership in 2017 and has 23 employee-owners.
  • Yarissa Soriano is training and education manager at the Democracy at Work Institute. Previously, at Paraprofessional Health Institute, she supported Cooperative Home Care Associates, the nation’s largest worker co-op.
  • Anj Talley, is general manager of Mandela Food Co-op, a Black-owned worker grocery cooperative in the West Oakland neighborhood of Oakland, California that was founded in 2009 and has nine worker-owners.

This webinar explores:

  • What are the benefits of democratic management? What are the challenges?
  • What core principles define democratic management? How do worker co-ops balance worker ownership with empowering managers to manage?
  • What design decisions need to be made to support a democratic workplace? How are course corrections made if the system runs into problems?
  • How does democratic management affect supervision? Do supervisors need to be trained differently? In what ways?
  • How does democratic management affect worker access to information? What systems are used to share information with workers?
  • How does democratic management affect leadership development and careers ladders? How does it affect compensation levels?
  •  How do you balance the tensions between the demands of the market with democratic management?
  • What can others learn from worker co-ops’ democratic management experience?

 

Resources:

Mandela Grocery Co-op, Decision Making Chart, Oakland, CA: MGC, 2022.

Rebecca Bauen, “Democratic Management: Lessons from Worker Cooperatives,” NPQ, June 2, 2021.

Steven L. Dawson, “When the Employer is the Trainer: Lessons from Cooperative Home Care Associates,” The Pinkerton Papers, No. 5, June 2017.

Jennifer Kong, “Solar company powers up with employee-ownership program,” GreenBiz, September 17, 2018.

Nigel Roberts, “New Generation of Black-Led Co-ops Want to End Food Insecurity,” The Root, December 19, 2019.