THE COOPERATIVE PRINCIPLES Voluntary and Open Membership Democratic Member Control Members’ Economic Participation Autonomy and Independence Education, Training and Information Cooperation among Cooperatives Concern for Community For more information see our articles on the cooperative principles and their implementation here. How-to’s and why-do’s Legal forms: co-ops and other types or worker-owned businesses have many forms, and their degrees of member or worker ownership and control vary widely. This is so they can balance the benefits of member ownership and control with the unique conditions of their economic, political, and social environments. Some common forms of co-ops: Limited liability corporations, where member/worker ownership and control are embedded in the LLC’s articles of incorporation and operating agreements S-corporations C-corporations Benefit corporations Cooperative corporations, and in Pennsylvania, Unincorporated non-profit associations Click here to learn more about these legal entity types Startups: many cooperatives are started from the ground up, with no prior entity, by the people who form the business. They face the same hurdles everyone else who starts up a business together face: evaluating their value proposition, market strategy, what key people are needed and who has what role, how they’ll serve their customers and for co-ops, what their value to their community is. Every business has to develop their own governance and decision making framework, and co-ops must do this, too. They are more democratic and are dedicated to open information among worker/members, but there are well-established methods of operating openly and also efficiently. Conversions: what better way to get a business started than to just take one over by buying it from your boss? When a business owner wants to get out of their business, they can sell it or shut it down and liquidate the facilities and equipment etc. Most retiring business owners, in fact, don’t have willing family members or an outside find a buyer to take over the business, so they more often liquidate their companies assets. That is, if there are assets that can be sold on the open market. One of the best ways to preserve good jobs and to reward business owners for their many years of dedication, occasional headaches, and success as they developed their business is to sell it to their employees, and then, why not as a cooperative? Governance and decision making: Even with dozens of worker owners, decision making can be designed to be efficient even while ensuring worker input, inclusive policies, and all of the cooperative principles above. Not having an appropriate process for meetings typically turns discussions into debates, or worse, free-for-alls. In debate style conversations, whoever speaks up will be heard. This doesn’t necessarily recognize the best-informed viewpoints and contributions from the group. Instead, we can govern meetings using a rounds format that is just as it sounds, speakers take turns around their groups to ensure participation and equal access to influence of decisions and policy making. Rounds change the dynamics of a conversation. In a round, we know when it is going to be our turn to speak. When it is other people’s turn, we can sit back and listen. And by that we mean: really listen. Members don’t have to wait for a good moment to jump into the discussion. We can just listen and take in the other circle member’s experience, and consider members’ input in the context of the company’s, and the group’s, goals. See more on this effective and efficient decision making method. See even more here. Technical assistance links Go back to 1-What is a Co-op? Go back to 2-Who Are in Co-ops? Go to 4-Where are Co-ops Around Us? Go to the Learn page.