Ordinary people are ‘building a new economy’, and a Labour government would fully support them

Jeremy Corbyn speech on New Economics
Support us and go ad-free

A Labour government would fully support a massive increase in “the size of the co-operative sector”. And this would build on excellent work which people in the UK are already doing to create “a new economy”:

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has previously insisted that “co-ops are something that’s intrinsic to the British labour movement”:

Read on...

Support us and go ad-free

Co-operative businesses don’t rely on powerful investors or far-away shareholders; they rely on ordinary people. As the Co-operatives UK website explains:

There are more than 7,000 independent co-operatives across the UK, working in all parts of the economy. Together they contribute £37.7 billion to the British economy.

And The Canary recently caught up with a representative from one new co-operative in West Yorkshire, which is hoping to make waves in the social-care sector. They told us why it’s different from an average company, how the co-operative model benefits both workers and clients, and why they’d encourage other people to set up co-operatives.

“Owned by the people”

Equal Care Co-op (eccoo) is “an emerging care and support platform co-operative starting in the Calder Valley”. And Emma Back is leading on setting the business up.

Speaking to The Canary, Back described the co-op as “a digital tool to connect people who want care and support in their own homes”. And she explained that:

this platform – and this software and this organisation – is owned by the people who are participating in those transactions. … the owners are the people who are getting support, and their families, and the workers

She continued by speaking about how eccoo differs from other agencies in terms of worker control over conditions and decisions, better protection, and a better support network.

And she spoke about ‘sociocracy’, which is:

  • A social ideal that values equality and the rights of people to determine the conditions under which they live and work, and
  • An effective method of organizing associations, businesses, and governments, large and small.

This, she said, is driving eccoo’s operating model, with a ‘circle’ nominating people into roles rather than bosses making decisions.

And she highlighted that the “core purpose of what we’re doing” is “sharing power”.

In this way, eccoo’s “form of workplace democracy” means that “the decisions are made by consent”.

Building a new model

The co-op is still getting off the ground. But it is already testing out a new economic model with people at the centre. Back spoke, for example, about how the nominated roles are reviewed and people get support if they need it.

She also mentioned the building of fairer contracts for workers:

While eccoo has only a small team so far, it is hoping to grow soon:

But it already has clients:

The aim of the co-op is to have a mixture of independent workers and staff:

Speaking about the benefits for workers, Back pointed out that there’s a stronger support network and the option to both give and receive support:

She also explained that, while eccoo’s clients are mostly older people, it is open to anyone who wants help and can find someone on the platform:

And she highlighted that ‘supported members’ are co-owners and have the power to call meetings. This kind of system doesn’t really exist today, she stressed, because “producers of digital products tend not to think like that”:

Get active, and think co-operative

The idea for eccoo arose because Back wanted to “change social care for the better”, and she worked out that a co-operative model would be perfect for doing that:

Another potential option would be a charity, she said, but “charities don’t work for sharing power”:

Co-operatives work differently, she explained. Some, like the Co-operative Group, are consumer co-ops where the model doesn’t really represent the way they manage themselves internally (which is essentially just like a traditional business). Others are worker co-ops, but she said this alone wouldn’t work for the care sector because it would lack the voice of clients. The multi-stakeholder option was therefore obvious because it allowed both clients and workers to have power and for eccoo to focus on relationships.

The co-op has been slowing building up for about two years now, showing that it’s not a simple process:

But as Back said, we desperately need more platform co-ops, in order to protect workers, data, and transactions. And eccoo is planning to make its processes public, which will hopefully help others to set up similar projects:

As advice for others interested in setting up co-ops, she said, “find your people”. It’s much harder to do things alone, so you’ve got to be clear about what kind of culture you want in your co-op and then find people who fit in with that:

And it’s not just about finding people who support the idea; it’s about finding people who are happy and prepared to get actively involved too:

The future of workplace democracy

Greater workplace democracy is a wonderful idea. There are countless examples of it already working. And there are other examples – like eccoo – of people building the model from scratch right now.

A Labour government would support a massive expansion of the co-operative sector. And that injection of democracy is exactly what society needs to recover from the elitist model that’s been dominating business for far too long.

Featured image via The Laura Flanders Show

Support us and go ad-free

We need your help to keep speaking the truth

Every story that you have come to us with; each injustice you have asked us to investigate; every campaign we have fought; each of your unheard voices we amplified; we do this for you. We are making a difference on your behalf.

Our fight is your fight. You’ve supported our collective struggle every time you gave us a like; and every time you shared our work across social media. Now we need you to support us with a monthly donation.

We have published nearly 2,000 articles and over 50 films in 2021. And we want to do this and more in 2022 but we don’t have enough money to go on at this pace. So, if you value our work and want us to continue then please join us and be part of The Canary family.

In return, you get:

* Advert free reading experience
* Quarterly group video call with the Editor-in-Chief
* Behind the scenes monthly e-newsletter
* 20% discount in our shop

Almost all of our spending goes to the people who make The Canary’s content. So your contribution directly supports our writers and enables us to continue to do what we do: speaking truth, powered by you. We have weathered many attempts to shut us down and silence our vital opposition to an increasingly fascist government and right-wing mainstream media.

With your help we can continue:

* Holding political and state power to account
* Advocating for the people the system marginalises
* Being a media outlet that upholds the highest standards
* Campaigning on the issues others won’t
* Putting your lives central to everything we do

We are a drop of truth in an ocean of deceit. But we can’t do this without your support. So please, can you help us continue the fight?

The Canary Support us