Mon 18 May 2020

Example Policies Around Membership Path

AW Alex Worrad-Andrews Public Seen by 114

Hi all,

Alex from Common Knowledge here.

Really interested in seeing samples of cooperative policies (or rules if you have them encoded like that) around membership pathways. Especially on the kind of roles and responsibilities and formation side of things.

We are trying to improve our own at this time.

Thanks in advance!



Alex. Do you mean pathway from non-member to member or the
development of the member once they are a member?

Co-operative Assistance Network (CAN) maintain a set of co-op
related policies here ( https://www.can.coop/index.php/about-us/policies ).

What do you mean by "Formation"? Is this the start-up of the


Alex Worrad-Andrews Tue 19 May 2020

From a non-member to a member.

"Formation" isn't a good word, and has some poor overtones. I mean the kind of processes that allow people to adapt to the ways of working of cooperatives on the path to becoming a member. We can agree that being in a coop has different expectations than a regular job and it's the processes that onboard them to that.


Simon Ball (Blake House) Tue 19 May 2020

From our experience, this is something that we're learning about and adapting to all of the time. When we formed our cooperative we made quite a clear 'membership pathway' plan that was fairly rigid, basically two 3 month probationary periods, a 6 month training period, then an offer of membership at the end.

What we found in practice, however, was that this became a constraint and was too inflexible for what was happening in the present. Our needs had changed since we wrote the doc, basically.

We also found that it put a lot of pressure on our hiring process, as we would place the employee on a pedestal, expecting them to act like what we thought a member should be, instead of giving the appropriate time for them to find themselves in the coop (if that makes sense).

We now look at things from a somewhat different perspective, where we view Blake House as an autonomous entity that attracts people into its orbit. This allows us to build better working relationships, allow people the space to fit around their own needs and the needs of the coop, and creates a much more friendly atmosphere all around, making the membership process a lot easier to manage.

Can elaborate further if you'd like, as I think that this is a fairly difficult topic for small teams - membership confers such a heavy responsibility that it needs to be handled appropriately.


Alex Worrad-Andrews Wed 20 May 2020

Thanks for that information @simonball! And form the contributions from @marksimmonds.

So am I right in thinking you've now abandoned a formal process Simon or alternatively just haven't decided to bring new members in? Sounds a bit like you have brought new people into formal membership, but did so in a pretty improvisational way.

Please, always elaborate further!


Simon Ball (Blake House) Wed 20 May 2020

I think it's more like we don't set out to hire members as a strategy. Rather as time progresses, projects evolve and our orbit of collaborators increases, we can think of membership as an informal, mutual partnership that is logical for all parties. It didn't work out for us to hire people directly employees on a membership pathway.

I think this ultimately is different for the needs of each individual cooperative, but from our experience a more informal, friendship focused approach to membership is proving much more successful than conventional employment pathways. (eg a freelancer who wants to remain a freelancer but likes Blake House's work and wants to be a member, clearly a linear pathway would not suit that person and BH could end up missing out on ideal members)

So in the past we've hired people on the proviso that they're immediately on track to being a member. This created an imbalance as we would become worried at handing over the keys to the business to someone that wasn't contributing at the level of responsibility we were operating at. This would lead to situations of projection where we were not allowing the person the time 'find themselves' in the cooperative. It's been much more successful hiring people to do jobs, and then incrementally increasing responsibilities in mutual agreement.


Nathan Brown (Co-op Culture) Thu 21 May 2020

Hi Alex. I've worked with a few co-ops to help them codify their membership journey process. The attached anonymised document shows a clear path and there were lots of supporting documents which will be particular to each co-op. Not every co-op uses the same approach and a lot comes down to the culture within the co-op and whether it is process driven or not. Making it clear to probationary members what the expected journey is empowers them to ask for what is theirs by right rather than waiting for the co-op to act. It can also instill a joint responsibility approach to membership. The member should take on board responsibilities and the coop should provide education and training to enable someone to progress to membership. Co-ops that don't think about how to train and support probationary members can inadvertently exclude people who don't arrive "fully formed".


Alex Worrad-Andrews Thu 21 May 2020

Thanks very much for that @nathancravens - that is super useful!