End of year Q&A: John Atherton, Workers.coop

A look back on the first year of the UK's new federation for the worker co-op sector

How was 2023 for workers.coop?

After a difficult 2022, 2023 was a great year for me personally and for workers.coop. Having registered at the end of 2022, we only properly started taking on members in Jan 2023. We’ve had a great first year:

  • We’ve raised over £150,000 to support worker co-op development
  • Launched a number of local member meet-ups and online peer networks
  • We ran our first conference, the Autumn Assembly in October, with plans already under way for our second Worker Coop Weekend 17th-19th May
  • We’ve published a new edition of the Worker Code, a guide to starting a worker co-op and a growing number of case-studies on worker coops
  • We launched our Co-op Conversations service to support new worker co-ops and range learning programmes for our membership
  • Most importantly, we have done a hell of a lot of learning, as we are trying new things.

What are your hopes for 2024?

Traditional business associations serve their members by employing a professional team, answerable to a board. As well as not having the funds for that sort of structure, it’s not really our thing. Traditional grassroots campaigning organisations rely almost entirely on contributions of money and effort from a looser network of volunteers, but they can lack direction and burn out individuals involved. 

My hope for workers.coop is we continue to learn how to effectively combine these organising models, of a federation and a movement. That we can develop the centralised infrastructure to support a large and energetic network of supporters to act. That we can help create a world where everyone has access to rewarding, meaningful and sustainable work. Where workers aren’t exploited, wealth is spread fairly, capital serves workers, not the other way round.

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