The Canary news website switches to a workers’ co-op structure

The radical site has adopted the sociocracy model of governance and says the change is ‘as much a rebirth as it is a revolution’

Online news outlet the Canary has become a worker owned co-operative.

In a statement released on its website, Canary staff said they have undergone a “workers’ revolution”, and the publication is now run democratically by its staff, who have an equal say in how the business is run and where money is spent. 

Following a row between staff and the Canary’s previous directors, a new company – the Canary Workers’ Co-op – was set up in August by employees. Canary staff say although the co-op is legally required to have directors, all 15 of its worker members now take decisions collectively through open meetings and transparent processes.

Changes made so far by members include a horizontal leadership and flat pay structure, fully paid sick leave for all staff, and mental health days written into workers’ contracts.

The Canary’s workers have adopted a sociocratic governance model – a decentralised system which enables collective ownership over decisions made in devolved working groups known as ‘circles’.

Related: Why the New Internationalist changed its legal structure

“This kind of decentralised structure is nothing new in anti-authoritarian organising,” wrote co-op member Tom Anderson on the Canary’s website. “Things like it have been used by militant and revolutionary movements for many generations, but the clear structure set out by Sociocracy for All is really useful for our purposes. Creating decentralised power within the Canary means we can take into account everyone’s views and work towards a shared aim without the potentially cumbersome process of making every decision as a group of 15 workers.”

Members say the Canary’s new co-op structure is already more aligned with its purported values and editorial line, which aims to “amplify marginalised communities that seek radical social justice”, and had seen it working with activist organisations such as Netpol, CAGE, and Disabled People Against Cuts.

“For the first time since its inception, the Canary is truly walking the talk,” they say. “We are embodying the sort of work environment and community spirit that we advocate through our journalism.”

Describing the change “as much a rebirth as it is a revolution”, the Canary is taking the opportunity not only to reorganise itself but also to refresh its content, branding, and editorial direction. Canary member Maryam Jameela told Co-op News: “Now that we’ve managed to get rid of our former bosses, we’re no longer beholden to edicts about content from on high.

“We reviewed the kind of content we wanted to cover and the team was in agreement that we’d like to focus our energies on reporting on grassroots politics, and activists who wouldn’t be given a platform in mainstream media. Of course, we already did do this kind of reporting, but now we’re building towards doing so in a more concerted way.

Beyond its new co-op structure, the Canary team say they want the way they operate in practice “to mirror a deeper radicalism and militancy”, and that the way they operate as a co-op will be an “unfolding process”. 

They have committed to providing education and training for its members, as well as to working with other co-ops and wider communities to achieve its aims. 

Jameela told Co-op News that the Canary’s next step will be “to reach out to other co-operatives and build community and solidarity with them… We want to be in community with fellow activists.”