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Weaverstreetgeoff.blogspot.com
Carrboro, NC
My name is Geoff Gilson. Used to be a lawyer and management consultant, in the bad 'ol corporate days. Now I'm a worker-owner advocate, author and pop star in waiting
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I apologize, but I'm going to introduce a slightly tendentious note. As before, I want to stress the views I'm about to share are personal, and do not represent in any fashion the official line of Weaver Street Market Co-operative - although I might wish that they did. These views are, however, based upon some nine years of advocating for worker rights within WSM, and attempting to make WSM a stronger business by being a better co-op (and if you're in any way interested in what that looks like, maybe take a peek at my blog, linked below). The representative of CDS says: "In order to survive, new co-ops require an intense focus on building sales, improving operations, and achieving profitability." I'm bound to say this is very much reflective of a fearful attitude prevalent among many in the co-op community. The inference is that we can get around to being a co-op once we're successful as a business. Look, I'm not stupid. I used to earn six figures a year as a management consultant. I know how to do corporate capitalism. But why is it that so many in our co-op community are so scared of the notion that it is co-operation that enhances the chance of profitability, rather than being an obstacle or an afterthought? What first attracted me to co-operation was the notion that it represented an alternative business model. Not just an alternative ownership model. But a whole new way of making a business successful. As I see it, the concept always has been this. You get to the heart of what it is you want to do. You have a group of people who have a common need. Could be groceries. Could be a mushroom farm. Or horse-riding. You set about mutually meeting the need. While removing all the extraneous outside interferences that add cost to the equation: capital that can be speculated; empire-building management; marketing that guesses, as opposed to consumers deciding what they want. You bring in people dedicated to providing the need, and ask them how they would like to provide the need. Because if you ask, and they are allowed to decide, then they are invested in making sure the how they decided actually works. Nothing here of that intense focus on remote management techniques, operational excellence, building sales, etc. etc. Just meeting a need, the simplest way possible, by asking consumers and then asking workers. Democracy. And for the life of me, as simple as the concept appears to be to me, someone steeped in the arcane intricacies of corporate capitalism, I simply do not understand why co-operative consultants seek solace in those arcane intricacies, rather than actually giving economic democracy its best chance. DCM have taken a moment to rethink their path. I would invite them to use the moment to rethink more than just the voice they give to workers. Actually take a longer moment genuinely to work out why you want to be a co-op at all. Co-operation. Democracy. Inclusion. Consensus. These are not afterthoughts to the business model that should be DCM - and WSM for that matter, too. They are the very foundation which creates the business model that is the much better alternative to conventional corporate capitalism.
I am the 'Geoff Gilson' quoted in the article. Although no description is given of me. I am a worker-owner advocate with Weaver Street Market Co-op. I was approached for my thoughts. And the comments I make are made in a personal capacity only. It's a difficult thing. I believe that co-op's work best as a bulwark against speculative and corporate capitalism if they are truly democratic, and remain under the control of their community, free from outside interference. By definition, not being a member of the Durham Market Co-op, and living one town over (in Carrboro), I am 'outside interference.' So, I commented with care. That said, my experience has given me a universal interest in worker rights. And I felt compelled to say something, however carefully.
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Nov 6, 2015