An Overview of Democratic Governance
Worker cooperatives are built on a framework of democracy, but this does workers little good unless the means to exercise rights and enjoy the protections this framework provides are in place – this is what an effective governance system does. The governance system primarily focuses on how a democratic firm’s policy is established, how this information is communicated throughout the firm, and works to protect the personal rights of the members. It provides the means for matters of organizational direction and policy to be dealt with democratically. This report is meant to offer guidelines for the design of governance systems that help a co-op avoid the twin traps so many democratic firms fall into: either they have so much structure and bureaucratic procedure that members cannot actually use the power they formally have, or they have so little structure that there is no available means to make a difference. We seek alternative structures that empower people. A properly functioning governance system clearly articulates the roles of the members, the Board of Directors (including a grievance council), and the management. If the governance system is to function well, the responsibilities of these groups must be clear, and the groups must have real decision-making power.