ChiCommons Ownership Primer

Welcome! We’re excited that you are considering joining us as an owner. This primer documents the cooperative’s vision, mission and principles, cooperative agreement (bylaws), and ownership.

Vision

Empowered, integrated, equitable cooperative/solidarity economies across the Chicago region; connected globally with ChiCommons-provided tools, services, and strategies

Mission

To cooperatively foster and grow a people-owned solidarity economy

ChiCommons Cooperative Principles

The 7 Principles of Cooperation (International Cooperative Alliance)

1. Voluntary and Open Membership

Cooperatives are voluntary organisations, open to all persons able to use their services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.

2. Democratic Member Control

Cooperatives are democratic organisations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Men and women serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary cooperatives members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and cooperatives at other levels are also organised in a democratic manner.

3. Member Economic Participation

Members contribute equitably to, and democratically control, the capital of their cooperative. At least part of that capital is usually the common property of the cooperative. Members usually receive limited compensation, if any, on capital subscribed as a condition of membership. Members allocate surpluses for any or all of the following purposes: developing their cooperative, possibly by setting up reserves, part of which at least would be indivisible; benefiting members in proportion to their transactions with the cooperative; and supporting other activities approved by the membership.

4. Autonomy and Independence

Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organisations controlled by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organisations, including governments, or raise capital from external sources, they do so on terms that ensure democratic control by their members and maintain their cooperative autonomy.

5. Education, Training, and Information

Cooperatives provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers, and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives. They inform the general public – particularly young people and opinion leaders – about the nature and benefits of co-operation.

6. Cooperation among Cooperatives

Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.

7. Concern for Community

Cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policies approved by their members.

Sociocracy

As a modern organization, we organize ourselves along the principles of open and flexible management via the Sociocracy 3.0, where anyone can act in any capacity to better the cooperative, as long as they consult with the relevant stakeholders.

ChiCommons Cooperative Agreement

We spent considerable time crafting our bylaws, by taking elements from other cooperatives, modifying them to our own needs. We credit Sean Connolly, and the UIC John Marshall Law School, Community Enterprise & Solidarity Economy Clinic for their great help. Here are the basics:

ChiCommons LWCA registered with the State of Illinois as Limited Worker Cooperative Association on March 15, 2020 (along with 5 other worker-owned cooperatives under the new law that took effect on January 1, 2020.

We are governed by our Vision, Mission and Principles.

  1. Membership (Ownership)
    1. Membership is open to all
    2. Four Membership Classes
      1. Consumer: all members are consumer members and vote for the Board of Directors and coop-wide issues.
      2. Producer: producers produce goods and services for other members.
      3. Worker: worker members manage and operate the coop
      4. Investor: investors are members who invest finances in the cooperative. They have no additional voting rights than their one consumer vote.
    3. Employees can become worker owners upon fulfilling the requirements after a vesting period.
    4. Membership is open to all and employees can become worker owners upon fulfilling the requirements after a vesting period.
      1. Members may be terminated via Resignation, Involuntary Termination Termination for Cause, and Worker Termination.
      2. Members may not transfer their member shares.
      3. Members have rights and responsibilities.
    5. Other sections define the Board of Directors, Administration, Record-keeping, Finance, Cooperative Agreement Amendment processes, and Dissolution.

ChiCommons Ownership

ChiCommons currently provides for two types of memberships: consumers and workers. Eventually, we add two additional types: producers and investors.

Overview

BenefitsCost*
Consumer Voting for board and coop-wide issuesOwner Share: $20
Annual Fee: $24
WorkerAll consumer benefits plus the right to get paid for billable hours and the responsibility to help with operations management
Owner Share: $100
Annual Fee: $120
*Costs subject to change

Becoming a Consumer Owner

Joining ChiCommons LWCA as a Consumer Owner is simple, just fill out the Application form and send us your fees.

Becoming a Worker Owner

Joining ChiCommons as a Worker Owner is a bit more complex, as we need to get to know you and understand your skill sets. You can get started by filling out a Skills Survey and Application. Then we’ll need to set up an interview.