Apply Now for Green Infrastructure Co-op

Boston Center for Community ownership is partnering with Codman Square NDC, with support from the City of Boston, to launch a new worker-owned cooperative, designed to provide opportunities for immigrant workers. The program will build on CSNDC’s training program in Green Infrastructure – an emerging field of work that aims to divert storm water away from municipal sewers and into the soil. The benefits include reduced pressure on sewer systems, and a cooler and greener urban environment. More firms will be needed to do this work in future years, as cities and towns work to reduce their carbon emissions, while mitigating the effects of climate change.

Participants in the program will first complete CSNDC’s Green Infrastructure Course for three weeks in October (Oct. 12-30). The second part is 16 weeks (Nov. 8 – Mar. 6) of co-op work and study to create a business plan and bylaws for a new co-op. Those who complete both parts and are confirmed as members of the co-op will receive a minimum of $2,000 to invest in the co-op as their membership share. Co-op members are the legal owners of their businesses, and participate in democratic decision making on the principle of one-person-one-vote. They also share in any profits generated by the company.

To be eligible for this free program, participants must be Boston residents who self identify as immigrants (or adult children of immigrants), and have enough English skills to communicate effectively in a work situation. Participants will be asked to show a bill in their name, received by mail to a Boston address, or a self-attestation to Boston residence.

The training will be begin online via Zoom, and may change to an in-person format if COVID restrictions allow unmasked gatherings indoors.

To apply for the program, please follow this link to fill out the application form. Applications will be accepted until October 8, 2021.

We’re Hiring!

About the position:

BCCO seeks to hire a Co-op Organizer who has experience with bookkeeping and small business support, and would like to continually expand and broaden their skill set. We are looking for someone who has spent time working for small businesses in a bookkeeping, financial management, or similar capacity. This could be a family owned business, an employer, a co-op, or your own sole proprietorship. If your colleagues, friends, and family come to you for answers to their questions about bookkeeping, filing taxes, registering with the state, filling out business certificates, writing business plans, applying for loans, etc – you are who we are looking for. If you’ve often heard people say, “Wow, I never understood it until you explained it like that!” – you are who we are looking for.

We are a young organization with a small but dedicated team, and we’re looking for someone who is excited about contributing to the organization and culture we’re building. The job title “Co-op Organizer” reflects our community organizing approach to the development of cooperative businesses. This new position is for 20 hours per week at a rate of $30/hour, with room for hours and compensation to grow. Hours are flexible and may include weekend or evening meetings, depending on the client’s needs. We have a generous paid time off policy and a healthy training budget for each person. BCCO is organized as a membership based non-profit organization, where the members are the employees and dedicated volunteers. Employees become members after a candidacy period of 6 months, and as a member, you will have a vote in our annual meeting where we elect our board of directors, as well as the opportunity to run for the board yourself. Under normal circumstances, we work primarily from home, using a co-working space in Dorchester for client meetings and workshops, or meeting with clients on-site at their business. Due to the pandemic, we are currently conducting all our work remotely through Zoom. This position will remain open until filled. (Posted [date])

Initial responsibilities:

  • Regular weekly/monthly bookkeeping for co-op clients, including entering receipts and bills, invoicing customers, running payroll, recording sales and expenses, reconciling statements
  • Maintaining a bookkeeping manual and checklist for each client
  • Producing periodic financial reports (Profit and Loss, Balance Sheet) and reviewing them with clients
  • Providing training to clients on understanding their financial reports
  • Making recommendations to clients on how to manage cash flow, control costs, and increase profit margins
  • Setting up financial management procedures for clients that allow for full transparency and quality information for decision making
  • Facilitate inclusive budget development processes that involve members from all parts of the co-op
  • Interface between our clients and their accountants to prepare clients’ yearly taxes
  • Participation in weekly or biweekly BCCO management meetings and board meetings as needed
  • Along with other staff, sharing in administrative tasks related to management of BCCO
  • Helping to promote BCCO to prospective clients, organizations, and funders
  • Representing BCCO in various coalitions and organizations in which we are members
  • Keeping a detailed and accurate time sheet logging all your activities so we can accurately bill them to projects

Depending on your interest and inclination, responsibilities may grow to include:

  • General support for co-op businesses through the course of their development, from the intitial idea and team building phase, through startup and launch, to ongoing support through the life of the business.
  • Developing financial pro formas for co-ops, including projected Profit and Loss, Balance Sheet, and Cash Flow Statements
  • Delivering existing BCCO workshops for clients and the public, and developing new training content
  • Managing our catalog of training offerings – promoting, scheduling, and managing registrations for workshops
  • Participating in fundraising through grant applications and small donor requests
  • Internal bookkeeping for BCCO
  • Other responsibilities, depending on your interests. We welcome your ideas for how to build a more just and sustainable economy.

Requirements for this position:

  • Practical, hands-on experience with bookkeeping or accounting in a small business setting, particularly with Quickbooks
  • Strong verbal communication skills, and the ability to explain complex financial and business concepts in a way that is accessible and empowering to the listener
  • Cultural competencies related to one or more immigrant communities or communities of color in the Boston area currently underrepresented on our staff, particularly African American, Cape Verdean, Haitian, and/or other Caribbean communities
  • Committment to our values of respect and empowerment for low income workers and entrepreneurs
  • Eagerness to participate in training to develop additional skills in small business support and deepen your understanding of the cooperative model of doing business.
  • Passion for our mission of building a cooperative economy
  • Good judgement, ability to respond calmly and constructively to challenging situations

Other qualities that would strengthen your application:

  • Familiarity with various Customer Relationship Management (CRM) and Point of Sale (POS) software options
  • Strong writing skills and a love of writing, experience writing business plans, marketing materials, and/or grant applications
  • Fluency in a language other than English or Spanish that is commonly spoken in our region
  • Experience with community organizing or social justice movements
  • Experience and/or training as a meeting facilitator or mediator
  • Course work in accounting or business topics, economic development, or public policy
  • Experience leading workshops or trainings
  • Experience working in cooperatives or other democratic organizations

 

Upcoming workshops on cooperative business

The City of Boston has launched a Worker Cooperative Initiative in concert with Mayor Walsh’s efforts to expand support for small businesses and entrepreneurs, and create opportunities for economic mobility for every Bostonian.

You will learn about selling businesses to employees, different types of employee ownership, and improving business by engaging workers from the Local Enterprise Assistance Fund (LEAF), Boston Center for Community Ownership, and the ICA Group.

This event is presented by Mayor Martin J. Walsh, the Mayor’s Office of Economic Development, the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce, Women Entrepreneurs Boston, and the Roxbury Innovation Center.

Information on May 31 Workshop here!

Information on June 22 Workshop here!

Boston City Council Hearing on Cooperatives

We’re very excited that the City of Boston, from the Mayor’s office to the City Council, is getting fired up about cooperatives.  Today is the City Council’s hearing on co-ops, and we will be there giving testimony on the economic impact of cooperatives to our city.  If you’d like to read more, check out our new resource, The Case for Cooperatives as a Local Economic Development Strategy.  It has links to all the most recent research from the US and abroad.

Worker-Owned Cooperatives Are Larger Than Conventional Firms

In “What Do We Really Know About Worker Co-operatives?“, Virginie Pérotin writes,

“Perhaps the most common received idea about worker co-operatives is that they must be small. It is often thought worker co-operatives must be financially constrained, and a small size is sometimes regarded as a condition for workplace democracy to function… People will also commonly remark that very large worker co-operatives are extremely rare…. What is not widely understood is that most firms actually are very small.” (p.6)

Pérotin cites research studies from Italy, the US, Spain, France, and Uruguay, which all indicate that, on the whole, worker-owned cooperatives tend to be slightly larger than conventional firms (p. 6-9).

In the US, the best estimate of the size distribution of cooperatives comes from the Democracy at Work Institute (DAWI) . Their 2013 survey of US worker-owned cooperatives shows a size distribution consistent with Pérotin’s research: on the whole, US worker co-ops seem to be somewhat larger than other firms:

Percent of firms by size class 2013
Source Data: 2013 DAWI survey of cooperatives (n=117); US Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Business Employment Dynamics Data by Firm Size Class, Table G. Distribution of private sector firms by size class

Now, by definition, a worker cooperative has three or more employees.  Any fewer, and the business would be considered a partnership or sole proprietorship.  Since the US economy, like most economies, is dominated by small firms, especially sole proprietors with no employees, perhaps we should exclude the smallest firms from our analysis, to see what happens when we take away both the smallest co-ops and the smallest conventional firms:

Percent of firms by size class 2013 excluding under 10 employees
Source Data: 2013 DAWI survey of cooperatives (n=117); US Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Business Employment Dynamics Data by Firm Size Class, Table G. Distribution of private sector firms by size class

Excluding firms with 10 or fewer employees, the distribution of businesses by size looks very similar, whether the business is a worker co-op or conventional firm.  DAWI’s sample size of 117 firms is quite small, of course, although it is an impressively large sample, considering that there were only 256 worker co-ops in the US at the time of this survey, according to their analysis.

While this quick analysis doesn’t constitute the same type of rigorous academic research cited by Pérotin, it also doesn’t contradict the finding that, in the US and worldwide, worker cooperatives are by no means smaller firms than conventional businesses – if anything the data suggest they may consistently be larger.

References:

Pérotin, Virginie “What Do We Really Know About Worker Co-operatives?”
http://www.uk.coop/sites/default/files/uploads/attachments/worker_co-op_report.pdf

Democracy at Work Institute, “US Worker Cooperatives: A State of the Sector”
http://institute.coop/sites/default/files/resources/State_of_the_sector_0.pdf

US Bureau of Labor Statistics, National Business Employment Dynamics Data by Firm Size Class, Table G. Distribution of private sector firms by size class
http://www.bls.gov/web/cewbd/table_g.txt