We like guidelines. In our work, things like the Debian Free Software Guidelines, pep8 and Koha Coding Guidelines are quite useful. I follow guidelines for how I work, too. In addition to the financial reports required by government, our co-op produces an annual social report which we share with our members and other key stakeholders. Since 2007, the backbone of it is The Worker Co‑operative Code of Governance published by our national federation.
In 2012, the Worker Co-op Council updated the code. I don’t remember why an update was felt necessary, but as a side-effect of producing of our 2013 social report, I’ve made a list of the changes:
- Principle 1 is reordered, with information becoming the first point and membership offered to all becoming the last item.
- Principle 2 sees democratic processes drop down the order, plus it loses the item on long-term planning.
- Principle 3 has the point about reserves clarified and gains a last item about distributing surplus fairly.
- Principle 4 loses its first item about regular reviews, the skills assessment point moves to principle 5 and it gains a “build capability” point.
- Principle 5 gains items on replacing key members and skills assessment (from the previous section), while most points seem rephrased.
- Principle 6 is reordered, active co-operation is split into distinct points about referring and collaborating and the point about actively sharing good practice is deleted.
- Principle 7 is unchanged.
Are these good changes? Much of it seems like tinkering and maybe shifting emphasis – the reorderings add little and make it harder to spot the changes – while the lost points on long-term planning and sharing good practice are surprising. I would have preferred to see the items that seem mainly to promote the code itself and its publisher Co-operatives UK deleted instead. The additions and clarifications about surplus are good, though, and there’s nothing new that I think should stop us adopting it.
What do you think? Should all business behave this way?