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Managing morale with co-operative approaches

Co-operative Principles

Ever fancied working as a Tofu Morale Manager? It might not be the life dream you shared in circle time at primary school, and maybe it wasn’t what your career adviser suggested for work experience in your teens, but join the Twin Oaks Community Foods workers co-operative in Virginia, USA, and this job could be yours. Workers co-operatives do business a little differently; along Twin Oaks, Hempen is no exception.

We are coming to the end of Co-operative Fortnight, a 14 day long celebration of the power of co-operation and alternative economics. Co-operatives recognise that in a world where cut-throat capitalist models dominate, it’s possible to step out of the mainstream with worker-owned business models. With their origins and influences in grassroots activism, co-operatives offer exciting spaces for people to organise collectively for mutual benefit, explore the nature of work, capital and how we can forge and shape new possibilities in a co-operative way. Hempen is a farm co-operative and at the core of how we work is an appreciation for why we work, prioritising values over profits, ethics over growth, well-being over productivity as a measure of success.

Co-op membership is open and voluntary

Co-ops are open to those who are able to give their services and accept the responsibility of membership. Hempen is collectively owned by its members, and we’re lucky to live as a tight-knit community with the additional contribution of long-term volunteers and short-term volunteers supporting us when extra hands are needed.

Co-ops are controlled only by their members, who have equal say

At Hempen, self-help, responsibility, equality and solidarity are core values in our organising and decision-making. We regularly meet to discuss both day to day needs, plans for action and wider visions. We use consensus decision-making to ensure all voices are heard and the direction we take reflects our values as a collective. From seed to soil, from plant to oil, all the workers in our co-operative are involved in the discussion and decision-making that feeds our work and our vision.

Co-ops are autonomous and independent self-help organisations

For us, there is huge possibility in our autonomy. Hempen strives to innovate in hemp farming, the products we make and the way we organise as both a business and community. We recognise our social responsibility to empower and educate our members as well as the wider community through a culture of openness and care for each other, the community and the land.

Co-operation among co-ops benefits members and the wider co-op movement

Wherever possible, we look to collaborate with other worker co-operatives, sharing ideas and resources, to help the movement strengthen and grow. As the philosopher Alan Watts put it, “no valid plans for the future can be made by those who have no capacity for living now.” We find when we prioritise co-operative ways of working and living, with a balance for what we enjoy and care about, we connect to our tasks and to each other and to why we do what we do.

Yes, there are some parts of running a hemp co-operative that can be a little tedious, but we’re a fun bunch, and haven’t needed to draw up a Hemp Morale Manager job spec yet!

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