Hi all, I am writing here to pick the brains of all cooperators who can offer a little bit of advice.
For a number of years now Trademark has been working in the background to set up a cooperative Hub, we have 4 worker coops, a consortium cooperative and three charities who want to be involved, these charities are all about workers rights, women & refugee rights and the Irish language. We are now at the stage were we have members of each on a founders committee, who all meet weekly to work on getting our own premises. These premises will be big enough to house all, with added space for new worker cooperatives, a cooperative brewery ( Worker) a community space, an education centre and more. It will be the only Cooperative Hub on the Island of Ireland.
We now need to make our group a legal entity. We want it to be open to all, and have democracy imbedded in it. We re thinking a Community Benefit Society, or a possible Trust, We have founding members at the ready to sign up to be part of this.
My questions are:
Is a CBS the best legal structure?
Is there a better legal structure that any of you have used that is already tried and tested with better outcomes?
While I’m not a lawyer, I can use an example of my co-op and other organisations I know about. My idea is to organise a structure which would provide fail-safes in your governance and decision making. For example, initially you may limit a number of people who have voting rights in your society, at least according to your bylaws. At the same time you can ask everyone to vote and treat people equally. Still this system can help you to limit how “less cooperatively inclined” people can influence your organisation. Also later you can include more people into your core group.
Also it’s good to think about possible risks and failure modes while writing your bylaws. You can imagine what can go wrong between your organisation and possible members, then create an insurance policy to avoid this. The same can be applied to interaction with any parties, because many stakeholders can influence your organisation in good and bad ways.
Considering all this you can look for the most suitable legal entity.
Some of our more experianced advisers my turn up, but CBS could be viable. CBS’s are slightly more complicated and pain to set-up, but are probably worth it if you plan to do either or both of the below:
Ali, it’s one of those quirks that you can’t set up a CBS (at least one with a statutory asset lock) and then apply later for charitable status - because the asset locks are defined differently under law. All best, Martin
Thanks Martin, ive have been reading over a lot of stuff today… makes it hard to do exactly what we as a new hub want to do.
Waiting on word back from others, but it may be set up for speed as a CLG with cooperative ethos and rules, and moving forward applying for charitable status through CCNI. Education on coops and creating real living wage employment being the main aim.
Some questions to think about:
(1) Who do you intend to be the members - will it just be the groups taking space in the Hub or some wider group?
(2) How will it be funded, and will members require to make an investment?
(3) Do you want it to be eligible for non-business grant funding (in which case it will most likely help to have a statutory asset lock - so either CBS or CIC)?
Happy to have a chat offline if that would help. All best, Martin