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In 2007, coop developers, researchers and worker coop practitioners met in Halifax to consider a means of measuring worker cooperatives in terms of the stated ethics, values and principles of the co-operative identity out of a desire to help cooperatives grow closer to an ideal cooperative organization, driven by cooperative values.

Although it is recognized that each co-operative is unique, it is believed that key elements bridge the differences and can provide a guide for the developing worker co-op. The Co-op Index tool does this by measuring the co-ops adherence to the co-op principles and values, as well as adherence to its own identity, and its success in meeting its mission.

In addition, it provides an overview analysis of the governance and operations from the perspective of the co-ops members and employees, with recommendations for initiatives is specific areas.

i.    Underlying Assumptions

This diagnostic approach is based on a number of key assumptions:  

  1. The condition of the organization is reflected in the convictions and attitudes of the workers and they may be diagnosed by confidential questionnaires.
  2. People want to understand and feel secure within their environment, that they are free regardless of what they are told to do or what they seem to do.
  3. Everyone has the capacity to become a better person, as well as participate in creating an effective values-driven co-operative.

These assumptions both guide the process of the assessment as well as inform the recommendations. They ultimately assume that the board, managers, members and employees (the stakeholders) can make a difference in the way the co-op operates both internally and externally. They also imply that the road to greater and fairer participation within the co-operative and its capacity to enhance its contribution to the greater community is in the hands of the stakeholders, reflected in the way they choose to work together.

The theoretical model underlying this approach is one of Total Participation in Management developed by Ryzard Stocki and others. Under TPM, employees engage in participatory management in all aspects of an organizations activities, as would an owner of the organization. This implies responsible behavior by the stakeholders.

Measures of responsibility are intertwined in the organizational dimensions of this tool, in the systems that enable it, in the positive impacts of responsible behavior in an organization on the individual, and in the positive outcomes of responsible behavior on the social and physical environment of the organization.

ii.    The Structure of the Tool and Results

The Co-op Index team developed measures of co-op functioning on several levels. The Tool uses a mixed methodology including a survey, document review and interviews to develop an analaysis of the functioning of the organization as a worker-owned and controlled cooperative.

There are four general indices which capture the functioning of the organization within two simple numbers ranging from 1 to 100 (described in greater detail below). Such measures allow quick identification of progress and benchmarking against other similar organizations.

In addition, because co-operative values and principles are deeply intertwined with the daily actions of a co-operative, the questions in the survey are analysed in two types of scales to view the co-op from the perspectives of both values and actions.

There are 22 scales that refer to particular Co-operative Principles and Values, and another grouping of 30 scales that refer to concrete Organizational actions and their effects.

The responses are also grouped into four dimensions: Systems, Climate, Attitudes and Outcomes.  These scales point to the types of actions that may increase member and employee engagement, and improve the functioning of the co-op. The combination of the various scales and indices provides the co-operative with an in-depth picture of their values in action.

At the end of the report we enumerate the answers to each question and provide selected demographic comparisons between groups within the co-op, e.g. members vs. non-member workers; managers vs. production workers, etc.  

The survey results provide one aspect of the diagnostic. Along with the report of the indicies, an analysis of existing policies compares against the expressed sentitments of the survey. Any disconnects between the presumed means of functioning (policy) and experience (survey) undergo further exploration through interviews and discussion with the implementation team. 

iii.    General Description of the Indices

The report includes two general indices.

The first is the Organizational Maturity Index (OMI), which places the worker co-op on a maturity continuum.  This provides a guide to the extent to which the co-op embodies the key features of successful worker co-ops.

The second is the Organizational Trust Index (OTI), which provides a general assessment of the level of organizational trust within the co-op, i.e. how secure the members and employees feel within the organization.  

The report also includes a Co-operative Principles Index (CPI) for 12 Co-op Principles. The Co-op Index development team used the ICA 1995 Co-operative Principles as a starting point, and added several developed by the Mondragon Co-operative group, as well as an additional principle reflecting the concern for the environment.

The 12 principles used in the Co-operative Principles Index (CPI) are:

1.    Voluntary and Open Membership
2.    Democratic Member Control               
3.    Member Economic Participation        
4.    Autonomy and Independence              
5.    Education, Training and Information   
6.    Co-operation among Co-operatives     
7.    Concern for Community
8.    Concern for the Environment
9.    Participatory Management
10.  Payment Solidarity
11.  Labour control
12.  Social Transformation

The report also includes a Co-operative Values Index (CVI).  Its calculation is based upon the 10 co-operative Values (ICA Statement of Co-op Identity):

1.    Self-help
2.    Self-responsibility
3.    Democracy
4.    Equality
5.    Equity
6.    Solidarity
7.    Honesty
8.    Openness
9.    Social responsibility
10.  Caring for others

The report includes an assessment of 30 indices relating to different dimensions of the co-ops life, including key information on how the dimensions are perceived by different groups of stakeholders within the co-op. A general picture diagram provides a snapshot of all the questionnaire results organized in four general categories and thirty dimensions.

  • The Organizational Systems include: Communication Systems, Transparency, Feedback Systems, Development of co-op members, Remuneration, Innovations, Personnel Policies, Processes, and Strategies.



  • Indices of Organizational Climate are the indicators of the general tone and mood between members and employees within the coop. They include dimensions such as Mutual Respect, Leader competence, Trust in leadership, Trust in co-workers, Participatory management style, Relations with Co-workers, and Fun.  


  • Personal Attitudes and Actions include individual personal dimensions such as Participatory Knowledge, Ownership, Process Improvement and Responsibility.


  • The Outcomes Individual, Organizational and Social include including dimensions such as Identification, Satisfaction, Self-realization; Independence, Viability, Products and services; Co-operation with other co-operatives, Care for Community and the Environment.