Spring Break 2021/Co-operative Company Handbooks

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  • Technical leeway (5mins)
  • Opening admin (inform, 10mins)
    • Who's in the room?
    • Session duration
    • Consent to agenda
  • Introduction (inform, 10mins)
    • Why I started writing Animorph's handbook
    • Handbooks are useful
    • Handbooks are difficult
    • Examples are helpful
    • Shaking the CoTech tree
  • Mapping (explore, 20mins)
    • Successes
    • Failures
    • Needs
    • Puzzles
  • Proposal (decide, 15mins)
    • What, Why, When, Who


Who's in the room?

Caitlin (Good Praxis), Finn (Agile Collective), Gemma (Common Knowledge), Hannah (Animorph), Geoff (Animorph), Jack (Open Data Services), Kirsty (Dot Project), Liam (Agile Collective), Luke (Autonomic), Maria (Agile Collective), Mel (Code-Operatives), Liam (MediaBlaze Hosts)

Session duration

1hr, finish in time for following sessions starting at 12:00

Consent to agenda

No changes noted. Hannah to facilitate, Geoff to take notes.


Hannah Blows (Animorph):

  • As first non-founder member of Animorph, saw the need to be able to pass on the culture, creating it for self as well as whole and future members.
  • Certain policies are legally required, others important to function.
  • Huge undertaking. Hard to make time for it when live client rojects pull teams attention.
  • CoTech Forum thread started by Chris Lowis is an excellent growing resource; it's a wiki post so we can edit and add handbooks as we find/make them.
  • Hannah has captured info and documents from her email call-out to CoTech coops into a git.coop repo, open to all who have git.coop accounts to view. Plans to continue building and utilising the resources; an internal (CoTech) repository of shared documentation of policy, procedures, contracts, templates, licenses, etc.


Open to the floor - why are we all here?

Finn (Agile Collective):

  • Keen to publish their documentation.
  • Caveat it'll always be a work in progress, but aim to publish and contribute to the discussion.

Gemma (Common Knowledge):

  • Been looking at refs and investigating governance and "handbooks" at a stage where they would like to make a public facing document.
  • Still an internal draft.

Jack (Open Data Services):

  • As a self described opaque organisation, it would be good to shout about some of the features publicly, clarify.
  • Currently the good policies are in a “form” which is a hindrance, would like to seek better forms of expressing the policies/procedures.

Luke (Autonomic):

  • Don’t have many of the policies but want them - and want them to be rock solid. Interfacing with the non-coop environment is important as a consideration for this discussion.
  • It could be a massive boon for info sharing, for helping start coops and also the balancing of internal policies.
  • Understand the interaction a little bit better between coops through their own lens.

Kirsty (Dot Project):

  • Uses Notion and adds policies to it.
  • What are statutory? What others do, what’s the Parental Policy for example.
  • Their current process is organic and would like to see what others are doing.

Maria (Agile):

  • Like Hannah had to write the handbook joining as non founder and a handbook didnt exist yet!
  • Policy Sprawl, careful, this can start! In principal important bit needs to be fenced so it doesn’t spread wildly.
  • Did the CoopsUK HR package (Linda) helped with reviewing their policies. This was useful, currently they are coherent.
  • Needing your policies to fit your organisation is important, reflecting “us” as “our” values as an organisation, not just tick the box, you need this piece of paper.
  • Would like a repository to feature the boiler plate and then individual versions as per each coop.

Liam (Agile):

  • Maria and Finn seconded! Adding to the handbook and thinking about gaps within it, very close to publishing theirs, would like people to use it.
  • New to a CoTech gathering! Excited to just join and intro.

Geoff (Animorph):

  • Co-founder experience as a swarm of doers, no documentation, just making things.
  • Animorph started formalising and then when Hannah came into the fold, the culture that had grown she helped put a lens on it, absorb and contribute to it through documentation.
  • In the freelance realm often needed to write something quickly in order to action with a company, always a tick-box exercise and risky! No link to the culture.
  • See that it now as a living expression of the company culture, as well as legally important documents. E.g. insurance, they'll go straight for them, look at them.
  • Coops have similar needs on base level of documents, let’s get to the core, disseminate and build on.

Mel (Code-Operatives):

  • The task goes to the back of the pile, as freelancers only get paid for client work, difficult to make time for it.
  • Recently needed policies for a bid. They had to create the bid and develop their policies in tandem! After the dust settled they began looking at the validity of the document and what they actually need.
  • Would like to get an insight in to what can be done, with the limited time and attention that often is on the task.

Liam (MediaBlaze):

  • Wanting to see best practice between coops and build a better individual docs.
  • Shared agreement between coops could be introduced, one primary policy within, branched out to other CoTech policies.

Hannah (Animorph): 

  • You can't always use a template as it needs to be an expression of the coop culture, but it's very helpful to have somewhere to start. A clear "voice" is often seen in the documentation (the better documentation!)
  • They are useful as part of a hiring process as an outward facing document too, enables new members to understand your organisation clearly.
  • Accessibility; if it's made available internally - most useful if it's relevant and referred to; outward facing - needs constant updating, good motivator also.


  • What; To continue to gather CoTech co-ops handbooks/policies/contracts and any other relevant documents onto git.coop
  • Why; For CoTech co-ops to reference and remix. Git.coop access controlled, co-operative, versioned.
  • When; Another push in April/May to get existing co-ops engaged and consent to share internally, revisit ongoing basis
  • Who; Hannah (Animorph) + 2 more people min

Presenting repository (git.coop) screenshare:

  • Listed as files per coop with read me examples inside.
  • Will remain internal, a space with contracts, agreements, NDA’s, software agreements, risk assessments and other useful boiler plates could be shred here too.

Login into git.coop, How to/What is it:

  • It’s a Git.Lab instance hosted on a green server maintained by WebArchitects (https://www.webarchitects.coop/git). Not exclusively for code/coders by any means but does house a lot of code…
  • Setting up an account is straight forward, familiarising yourself with it’s geography may take some time to explore.
  • Set up an account here: https://git.coop/users/sign_in
  • Once in you have access to the docs mentioned and linked here, where you can add and edit!

Questions on the floor:

  • Q: Finn: Are there a list of public handbooks?
  • A: Hannah: Within the repo the existing links are listed, but it's not currently obvious which co-ops have public handbooks just from loooking at the directory. Will make more obvious in presenting this in the README of the repo. Will also update and link to the forum thread, public for anyone.
  • Q: Finn: Non CoTech handbooks that are available? Is there place to list / store them?
  • A: Hannah: Currently the thread Chris set up is the current most complete source.
  • Q: Finn: Is there a channel where this topic is discussed? (e.g. Rocket, Slack) Implication is should we set one up or is there one alive already?
  • A: Hannah: There is not, the Coop Agony Aunt Call is not happening anymore, zoom fatigue. That did function in some regard as that channel of communication. (CoTech Agony Aunt Call was a monthly or by-monthly call where someone from each Co-op would speak together and hash out Coop practices, operational struggles and challenges.) Gemma: On the forum has suggested joining the various chats with Matrix: https://community.coops.tech/t/connecting-our-chat-comms-slack-matrix-hubl-etc/2627/7
  • Q: Caitlin: Language of the policies, semantics of the language is something of interest; a new language to discuss this legalise / corporate talk. E.g. 'probation', it trips on their organisations culture, it doesn’t fit and doesn’t express the culture, so doesn’t work.
  • A: Hannah: Agree, was unsure of legalities when editng contract. Consistency of this change in language is worth investigating. Jack: This is a thing, the squeemishness around the language has made it challenging for some in practical working situations. Aprasal another example of a needed function not facilitated because of squeemishness. Maria: and experience of the Coops UK HR package; there was guidance and boiler plates available there also there was a review of the legalities of it all. Finn: A list of policies for certain businesses (sector or purpose specific) are important. e.g. Freelancer groups and entities/organisations are different and have different requirements that should be represented in the repository.


Gemma (Common Knowledge), Mel (Code-Operatives), and Liam (Agile Collective) happy to assist Hannah (Animorph) in being archivists - custodians - stewards - guides - promoters of the repository.