Amanda Cook

Decision-making structures and participation in heterogeneous worker cooperatives

I am studying how decision-making structures affect participation in heterogeneous worker cooperatives. Worker cooperatives are businesses or organizations owned and democratically managed by their workers. Previous research on worker cooperatives indicates a tendency towards homogeneity, meaning that worker-owners in a given cooperative share very similar backgrounds. However, since these studies were conducted in the 1970’s and 1980’s, worker cooperatives have become more diverse. A recent case study on a large and diverse worker cooperative suggests that formalizing decision-making structures might facilitate widespread democratic participation. I will expand upon this research by using participant observation and interviews to study two heterogeneous Bay Area worker cooperatives. I hope that my project will make a valuable contribution to the existing knowledge about cooperatives, possibly helping to create more democratic workplaces.

Message to Sponsor

I see the research process as a very stimulating challenge, one that encourages me not only to collect data, but also to collaborate with others and use my analytical skills to their fullest potential. To be able to devote an entire summer to developing my research skills is very exciting. Even more exciting is the fact that I am researching worker cooperatives, organizations that I have long admired for their struggle to put ideologies of empowerment and mutual responsibility into action.
  • Major: Sociology
  • Mentor: Kim Voss, Sociology