When the CEO of limited company Impact Box wanted to bring the organisation to a close, the people who worked for him had a different idea – and decided to start a co-op…
Impact Box is a tech consultancy that works with charities, unions and other organisations with a social purpose.
“It’s our mission to help create a more impactful, efficient and data-informed social sector,” said director and member Desa Markovic. “We do this by providing software support and solutions that address the day-to-day challenges social enterprises face.”
After six years of operating as a limited company, the boss wanted to wind things up. But the team had different ideas. “We were keen to continue what we were doing, but we wanted to switch up the management structure and the way we worked,” Desa recalled.
So they decided to form a co‑op. “We already worked in a collaborative way, so it felt like a solution that worked well for us.”
Keeping their existing name and client list, Desa and her colleagues set up Impact Box as a worker co‑operative with seven members.
“We’re a values-focused organisation and we didn’t feel our values were fully expressed in the way we were working. So we’ve been able to make our values a core part of the way we work.
“We now have a collaborative – instead of top down – way of running the business. We’ve found ways to structure our work – and have taken on new roles. It suits us all well and has helped us develop our skills.
“Because, as workers, we run the business, we keep an eye on what’s fair for us and make sure we’re all being paid in a way we’re happy with. It’s been great to take our values and apply them practically – that’s not impossible in a traditional company but it’s much easier in a co‑op.”
To take the leap into co‑operative ownership and management of the re-vamped Impact Box, the team enlisted the help of the Business Support for Co-ops programme, provided by Co‑operatives UK, in partnership with The Co‑operative Bank.
The team received a package of consultancy over a six-month period in 2022 from co‑op development expert Adrian Ashton. “Adrian was flexible about how we took the time and was good about checking in with us. His support was helpful,” said Desa.
“I appreciated the sessions he did with us on wearing different hats and how to manage different roles within an organisation. Because we’re a small team, we are all directors and workers – and we need to be mindful that we’re taking care to attend to the needs and perspectives of each role.
“We also did a useful session about what to do with any surplus at the end of the financial year – whether to invest in the organisation, issue dividends etc. He used a case study approach to take us through a number of scenarios.
“We’ve also done a huge piece of work on our strategy – planning where we’re going and what we’re doing. A big part of that was directly off the back of some of the work we did with Adrian.”
Going forward, the Impact Box members are focusing on the wellbeing and development of the team, as well as creating a sustainable organisation.
“We’re exploring working with different tools and platforms,” said Desa. “Up skilling the team is also a big focus – giving every member space to learn things. We think there’s a lot of value in that.
“The last two years, we’ve had a strong focus on creating a better organisation that works for us – and as a result we do better for our clients.”