Courier Co-ops: Getting started

Following discussions between Co-operatives UK, CoopCycle, two start-up courier co-ops and Co-op Culture (who were also speaking independently with the IWW Courier Network) it was decided to hold an open meeting to bring all these people together.

The aim was to:

  • Showcase the CoopCyle platform to couriers
  • Discuss the possibility of UK worker co-operatives in the courier/food tech sector
  • Assess the appetite of couriers to take this forward

The meeting was well attended (both physically and online) – with attendees from Cardiff, Canterbury, Southampton, Scotland, Bristol, London, Manchester. You can watch a replay of the event on YouTube. Thanks to the IWW Courier Network, who funded members’ travel.

There was much enthusiasm for the CoopCyle platform and exploring the idea of using the platform, and worker co-operatives, further.

Questions and Answers

Lots of questions were captured online and at the event. We will start to work up answers to these questions so that all groups have the same information.

Who owns the bike, provides maintenance etc?

It depends on the rules that the co-op has set: either individual property of property of the co-op.

How do co-ops using the platform classify their workers (worker status) and what form of contract are riders operating on?

It depends on the rules that the co-op has set.

How do co-ops using the platform determine which local companies they work deliver for i.e. only those who pay living wage?

We haven’t set any rules regarding that right now. This will be a topic to be discussed with every local co-op, e.g. we are thinking of creating a label attributed to shops that respect our charter.

Who takes on the role of the controller for dispatches?

The role repartition is a matter of each local co-op organization. Often now it’s either a person devoted to admin matter in the co-op or a rider himself when not on shift. It doesn’t need to be only one person. We are currently also developing the possibility of managing the dispatch from the app which would enable rider on tour to manage the dispatch.

Are there any issues of fighting

For now we didn’t have any issue of discordance between local co-op since they operate in different cities, and for internal issue, local co-ops come up with their own solution.

Does CoopCycle offer any legal protection to its user co-ops? (insurance etc)

We are providing legal support for example to set status of the co-op and we have also review all insurance contracts negotiated by local co-ops to check their validity. Moreover we’re currently in discussion with one insurance organisation to set up a global cover for every local co-op. Indeed the current products on the market are not well suited to the delivery activity.

Does CoopCycle provide any educational support to its member co-ops?

Excellent question. One of the targeted pooled resources we are aiming at is on formation between co-op or with external input depending on the needs. We have set up already different communication channel to exchange good practices and inspirations between the co-ops as well.

What are the first steps to setting up a local rider co-op?

Simple first answer: to have already gather motivated people that are willing to go through the process. Indeed the end goal remains a sustainable economical activity and co-op members are business partners before being friends.

How does the local co-op make money and how are profits distributed?

Money is coming from the delivery activity. It can take several forms: either a mark-up of simple B2C delivery (like for the foodtech) or more complicated contract with stable business customers. For the profits: co-operatives are not non-profit. But the rule to share the profit has to be set by the members themselves.

How do the local co-ops advertise?

It all depends on the needs and means of the local co-ops, but traditional adverts have been used by some local co-ops (flyiers, stickers, facebook posts…). Moreover without being able to finance huge advertisement compaign as foodtech companies, we are using institutionalised tools to promote CoopCycle and the local co-ops, ie city halls, local governmental structure own communication channels.

How is the price of each delivery calculated?

Each local co-op set up the way they see it sustainable from their local market point of view by contracting with shops and restaurants.

How do co-ops using the platform compete with Deliveroo / Uber Eats?

A frontal competition has no sense. We are still targeting markets that are willing to set up an ethical delivery service, such that in this segment we do not have to compete with these platforms. Besides, to ensure a living wage to the riders, we broaden delivery activity to a wide range of different customers where these platforms are not in. Another idea is that you can offer other services to the restaurant: for example collecting emptied recipient back for restaurant that would choose a more sustainable packaging.

Thank you to Edith from CoopCycle for answering lots of these questions!

Next steps and available support

The Hive

The Hive is a support programme for co-ops delivered by Co-operatives UK in partnership with The Co-operative Bank.

  • The Hive website has a range of online resources for new and existing co-ops.
  • Anyone interested in learning more about co-ops should try to book onto a free 'Is a co-op right for you?' session – dates for 2019 will be announced shortly.
  • Read through the supporting resources on how to set up a new co-operative enterprise. Details of legal structures can be found here, organisational types including worker and user models here, and raising finance here. 
  • The Hive also offers direct one to one business advice and mentoring, accessible through a competitive application process. This has been invaluable to other co-operative start ups, details of which are captured in some of our case studies. Applications are open all year round. Applications are more likely to be successful where they can demonstrate a group has undertaken some form of research, so read through the online resources before applying.

LINKS & CONTACT DETAILS

UnFound

UnFound is an accelerator programme for platform co-ops.

  • UnFound is structured around a series of masterclasses aimed at equipping participants with the skills and discipline to navigate the start-up process.  
  • Topics covered include business planning, user acquisition, funding strategies and governance. In addition to the masterclasses, participants have access to a mentor team throughout the programme.  Mentors assist teas with setting up and developing their co-operatives successfully and help navigate the complex financial, regulatory, and organisational hurdles. 
  • The next application window will open in early 2019. 

LINKS & CONTACT DETAILS

Register your interest at [email protected] to be added to the mailing list.

Co-op Culture & co-op development bodies

Co-op Culture are an independent co-op of co-operative activists and business advisors and we were represented at this meeting by Mark Simmonds and Nathan Brown.

  • Co-op Culture have been in contact with the IWW Couriers Network (and Mark Simmonds is an IWW member) and have previously attended a national meeting of organisers from their city-based networks in the UK.
  • As part of that discussion it has been suggested that similar meetings to this meeting in Manchester could be held as a roadshow around the UK to stimulate interest in courier worker co-ops and also possibly in the mutual insurance Breadfunds being promoted by Stuart Field (and supported by Co-operatives UK). It may be possible that CoopCyle could participate too.
  • Online participants (and earlier discussions with IWW) showed interest in a roadshow in the following cities: Cardiff, Canterbury, Southampton, Edinburgh, Glasgow, Bristol
  • Co-op Culture has agreed to give their time free to speak at the workshops above, providing that a local host can find and fund the venue. We would aim to fund our travel costs through an application to the Worker Co-op Solidarity Fund. We will pursue this through the IWW Courier Network and their local groups, but are happy to work with other groups of couriers.
  • At the meeting in Manchester local couriers expressed interest in setting up a worker co-op and we are in the process of setting up a meeting with them. We’re particularly excited about this as we work with much of the co-operative economy in Manchester and there are great possibilities of inter-co-operative trade.
  • Co-op Culture is also happy to speak to any group without obligation about how a courier co-op might work for you in your town.

Hilary Sudbury of Co-operative Assistance Network who has previous experience of working with courier co-ops in Bristol is happy to participate on the same basis and we will canvas other co-operative development bodies to see if they would like to be involved.

IWW Couriers Network

IWW Couriers Network is a network of couriers, primarily working for Deliveroo and UberEATS, who have joined the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) to fight for a better deal!

The network aims to push to change the conditions of labour relations in the industry to get a better deal for its members and ultimately to enable a better service for the public.

The nature of the industry means the majority of the networks members are self-employed, but using the time honoured tactics of collective organisation and direct action they are seeking to change things!

LINKS & CONTACT DETAILS

IWW Couriers Network website

There is also a very active Courier Co-op WhatsApp group that you may want to join. Contact: [email protected]

CoopCycle

The idea of CoopCycle is to promote  a new cooperative model to improve riders working conditions and ensure for them a secure environment to evolve in - guarantee over a monthly wage, unemployment benefit, pension system. Another aspect that is really important is to come back to a system where riders have the plain ownership of their working tools and get back the value they create.

Our project is thus to create an European federation of local cooperatives, which will offer pooled services such as the CoopCycle software. The structure will

  1. Provide services to members (insurance, bulk purchasing, accountants, marketing etc
  2. Provide solidarity between members and common voice (mutual help, sharing lessons learned, visibility on global scale). The cooperative will be run democratically by couriers. Each member of the federation will pay a fee based on its earnings to fund the structure. It will also enable local coops to sign nationwide contracts. Right now we are working with riders cooperatives (around 20) in France, Spain, UK, Belgium and Germany.

LINKS & CONTACT DETAILS

UK government funding

The government has announced £2 million to support the uptake of e-cargo bikes, driving UK companies towards a greener future.

The funding will help pave the way for the nimble electric delivery vehicles to replace older, polluting vans - helping to improve the environment and reduce congestion.  More info available here.

Bread Funds

Bread Funds are a new way for self-employed people and freelancers to support each other if they become unable to work.

A Bread Fund is a group of 25 to 50 people who contribute money each month into a fund which can support any of its members who become unable to work through illness or injury. It operates by members supporting each other on the basis of mutual trust. Contributions to the fund, and payments by the fund to its members, are in the form of gifts. You can choose from different levels of contributions: the level you choose is related to the income you would like to receive if you become unable to work.

LINKS & CONTACT DETAILS

Worker Co-op Solidarity Fund

Solidfund supports workers to own and control their own livelihoods.

Individuals, worker co-operatives and other organisations donate to the Fund, which supports education and training for worker co-operators, the independence of worker co-operatives and promotes worker co-op organisation and culture.

LINKS & CONTACT DETAILS


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