struggles for democratic participation and citizenship sometimes emerge in unexpected places. in the small canadian city of guelph, for example, a grassroots neighbourhood coalition has enabled ordinary people to collectively decide what community services their city government provides. although still evolving, guelph’s coalition has helped diverse city residents and staff learn about and build democracy, equity, and community. in the words of one participant: "each group is individual but yet when we come to this table, we need to advocate and make decisions based on the good of the whole. i now understand the statement, what is good for you is also good for me." the experience in guelph is only one example of how participatory budgeting is being adapted to canada. in the face of increasing inequality and neoliberalism, participatory budgeting has made public participation more powerful, government decision-making more democratic, and public spending more equitable // josh lerner & estair van wagner, 02.01.06, transnational institute
are employee-owned businesses a better fit for fostering competiveness in a high-skilled, knowledge-intensive economy? a growing body of research supports the thesis — as do westjet, vancity, PLC construction, many of canada’s law firms and management consultancies, and sure, also the karma co-op. but if employee-owned businesses are better for the economy and more resilient when times get tight, how do we create more of them?
the UK’s baxi partnership has a no-nonsense solution. give employees direct access to management and governance skills, and back them up with access to a dedicated revolving fund to provide the capital for the buyout. good business, but also an idea fit for the times. with aging, enterprising baby-boomers increasingly keen to offload their firms, today's employees with the right support could be tomorrow's ready buyers.
democratic companies are a talent magnet...
where would you rather work – a stifling, fear-driven workplace that may look great on a resume but makes your life miserable or one where you’re valued and your voice is heard? when given a choice, smart, creative, self-motivated people – the ideal employee – will choose the latter. regardless of pay or prestige, people want to work where they feel appreciated and heard. business owners and executives should look beyond motivational gimmicks and instead use democracy to attract the people needed to propel their businesses forward – and win the talent war in the process.
democratic companies come up with smarter ideas...
every business owner knows the maxim, “innovate or die.” but coming up with ideas and acting on them isn’t enough. you need smart ideas. how to get them? as james surowiecki writes, tap the wisdom of your crowd. chances are the employees developing your products or services, fielding customer service calls or selling to clients have some great insights for your next big idea – if only someone would listen.
democratic companies work fast...
it may seem paradoxical to say that democratic companies know how to work fast but it’s true. sure, the decision-making process, if it involves reaching a consensus, can take time. but the time and attention paid to everyone’s point of view only makes the execution phase faster once the decision is made. typically, top-down decisions leave employees thinking, “why are they doing that? why didn’t they consult me? this will never work.” most company’s best-laid plans fall apart in the execution phase because they didn’t have the democratic buy-in of the employees who would be executing on the decision. when employees have a say and understand the “why” behind a decision the execution is faster, more efficient and devoid of resistance.
democratic companies have happier employees...
the gallup organization recently reported that approximately three-fourths of the US workforce is disengaged at work, costing $300 billion annually. employees report that not being engaged also impacts their emotional and physical health. conversely employees who do feel engaged feel the opposite. a democratic system by definition is an engaging one, contributing to the physical and mental health of employees each day. being engaged, having a say, and being treated as an intelligent human being makes people happy – and creates a happier place to work as well.
democratic companies use democracy to boost the bottom line...
democracy impacts the bottom line because it attracts great talent, keeps turnover and absenteeism low and produces a more innovative workforce that executes on ideas quickly. a workplace with fewer layers of management due to a flatter, more decentralized system means that money can be used to hire great people – rather than manage underperformers. democracy means a leaner, faster, happier and more innovative company – factors which give the bottom line a boost // traci fenton, startupnation.com