Blue Scorcher: A bakery worker cooperative in the US sociocracy case study

Apr 28, 2018

This case study is helpful if you: are part of a worker coop in any sector or would like to see a tried and tested, established implementation of sociocracy. 

The Blue Scorcher bakery in Oregon (US) has been running on sociocracy since 2012. Make sure to check out the section on governance on their beautiful website! In 2009 co-founders Joe Garrison and Iris Sullivan Daire (married partners) began meeting more formally with a group of the workers who were interested in developing the business as a co-op.

blue scorcher staff

While Joe and Iris have officially been the owners in a DBA structure, “From the beginning it was a very participatory, collective business,” says Iris. The bakery is now a worker owned cooperative, that attempts to embody the seven co-op principles of: Voluntary and open membership, Democratic member control, Member economic participation, Autonomy and independence, Education, training and information, Cooperation among cooperatives, Concern for community. 

Blue scorcher is unique in that it may have been the first co-op in north America to write sociocratic principles of governance directly into its bylaws. Their dynamic governance structure involves a general circle with six sub circles. Five of the circles are operational related, including the pastry and kitchen circles. The sixth circle is the board of directors, which is how blue scorcher has integrated sociocracy with their cooperative structure. 

Baking bread

“[Sociocracy is] like getting a new game from the toy store. Some games you’re agonizing over the rule book trying to figure it out. Other games you’re playing within 15 minutes – Sociocracy is like that.”

Blue scorcher has enjoyed the consent based decision making process as opposed to the standard democratic process used in co-ops. As Joe explains “If you’re trying to do it democratically what it comes down to is a vote count. Let’s say you have 51 in favor of being open late and 49 against it, well you’ve got half the room being pissed about it and not cooperating. What this new model is trying to do is prevent people from separating.” Read the full case study to learn more about Blue scorcher and how it is benefiting from sociocracy. This case study was written by Shane Eazor, as part of his contribution to the Sociocracy Leadership Training. Thanks, Shane! (click for webinar recording featuring Joe)

Read the full case study

Further SoFA Reading

What is a Help Desk?

What is a Help Desk?

After using sociocracy “by the book” for years and very successfully, we have started to introduce a new concept: a Help Desk circle. It introduces a small but extremely powerful nuance in what circles are and how we can decentralize decisions and operations while empowering everyone in the organization in moving things forward that they care about.