Cooperative Power was founded in 2018 to put real power back in peoples’ hands.
We built our cooperative to give people power over their energy bills, rebuild democracy across Australia, and fight the climate crisis.
Since 2021, we have asked our customer members to collectively decide how we should spend the money our cooperative makes. In those two years, we have allocated over $130,000 back into good works in our community and taking back the commons for everyone.
For many of our members, our democratic budget will be the first time they’ve ever had a chance to determine the strategic future of a business and what its profits are best used for. Our customer members are what makes CoPower so great and your ideas are key to power us into the future.
This is now our third democratic budget and it is the biggest yet!
We’re holding two workshops and two votes over the next month.
You can take part in as many or as few of these as you want. You’re not obliged to come to any workshops – and you will still be able to vote or go to any workshop if you’ve missed a previous one.
Save the dates for the online workshops and votes. We’ll email out links to the online workshops and the voting portal closer to each date.
Our first workshop is on Sunday 23 April from 6:00pm to 7:30pm and will talk about our draft operational budget, provide guidance on allocating our service budget and making project applications.
Our first vote will be from Monday 24 April to Sunday 30 April and will consult customer members on the operations budget and ask them to determine the % of funds allocated to the service versus impact budgets. We are also asking some questions around how involved you are in democratic organisations.
Impact project applications will be open for expressions of interest from Monday 1 May to Sunday 28 May. As will be our customer member survey on how best we can make use of our service budget.
Our second workshop is on Thursday 8 June from 7:00pm to 8:30pm and will give everyone an opportunity to discuss the project applications and ideas for the service budget.
Our second — and final — vote will be from Saturday 9 June to Sunday 25 June and will ask you to rank the service priority areas and impact projects to determine the allocation of funds.
The preliminary results will be announced on Saturday 1 July.
Our cooperative was started because we recognise that the climate crisis, the inequality crisis and the crisis in democratic participation are deeply interconnected — and we try to tackle those crises by rebuilding democratic organisations with the power to take back ownership of the economy and build a just and sustainable economy that can stop the catastrophic destruction of our climate and environment.
This is our mission. And the projects we support through our democratic budget need to align with that mission.
From that mission, we have developed seven objectives that projects wanting to be funded through our impact budget must be working towards:
As a customer member, you get to decide what we do with every single dollar of our cooperative’s income.
Our budget is broken down into three buckets:
Our operational budget is the reinvestment we make in the cooperative to keep it going. This includes staff, growth, administration and organising costs, design work, and Paying the Rent (to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples). These projects are overseen by our volunteer board, which is made up of representatives from our member organisations and independent directors. Member organisations are democratic organisations like environmental groups, trade unions, other cooperatives, community energy groups that part-own CoPower and provide in-kind help for it to grow.
Our service budget is what we use on helping out our customer members. We allocate this money to priority areas which then invests in services over the course of the year that reduce the cost of living pressures for our customer members, help them get off fossil fuels or deliver major capabilities that help our customer members better engage with the cooperative like upgrades to our billing and payments systems or tracking their household energy usage. These service priority areas are overseen by our customer member working groups like our digital capacity group and our energy efficiency group.
Our impact budget is what we use to fund good works in our communities. We invest this money into projects run by organisations our members are active in or to support causes that are left out by other major funders like strikes and climate resistance. Projects funded by our impact budget must have the active participation of our customer members or member organisations and work towards one of our seven objectives.
As a customer member, you will get to vote on how much money is put into each of these budgets and which service priority areas and projects will get funded.
The key information you need to assist your participation from a position of power is below:
We have learnt a lot from our last two budgets and we’re continuing to experiment with how to make collective democratic budgeting work.
We listened to our customer members who said that too many workshops and votes were confusing and left people anxious they’d missed out on an important decision.
Members also told us they found it difficult to choose between supporting projects that build the cooperative and important community projects. To help with that, we’ve created a third budget category called our Service budget.
We’re also spending more on delivering a better user experience which is why we’re partnering with Election Buddy to conduct our vote this year.
Our democratic budget is always a work in progress. If you have any thoughts or suggestions for this proposal, email us at hello at cooperativepower.org.au.
In the first two years of our democratic budget cycle we have made a positive impact much larger than our relative size. Such highlights include but are not limited to: