Episode 7: The Bristol Cable operations ninja Will Franklin on membership and sociocracy

On this episode we speak to Will Franklin, Operations Lead at the Bristol Cable, a community-owned cooperative newspaper based in Bristol, UK.

Founded by volunteers in 2014, this grassroots project has grown into a ten-person horizontally managed newsroom, supported by 2,500 paying members.

What sets the Bristol Cable apart is its cooperative structure, with the organisation owned and supported by 2,500 members, who contribute an average of nearly £5 every month. These members don’t just fund the outlet – comprising 40% of its revenue – but they actively participate in big structural decisions, as co-owners of the newspaper.

Despite the growth in membership, the Bristol Cable faces the ongoing challenge of sustainability which many innovative independent media organisations do. Funding remains a critical concern, with the European funding landscape not offering sources of sustainability it needs, with the Cable previously getting most of its funding from US-based funders. So the Cable is now focusing on diversifying its revenue streams, not only on membership contributions but also on events and other initiatives that can generate income while engaging the community.

Will explains the importance of building a resilient team, and the structures needed for that in a cooperative, with the Cable navigating transitions from its co-founders and founding team members. The Cable team has a strong culture of internal democracy, with strategic decisions made collectively, and using sociocracy, a method of organising which ensures all voices are heard and considered in decision-making processes.

Listen to this episode to find out the lessons learned from 10 years of building a democratic newsroom.