Why Worker Ownership

A collage of the faces of the five team members that comprise the worker ownership team

In 2022, Data Driven Detroit (D3) transitioned to a worker-owned cooperative. This new governance structure has been designed by the long-established worker ownership team with the support of a wide variety of organizations—including our friends in nonprofits and philanthropy—and public relations, legal, and accounting professionals.

Why did we make this change?

D3 has always been an organization with a focus not just on high-quality data, but on valuing people—from the community members we serve directly, to our nonprofit partners, to the very people who work hard to keep D3 running efficiently. To reflect these human-centric values, it only made sense to have a company structure that included employees actively voting in major decision making.

Starting in 2016, following a successful first year as a privately-owned Low-Profit Limited Liability Company (L3C) model, we began to actively build our team’s capacity and governance structures, with the goal of shifting D3 from being directed by a single Executive Director and owner to a fully worker-owned cooperative.

Restructuring an organization that has been around for 10 years is more complicated than starting a worker-owned cooperative from scratch. As such, facilitating this transition took several years of work among our team members, along with the support from the Center for Community-Based Enterprise (C2BE) and other legal and accounting professionals. In 2020, we were able to formalize the future ownership group as D3’s board, and continue building our capacity as future owners to begin transitioning some of the decision-making authority from our Executive Director to the larger group.

This structure allows us to better live out and preserve D3’s values in day-to-day operations. We work together to ensure transparent governance and oversight of this important community asset that we steward.

The transition to worker ownership solidifies this culture of equality and collaboration. As we’ve worked towards this new structure, D3 has formalized processes that focus on ensuring our employees are included in decision-making. For example, prior to any hiring decision, we have a company-wide meeting to discuss our project workloads, our team’s current strengths and weaknesses, and what kind of candidate would best support the overall work moving forward. This is just one example of how we integrate our values of equity and collaboration into our everyday work. We believe this development into a worker-owned cooperative ensures stability and scalability as D3 grows in the future.

Worker ownership also helps promote employee recruitment and retention in the workforce. Institutional knowledge is paramount to D3’s success at providing low-cost and free data access in the community. The worker ownership cooperative allows D3 employees an even greater share in decision-making, taking it beyond just workplace culture to the actual structure of our organization.

By converting to the worker-owned model, D3 is prioritizing the voices of our employees and collectively committing to the shared responsibility of stewarding data for the Detroit community.

Over the next year, we’ll be sharing a variety of resources, reflections, and documentation of our process of becoming worker-owned. In the meantime, we invite you to learn more about the History of D3.

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