Worker Self-Directed Nonprofits

What do you get when you cross a worker cooperative with a 501(c)(3) nonprofit?
A worker self-directed nonprofit!

As the movement for economic and workplace democracy continues to grow, we think it is vitally important that nonprofit organizations also internalize and practice workplace democracy. We've put a fair bit of thought into our own organizational structure and culture, and now we are working to provide resources, advice, research, and a peer network to support worker self-direction in nonprofits everywhere.


So what's a worker self-directed nonprofit? We are defining this as a nonprofit organization in which all workers have the power to influence the programs in which they work, the conditions of their workplace, their own career paths, and the direction of the organization as a whole. Our own experience practicing worker self-direction and an emerging body of research both show that distributing leadership throughout an organization can create organizations that are more effective at advancing their mission, more adaptable and responsive to complex systems, more accountable to their communities, and more equitable and fun places to work! Read more here.

There are lots of reasons to be critical of the nonprofit industry, but by their very nature, nonprofit organizations provide a structure that resists the strong pull toward private wealth accumulation. We should not abandon nonprofits. We should just democratize them!


In mid-2023, we wrapped up the first iteration of  Collaborate to Co-Liberate: Structures and Practices for Democratic Organizations, a 15-month peer learning journey that brought together 200 participants from nearly 100 organizations. The program explored the stickiest questions facing movement groups striving to build equitable, democratic, and life-giving organizations, with modules led by leading practitioners, including adrienne maree brown, Gopal Dayaneni, and more. The journey was divided into four seasons: Transformative Relationships, Organization Fundamentals, Navigating Capitalism, and Connecting to Your Web of Relations. 

We will continue growing the Network in 2024 while expanding our online community of practice, planning a second cohort of  Collaborate to Co-Liberate, and developing new videos in our popular worker self-directed nonprofit (WSDN) TV series.

The best way to get tailored support for your organization is through our Resilient Communities Legal Cafe. Periodically, we also offer workshops and trainings on how to implement worker self-direction - check our event calendar for upcoming events.

Get Involved!

Networking: Join our Google Group and our Facebook Group to participate in an informal peer network for active and aspiring worker self-directed nonprofit practitioners. Connect with others, ask questions, and share resources about workplace democracy in nonprofit organizations.

For other questions about our work, contact Sue [at]

Thanks to our Partners and Collaborators: