For the first time in two years, Outlandish has a new member! And it’s me, Natasha Natarajan. With three out of five members now women, Outlandish is officially a women-led organisation for the first time in its history. A unique feat for a tech-based organisation!

Who even is Natasha?

Headshot of Natasha Natarajan

If you’re one of our tech clients, you probably don’t know me that well, if at all! But if you’re a SPACE4 regular, I’m part of the furniture.

For those of you who don’t know, Outlandish invests its profits back into social projects. The most significant of these is SPACE4 in Finsbury Park; this is where we deliver affordable workspace, training/networking events, and consultancy services to activate our local economy, democratic business, and social movements.

In 2021 SPACE4 was awarded a two-year grant by the Disrupt Foundation to deliver a programme of public education and they hired me as Events and Partnerships Coordinator. For the past 1.5 years I have been structuring, curating, and delivering our events programme. I am proud to say that we are now home to a thriving events space with 3+ events a week. Not only do we bring over 2k people into our space every year but we’ve really managed to grow our network of digital activists and social innovators through building meaningful relationships with a range of like-minded people, professionals, community groups, organisations, and even institutions.

It’s been a wonderful journey, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it! Here’s why…

Why I’ve loved working at Outlandish and SPACE4

I discovered cooperatives, Outlandish, and SPACE4 (in that order), in June 2022 while doing research for my MA around the precarious labour politics of ‘creative freelancers’ – a job title I’d been experimenting with since 2016. Outlandish came up in multiple research projects around the potential of cooperatives for freelancers in the creative industries and when I googled ‘London Coops’ I was immediately directed to SPACE4. Two weeks later I was in Finsbury Park observing cooperative development workshops, dancing to garage with tech apprentices at their summer party, and having drinks at the local pub with Coops UK. I knew then that I was onto something special and so when Polly told me about the new job SPACE4 had going, I jumped at the chance.

I am over the moon that I’m now working at the intersection of new economics, democratic business development, social justice, and progressive tech. Not only does it align strongly with my values and politics but I actually love the day-to-day of my work; one minute I’ll be organising an event about tax policy with a Modern Monetary Theory expert, the next I’ll be in a meeting with Richard brainstorming a digital tool for one of our clients, and then the next thing you know I’ll be geeking out with Maddy about the placement of fairy lights.

Working at a cooperative, particularly one like Outlandish which has paid so much attention to organisational governance and culture, has also been personally and professionally transformative. I’ve loved learning so many new skills of collaboration, cooperation, and just general business; I’ve felt truly empowered by our consent-based decision making tool, Sociocracy, the spirit of transparency in our team culture, and the workshops I’ve done on business finance.

I honestly couldn’t have designed a better job for myself. It has genuinely enriched my life and I want to make sure this business thrives well into the future.

So what’s the advantage of becoming a member?

As you probably know, Outlandish is a worker-owned cooperative. This means that anyone who works for this business is eligible to become a co-owner. So if you’re one of our collaborators (freelancers), after the equivalent of 6 months working with us, you can apply to become a member of the cooperative. We have some criteria, but I don’t think we’re exclusive! You can read more about our structure here.

But let me not bore you with the nitty gritties of cooperative governance (although please do get in touch if you’re interested!!). Let me tell you my main motivations for joining; firstly, I will become an employee entitled to legal protection and some nice Outlandish benefits: paid leave, sick/maternity pay, a wellbeing stipend, birthdays off with a present, and a few other things I can’t remember (the prospect of a mortgage one day?).

But I think for me, the most important thing is how it feels to have skin in the game. I now share legal and financial responsibility for the business as well as decision-making power alongside four other brilliant people. This means I can participate in designing our pay structures, our business strategy, our finance systems, and much more. And on the off chance we make billions, I’ll have a say in where we re-invest it. It’s freedom, agency, responsibility, collectivity, and security in my work life – something I was craving for when I was working as a ‘creative freelancer’ and something I was hoping I’d find when I wrote my dissertation. I’m so grateful I’ve found it.