The Interpreting Collective is an initiative to establish a linguist co-operative in the UK language services market. It grows out of a conviction that translation and interpreting services are essential to the public and for that reason they need to be easily accessible.
In our view, large private agencies that currently dominate the language services market don’t properly meet the demands of clients, service providers, and service users. We believe this ecosystem can only work well if the needs of all customer groups (public sector, business, and private clients) are balanced with those of linguists. Our goal to make this happen.
We want to make language services more accessible and affordable to the public, while providing better pay and work conditions for our members. Most of our revenues will be passed directly to our linguists. Profits will be reinvested to grow our membership, support the profession, and devise new and innovative ways to deliver our services.
In our operations, we will be committed to the values and principles of the international co-operative movement. We will also rely on the latest available technology and IT systems to ensure , and to provide it with a cutting edge on the market.
The UK co-op economy encompasses nearly 7,000 companies and employs almost a quarter million people. Co-ops may look like any other business, but they differ in the way they are run and their profits are shared. Instead of putting the money in the pockets of outside shareholders, co-op members (who own the company) democratically decide if profits should be reinvested in the business, used in the community, or go towards bonuses and dividends. A company can only be regarded as a co-op if it observes the following principles:
Members own and control the company, but also take on responsibilities that come with it. Membership is voluntary and open.
Every member of a co-op has one vote and equal say. The majority of the co-operative is owned by its members.
A co-op is created by members pooling their resources. Every member makes a contribution and capital is controlled democratically. Members decide how profits are shared or invested.
A co-operative is an independent business controlled by its members. Another organisation cannot own a co-op unless it is a co-operative as well.
A co-op provides training to its members and staff so that business can perform well. It will also educate the public about the co-operative movement.
A co-op aims to work with other co-ops and support the wider co-operative sector. If a business closes, its assets may be transferred to another co-op.
A co-op is expected to operate not only for the benefit of its members, but also for the benefit of the society and the environment.
Governance relates to all co-op's processes and systems which specify its organisation and decision-making process. Good governance ensures accountability and enables co-op members to influence the direction of the enterprise. At The Interpreting Collective we aim to make use of the consensus-based methodology of decision making. The main organisational units of our co-op will be (1) constituency groups and (2) working groups. We will also set up a dedicated social networking platform which will be a place for our members to collaborate within their groups, communicate with each other, and help run the business.
Consensus decision-making is a way of reaching agreement between all members of a group. Instead of simply voting for a proposal and having the majority get their way, we are committed to finding solutions that everyone actively supports, or at least can live with. This style of decision-making requires a special organisational structure to be in place, so that every member’s ideas or concerns can be taken into account. This Wikipedia article explains how consenus decision-making works.
The basic organisational cell of our co-op will be a constituency group. Each member will need to belong to one such group. Each cell will include 15-20 members grouped by (1) geographical proximity and/or (2) language. Constituency groups will be used for discussing proposals, reaching consensus, and as a means for members to exercise control over the direction of the co-op. As the number of members will grow, additional intermediate clusters of groups will need to be set up. The highest governing body will be a committee of elected members. Establishing the organisational structure will need to be the first crucial step to take before starting any business activity.
In addition to constituency groups there will be a number of working groups where members will be able to contribute their skills and expertise to help with day-to-day running of the co-op. Possible teams will include Marketing Team (sending marketing emails, making phone calls to clients, etc.), Recruitment and Quality Team (growing membership, vetting new linguists, handling complaints), Training/Support Team, and any others that may prove necessary from the point of view of running the organisation. Working groups will reflect one of the co-op principles that members not only own and control the enterprise, but are also expected to contribute resources and take on responsibilities. Members will be able to belong to as many working groups as they like as long as they meet meritocratic criteria to join.
All the systems, processes and governing structures that need to be set up will be detailed in a governing document. This will be a constitution of the co-op, and it can only be amended by the general meeting of all members. We are going to draft the governing document with the help of experts from Co-operatives UK - the biggest umbrella organisation for co-operative enterprises in the UK.
The Interpreting Collective is a UK-wide initiative and establishing all structures and processes will require good coordination and communication. To make the process easier, we are going to launch a digital collaboration platform. It will be a place for linguists to participate in their constituency and working groups, as well as to network with other members, set up channels for sharing information, accept job offers, collaborate or just hang out together.
Setting up a UK-wide co-operative, adopting all , and - ultimately - taking up trading, will take time and effort. To make the whole process orderly and focused, we will do it in 5 stages. At each stage, we will invite our future members to provide us with more information needed to update their profiles and progress the registrations further. Below is an overview of what each stage will involve and what input we will be asking for.
The first stage will simply consist of completing our Request to Join Form. The form will gather data to help us assess how many interpreters out there are interested in our initiative, where they are located, and what languages they bring in. The geographical location is especially important as it will give us a chance to make some early attempts at mapping possible constituency groups, which will be the basic organisational units of our co-op.
After you have completed the Request to Join Form, keep an eye out for updates on our social media channels (Facebook, Twitter). We might also want to organise a few webinars during that time to inform you about the progress, share more details, and gather live feedback.
During Stage 2 we will need to verify the professional status of linguists who want to partner with us. Co-op membership will be offered only to linguists who will pass this stage successfully and can prove they hold relevant qualifications and work experience. There will be another form to complete as we will ask candidates to submit further contact details and upload any required documentation or references (or both). Next, the submissions will be peer reviewed and successful registrants will be added to a database of verified linguists.
After the verification stage, we will have complete professional dossiers of our linguists. We will then be able to start signing up selected candidates onto our dedicated digital workspace. Initially, all newcomers will find it a place of collaborative learning about all aspects of our enterprise such as governance, rights and responsibilities of members, techniques of collaboration and decision-making, the design of our platform and processes, or the technology that we will be using.
We will be interested to hear from the participants at that stage about the skills and expertise they could bring. We will also ask them to indicate which areas of our operation they feel they could support best. Groups of linguists that are invited earlier will be responsible for onboarding and supporting the members that will join next. That is why we will be looking for people who are excited about being part of something new, and ready to try and learn new things. They will later help to pass that knowledge and motivation onto others.
Once we have successfully established that early professional community within our co-op, we will be ready to start expanding step by step. We anticipate that, as we are gaining market share, we will be able to extend more and more invitations to linguists to join the ranks of co-op members. We will also be expected to organise our first Annual General Meeting within a year from the official incorporation date.
This final stage will see us expanding our membership base even further. We will also keep testing and adding new features to our market platform so that it is capable of handling every stage of an interpreting project from quotation, to linguist sourcing, to invoicing and payments. Ultimately, we want to expand into other segments of the language services market as well, most notably the translation market. At all times, we will be making sure that all assignments can be easily managed within our digital workspace platform, so that it becomes a central hub for all things related to the co-op business and our linguist community.
Only qualified linguists are able to apply for membership at The Interpreting Collective. In order to become a member, a candidate will need to provide the following:
Right to Work in the UK & address
Proof of qualification
Evidence of practice
Right to work
Scanned copies of the following documentation will need to be provided (one from each group):
RIGHT TO WORK IN THE UK:
- a document confirming a candidate's right to work in the UK
A copy of correspondence, not older than 6 months, from one of the following sources:
- a bank / building society
- an official government body, e.g. HMRC, local council
- a utility company.
Proof of one of the following will be needed for each language combination. Linguists will be able to provide up to 6 language pairs.
- DPSI / DipTrans
- DPI / MET Test
- a degree or diploma in translation or interpreting from a UK or an overseas university.
As evidence of practice, we will accept proof of active membership with the following professional organisations:
- CIOL (MCIL, FCIL)
Alternatively, (a) letter(s) of endorsement issued by a translation agency or another type of organisation within the last 12 months will be accepted. The endorsements will need to confirm at least 400 hours of interpreting experience.
In the case of rare languages, we will accept other types of qualification or evidence of practice. These will be reviewed and verified on individual basis.
The Interpreting Collective has been in active development as a project for around 2 years. Initially as a series of exploratory discussions on the co-operative idea held online among the administrators of Public Service Interpreters' Forum, it "went public" in October 2018 when we launched this website and opened the first stage of linguist registration.
As it turned out, we received what can only be regarded as very favourable feedback from our professional community, and the hundreds of linguists who have already signed up with us (and new ones keep coming every day!) proves to us that this initiative has true potential.
Although other colleagues also participated in various discussions during the earlier stages of the project, a core team of four is currently running it as a Steering Group:
Luke Ciolek MA DPSI
Lukasz (as this is the actual spelling of his name, Luke is adopted for simplicity) is a Polish interpreter and has lived in London since 2012. He graduated with M.A. in translation and interpreting from the Institute of English Studies at the University of Lodz. He then completed additional post-graduate courses in conference interpreting at Jagiellonian Univeristy in Cracow. In 2017 Luke obtained Diploma in Public Service Interpreting from CIOL. Having achieved the best result of all the candidates who sat the Law Option of the exam, he was awarded the Susan Tolman Award by CIOL. He has worked as an interpreter for over 6 years.
Luke is the originator of The Interpreting Collective and acts as the chair of the Steering Group. He is also the developer of the IT platform that the co-op will be operating. As a proponent of platform cooperativism, he states:
The language services market is broken. I believe we have come up with the right plan, and gathered the right tools needed to fix it. Let us all try to seize that opportunity now.
Banu Gokberk RPSI DPSI
Banu Gokberk is a Turkish interpreter based in Greater London area. She was born in Ankara in 1977, moved to the UK in 1998 and lived here ever since. In 2007 Banu embarked on her career as a public service interpreter. After she completed her basic Community Interpreting Level 3 training, she moved on to study for the DPSI. Banu now holds full DPSI Law Option and is a member of NRPSI and APCI. What she loves about interpreting is how rewarding it can feel to help people in our community understand one another. That is one of the reasons she treats her responsibilities and the profession very seriously. She comments her involvement with The Interpreting Collective in the following way:
We, professional interpreters and translators, are stronger when we are united. Our profession and our future are ours to own. I strongly believe that the co-op (The Interpreting Collective) offers a way for us to achieve all those things we need. So come and join us, shape your future and shape our profession for the better.
Zanda Berzina BA MCIL DPI
Zanda Berzina is 44 years old, was born in Latvia, but London has been her home since 1999. She has been working as a full-time freelance interpreter since 2010. Zanda has an English degree from the University of Latvia and Diploma in Police Interpreting from CIOL. She is also a member of NRPSI and CIOL.
She joined The Interpreting Collective because she decided it was time to stop complaining about the state of our profession and try to do something about it instead.
In the earlier stages of this project, we were greatly helped by...
Emma Pick RPSI DPI DPSI
Emma Pick is a freelance Romanian interpreter and translator with almost three decades of experience.
From a very early age she loved languages and was fascinated by the grammatical intricacies and variety of sounds used for communication. This love led her to linguistic studies, and since becoming a freelance interpreter and translator, she chanelled and optimised her preferences in the field by obtaining DPSI and DPI qualifications in English law.
Emma continues to study and practise in order to keep-up-to date with the new developments in her profession, and takes an active interest in the challenges and difficulties she has to face as a linguist. On that last point, she states:
One of the best strategies is to rise above challenges by keeping a winner's mentality and that is why I joined The Interpreting Collective. I believe that we, the linguists, have a very important role in our society and together we can work towards establishing and defining our profession.
When Emma is not working, she loves reading, cooking, and walking in the countryside.