Writer and editor Chris Brazier has been a member of New Internationalist Publications since 1984 and has worked on New Internationalist magazine and on the variety of books and other publications which the co-operative now produces. “New Internationalist was launched as a magazine in 1973,” says Chris Brazier. Initially, under its founder members, NI was supported by large development charities and grant foundations.
Growing subscriber numbers allowed it to become more financially independent, but “We didn't actually become a formal co-operative until 1992,” says Brazier, after it had instituted a flat wage structure and not-for-profit ownership. Today's NI co-operative works well, according to Chris Brazier. The weekly co-operative meeting still has oversight of the business, but tasks are mainly delegated to people according to skills such as marketing, design, editing and finance. “We're a team of self-starters,” says Brazier. “I don't think anyone who's working here would trade it for a hierarchy. Staff tend to stay an unusually long time because they find it such a sensible and practical way of working. You're given proper respect and the chance to input into key decisions. It's very difficult for people to move from that position of relative freedom and respect into a command chain.” Maintaining “the human face” of their co-operative meant that in the early 1990s, NI members took the decision to cap numbers at around 20, and to resist the temptation to expand much beyond existing activities, which include charity calenders, managing Amnesty International's merchandising activities and publishing books, including the No-Nonsense Guides series on global issues.
Trends in publishing have posed a challenge for New Internationalist, as for other publications. The volume of free information on the internet means that “none of the conventional means of advertising are working any more,” says Brazier. Co-operative members will have to start taking on new duties and finding ways to publicise the co-operative's work. And a new business plan has seen the business tighten its belt. “In some ways a co-operative is an ideal way to do this,” says Chris Brazier. “The difference with a co-operative is that everybody signs up to this, no-one feels like they have a gun to their head to accept changes because someone at head office has decided it. Yes, we'll slim down if people leave, and we might look again at doing contract work. But we've all agreed that.”