Being a Chol Associate – by Lauren Townsend

Being a Chol Associate

As a Chol-Operative Associate, I have had the privilege of being part of an innovative leadership model that values everyone’s input equally. This is a model that is based on the co-operative approach and empowers freelance associates to be involved in the decision-making process without the added responsibility and liability of being a full-time staff member.


I joined Chol as a Chol-Operative Associate and Producer in late 2021 and one of the significant attractions to being a Chol-Operative Associate is the flexibility it provides. As a freelancer, I have a busy schedule, but the model allows me to work on projects that I am passionate about while still maintaining my freelance and Associate flexibility, I have also been able to be more involved in the creative decision-making process without needing to become a full-time member of staff or taking on additional responsibilities or liability. 

Centred on wellbeing and work-life balance

Additionally, the supportive environment that the Chol-Operative fosters is one which centres on wellbeing and work-life balance. This is particularly important for those working within the company, as burnout and mental health issues are increasingly prevalent in the creative industry. The Chol-Operative model champions care, fairness, and well-being at its core, thus ensuring it retains staff, supports workers, and creates a more empathic and enjoyable environment to work in.

Collaborative and inclusive

One of the most exciting aspects of being a Chol-Operative Associate is having a seat at the table when it comes to decision-making, strategic meetings, and the creative direction of the company. This is an incredible opportunity for me to develop my skills and knowledge in governance and leadership – areas of development which are hard to nurture as a freelancer without taking on a full-time senior role at an organisation. My opinions and perspective are valued by the wider company, and I have been encouraged to put them forward on all projects and meetings. For me, this level of collaboration is essential for creating a successful and dynamic creative company that can adapt to changing circumstances and the needs of the communities it serves.

Working with the Board

Another significant benefit of the Chol-Operative model is the ability to work with the Board actively. The Board structure is not exclusive or hidden behind a curtain, and they are actively involved in getting to know the projects, freelancers, and the communities Chol works with. This approach creates a more transparent and collaborative environment, and it allows for better communication and understanding between the different levels of the company.

An enriching experience

Being a part of the Chol-Operative is an enriching experience, and has so far provided me with invaluable skills in leadership, governance, empathy, and teamwork. Through my involvement, I have had the privilege of participating in high-level structural meetings that are often inaccessible to junior staff or young freelancers. This exposure has bolstered my confidence, deepened my understanding of company operations, and equipped me with the ability to lead with empathy and care at the forefront.

I believe that the Chol-Operative model is a radical approach to creative leadership. When so many organisations are facing the risk of worker burnout, loss of freelancers due to poor wages and conditions, and toxic workplace culture and leadership styles, the Chol-Operative model champions care, fairness, financial equity, well-being and advocating for each other. Trialling this co-operative model of leadership is an excellent opportunity for any organisation who seeks to create a more collaborative, inclusive, and empowering work environment for their staff and freelancers, and I’m excited to be a part of it!

© Photo by David Sanchez

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