A mantra for translators: work comfortably with your current physical body. BY LUCY G. KRYUCHKOVA

The first General Meeting of 2010 took place on Saturday, February 6, 2010, from 1:00 p.m. to 4:00 p.m. at the NCTA’s New Venue: the San Francisco State University Downtown Campus located in the Westfield San Francisco Centre, 835 Market Street at 4th Street, room 667, 6th floor.

Yoga teacher Claire Lavery demonstrating relaxing techniques.

The meeting enjoyed an excellent turnout, with over 50 members and non-members in attendance. There were even some special guests: Cristina Navia and Leo van Zanten drove all the way up from Ventura County just to attend our meeting! They do not have a local chapter there. All present welcomed them to the meeting and were very happy that they could attend.
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At the NCTA December meeting, guest speaker Florencia Pettigrew explained how to get the most out of social networking sites and techniques for building and managing your online reputation. BY SARAH LLEWELLYN

Florencia Pettigrew details LinkedIn's advantages.

Florencia Pettigrew details LinkedIn's advantages.

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SCORE volunteer Katherine D. Sullivan speaks at the NCTA May 2008 meeting about how to start up and successfully run a small business.  BY RAFFAELLA BUSCHIAZZO

The spring General Meeting took place on May 10, 2008 at the LGBT conference center in downtown San Francisco. Association Secretary Stafford Hemmer opened the meeting at 1:30 p.m. after the customary orientation session for new members presented by NCTA Vice President Yves Avérous. Stafford provided the latest news, promoted the new membership directory, talked about the full calendar of events that the Association offers regularly-upcoming workshops and monthly happy hours in Oakland and SF-and transmitted his enthusiasm about the major event of the year that we are preparing for the fall: the celebration of the NCTA’s 30th anniversary. A survey was also sent to our members in order to get their suggstions regarding this event. → continue reading

Extra Services Presented at General Meeting

By Naomi Baer

Guest speakers at the February General Meeting included Anna Realini, Membership Director of Media Alliance, and Ed Elkin, the insurance broker handling Media Alliance’s group health insurance plan and other insurance options for the self-employed. In their presentation, Ms. Realini described Media Alliance’s work, including the services it offers as an association for media writers, with classes, job listings, and community events, as well as the health insurance plan it makes available to freelance workers.

Ms. Realini also touched briefly on the other half of Media Alliance’s work as an advocacy organization, with campaigns concerning democracy and diversity in the media system, as well as advocating for community media. She outlined the process for becoming a Media Alliance Professional Member, which offers a discounted rate for NCTA members. Ed Elkin presented By Naomi Baer general information about both disability and health insurance, and also discussed the new types of Health Savings Accounts that have been offered since 2004. Informational packets were provided, but more detailed information is also offered at monthly meetings at both Media Alliance’s office in Oakland and Ed Elkin’s office in Orinda. San Francisco meetings may also be scheduled in the future.

Ed Elkin, Media Alliance’s insurance broker, (925) 254-3864,
Anna Realini, Media Alliance Membership Director, (510) 832-9000 x302,
For the next scheduled information sessions (monthly), contact Ed Elkin, or see

Loyalty Management in the New Economy The COTRAD Co-operative Model

 By Christian L’Écuyer, President
Les Traductions COTRAD Translations (Quebec, Canada)

(Editor’s note: This article is a condensation of a much larger piece originally published in “The Voice,” the Newsletter of the Translators and Interpreters Guild (Canada), in 2002. With generous permission from its author, the article has been significantly abridged and edited for publication in Translorial.)

What is a co-operative, and how does it work? Does it have realistic and potentially profitable applications—both in monetary and social terms—for translators in today’s commercial environment?

Unlike a purely commercial venture at one end of the spectrum and a non-profit association on the other, a co-operative lies somewhere in between. It actually combines a “cooperative,” people-oriented strategy with sound business principles designed to generate self-sustaining (and beyond) income. Sometimes known as “employee-owned companies,” co-ops may be less well-known than other types of businesses, but they are far from uncommon. As of 2001, according to a study by the government of Quebec, there were 47,000 co-ops in the United States, with over 100 million members.

In the Canadian model, where self-employed professionals cannot create or become a member of a trade union, co-ops have tended to emerge in a particular market or field in response to needs that have often remained unmet in the economic environment, participating in the mainstream economy largely by default. Viewed this way, cooperatives are often seen by their proponents as correctives to the prevailing profit-driven economic structure in a specific market.

In this structure, co-operatives may in fact have a greater success rate that that of commercial ventures. The reasons for this may be traced to investors’ frequent lack of interest in serving a particular community, or too keen an interest in the bottom line. Co-op members are concerned with profits, too, of course, but their criteria for success encompasses more than just merely financial rewards. A co-op’s strengths and successes, in fact, stem from sustained grassroots links with a community of members, in the localities in which they live, or even through the Internet.

This egalitarian perspective is showcased by the democratic structure of a co-op, in which share-holding is not a factor: the association operates on the principle of “one person/one vote” for all business decisions, as distinct from a system in which seniority, job title, or even relative economic value determines influence. Participating in the co-op as both workers/artisans and as managers/directors, all regular co-op members share in the joys and pains of co-ownership and co-management. This means that regular co-op members can bring issues to the attention of fellow “cooperators” and to the elected board, and participate in finding a solution from within. They are the ultimate decision-makers. In this sense, some cooperators consider their statutes and by-laws as a type of collective agreement.

The COTRAD example

In an organization like COTRAD—as with any other generalized co-operative—the “company” model comprises two parts: an association of members, and the actual business run by it. As distinct from consumers’ co-ops, where membership is open to all who care to shop there, membership in professional organizations such as COTRAD is limited to skilled workers—here, translators and language specialists.

Within this context, COTRAD has evolved its own “co-operative difference.” Among its unique characteristics is the equal distribution of work allotted to each member, in order to eliminate a sometimes cannibalistic mentality regarding job assignment, and to give all members a chance to earn a reasonable living.

This equity is achieved through a work allotment formula based on specific criteria as derived from the association’s experience over the past five years. In short, the member who has received the least work in the preceding ten weeks gets first choice in accepting incoming work. A sub-formula allows integration of a member’s fields of expertise in the process. The allotment formula, or “work roll,” is updated as new work comes in.

COTRAD requires regular members to manage a particular aspect of the overall business side: supervising the insurance file, maintaining the database for professional development, picking up the mail, actively promoting the co-op’s services, making sure the amounts paid or received are consistent with figures in appropriate databases, etc. These administrative responsibilities are done more or less on a bartering basis, in the sense that they are the members’ claims to ownership of the co-op.

The association is administered through a project management approach. Although an administrative assistant is employed on a part-time basis, the group nonetheless believes that involving the regular members in the administrative aspect of their own business is the best way for them to keep control of it. This process insures that the co-op remains the property of its artisans and reflects their inputs.

COTRAD hires, or “recruits,” new members only if the translation volume in a given field has increased in a steady and consistent manner, or to comply with the required minimum number of members. Candidates must of course provide an up-to-date résumé, an example of their translation skills with source text, and—in the case where a candidate does not have a recommendation from a current member—a 200-250 word composition in the second language, on cooperation or a related subject.

It is important to keep in mind that COTRAD is a legal entity separate from the individual translator or language specialist. Thus, it is first in the client’s line of fire when things go wrong, which is why the association pays extremely careful attention to the monitoring of all outgoing jobs. Monitoring involves one or more of the following: spot-checking, copyediting, intermediate revision, or full revision. All target texts are spot-checked by the project manager, who then decides if it is good enough to be sent to the client as is. If not, further copyediting or revision is applied to the target text. Such close monitoring is a value-added process that clients tend to appreciate.

One of the distinguishing characteristics of the COTRAD co-op is that translators are always paid. If the client has not paid a validated job within a reasonable period of time, the co-op will pay the translator his/her full honoraria and then use whatever legal recourses are available against the delinquent client.

When developing a new section or module of the cooperative, COTRAD calls on freelancers, allowing members to monitor the linguistic skills of the prospective new cooperators and put their co-operative spirit to the test. Rates are negotiated on a per job or per period basis, as in any agency, but members of COTRAD are paid according to specific guidelines (see sidebar).

In all, a little over 90 percent of the total fee paid by the client is re-circulated among the members who participated in getting the job done, and in getting the job in the first place. All surpluses generated in the fiscal year are reinvested in the company’s growth fund.

As to management training, there are currently very few schools of co-operative management, in Quebec or in North America as a whole. Many managers in commercial enterprises are trained to think in terms of hierarchy, not of democracy. This can create problems in managing a co-op, especially the tendency for such managers to want to transform their co-operatives into share-holding ventures.

That said, it is quite interesting that some profit-based approaches nevertheless struggle to emulate a community-based business model that is over 175 years old; we should thank work-team theorists for bringing the work co-operative formula back in the spotlight of 21st century management and for arousing a new interest in the true co-operative approach.

© Tous droits réservés / All rights reserved, La coopérative de traduction COTRAD, Aylmer (QC), Canada, July 24, 2002. Copyright of the version of these articles that appeared in ‘The Voice’ in July and December of 2002 is shared with TTIG.

Getting started

Co-ops tend to generate a higher level of motivation among members than a traditional corporation does. It also nicely smoothes out the pitfalls of independent work.

Four or five members with common and/or complementary interests is all it takes to start; virtually no startup money is required, only the usual dictionaries, software and computers. All members work from home, are linked through e-mail, or fax, or phone. They meet perhaps every three weeks in a chat forum, on an intranet site, or in person to resolve management issues or organize special production projects. Members revise each other’s work without fear of reprisals and at lower cost; as to the business side, all members look for, receive a commission on, and can accept work in all specialties that all members have. Add an administrative assistant to the group if you have some start-up money, and you’re on your way. Bonne route!

COTRAD’s payment guidelines

The company keeps 15 percent of all jobs as the “co-op’s earnings,” to pay its overhead, the administrative assistant, the accountant, its Internet connections, and its phone lines; to guarantee the members’ and the general public’s preferred shares; to defend a member’s work if necessary; and to provide for the members’ common fund, called the Co-operative Advantage Fund.

The project manager and/or finder share 12 percent of the paid amount. It is important to keep in mind that the finder or project manager for a particular job is usually a fellow member. Thus, this money is effectively redistributed among members (another way to reduce cannibalism and inequity).

If a translation is sent to the client after spot-checking, the translator gets approximately 73 percent of the fee. Should a translation need full revision, the translator would be paid only 50 percent. Although 23 percent is subtracted from the honoraria in the latter case, it helps a fellow member make a living and saves professional embarrassment in the process.

Add to these honoraria the 5 percent or so from the Co-operative Advantage Fund that the language professional can use for professional development workshops, collective insurance premiums, or for other work-related advantages, and the pay system is complete.

For more information, for more on the COTRAD Translation Cooperative., the International Cooperative Alliance. You will find on this site numerous internal and external links on a variety of coop-related subjects. Reading ICA’s « Declaration of Cooperative Principles » is a must. Among other functions, the ICA has the mandate of representing the world’s co-ops at the UN., the National Cooperative Business Association in the US., the Canadian Co-operative Association., a Canadian Counselling and Research Co-operative
You may also want to search the Web for “icagroups” (International Cooperative Alliance Groups); “cooperatives US;”“workers’co-ops”US; etc.; the USDA for its section devoted to cooperative businesses; and various American universities for their Co-op Management Programs—their sites often have links to successful American cooperatives or co-op resource groups.

O’Reilly Offers Discounts and Review Books

As a general arrangement with Mac User Groups—extended here to the entire NCTA membership— O’Reilly, a Bay Area publisher or technology books, is offering a 20% discount on O’Reilly, No Starch, Paraglyph, Pragmatic Bookshelf, and Syngress books and O’Reilly conferences. You need only use code DSUG. You can find all their titles at Another benefit for you, is the availability of review books: find a book relevant to our profession that you would like to discover and critique among their new and upcoming titles at Contact Yves Avérous at, and allow at least four weeks for shipping. Below are two titles that you might find interesting. O’Reilly has a web page for tips and suggestions on writing book reviews at Your review will be published on the TransMUG and/or NCTA Members lists. Writer—This handy reference to using Writer, the word processor that comes with, is the open source alternative to Microsoft Word. You’ll learn how to write, edit, and review documents; use templates and styles effectively; control page layout; insert, edit, and create graphics; and much more—even how to make a smooth transition from Word. With the complete office suite included on a CD, this book makes using Writer an easy decision. Chapter 2, “Writing, Editing, and Reviewing Documents,” is available online:

The Spam Letters—From the man behind comes a collection of brilliant and entertaining correspondence with the people who send out mass junk emailings (a.k.a. spam). Compiled from the nearly 200 entries written by Jonathan Land, “The Spam Letters” taunts, prods, and parodies the faceless salespeople in your inbox, giving you a chuckle at their expense. If you hate spam, you’ll love “The Spam Letters.”

News & Tips from O’Reilly

PDF Hacks author Sid Steward posted a reduced-size file of The 9/11 Commission Report, with added bookmarks, and front-page HTML portal within hours of the report’s release. His upcoming book will reveal his many tricks.

21.5 Things You Can Do with Office 2004—Rather than covering all the new features of the software suite, Giles Turnbull shows you 21 and a half things you didn’t know your could do in Office.