Pro Nobis was funded in Lisbon in 2014 as the result of a New Year resolution. Michelle at the time was an independent film technician and she was tired of the struggles and precarity that workers in the cultural sector must withstand in Portugal. She together with a group of freelancers from the Film, Theatre, and Dance sector decided to fund a cooperative of independent workers to offer an alternative to access social security for workers in the sector.
Some of the funders had previous experience in leading professional organizations and they knew that a solution for them would have been a solution for other workers in the sector. Creating a cooperative and becoming employee-owners would lead to reducing or eliminating the vulnerabilities faced by the artistic sector such as high bureaucracy and precarity.
When it comes to its day-to-day activities, Pro Nobis offers a B2B approach to artistic professional activities and has an active role in the field of social protection. Firstly, it takes care of invoicing the worker members’ jobs, collecting payments, providing unemployment allowance and sick leave, deducting their professional expenses, paying taxes and social contributions, and finally paying their salaries.
Secondly, the cooperative provides extra benefits to the employees, including voucher meals, and vouchers for kindergarten, basic schooling, and for university studies. It also provides work accident insurance and agency services such as suggesting artists or technicians for events.
Thirdly, the cooperative promotes the production of cultural events employing the members such as theatre plays, concerts, and corporate videos to establish a connection with the community, both in the urban and rural areas.
Currently, Pro Nobis consists of 200 members. All members have the status of employees and, as such, have access to state social security. They mostly are musicians, technicians, actors, and actresses but also DJs, journalists, photographers, TV presenters, and YouTubers.
Among them, there are vulnerable groups of workers such as young people, women, and migrant workers to whom the cooperative can provide easier access to stable and quality employment.
“Together we are stronger and able to develop our working industry, which is very often marginalized and left with no rules. Since I joined Pro Nobis, I feel like I am more organized regarding taxes and social contributions, I get more respect from production companies, and I have a helping hand in case I need anything. The ease of communication and the professional approach of this team makes me always feel protected” says João Tourais, Light Technician member of Pro Nobis.
As regards the governance of the cooperative, this is supported by the statutory bodies that are elected for periods of 4 years: the General Assembly which normally meets twice a year, and the Board which is open to suggestions all year and tries to meet everybody’s needs as quickly as possible.
One of the main challenges of the cooperative is to ensure more engagement and participation of members in the life of the cooperative.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the cultural sector being one of the most hit by lockdown policies, a lot of artists got attracted by the opportunity of some stability offered by the cooperative. However, the cultural sector being very volatile and competitive, most artists tend to focus on their individual careers and forget that they belong to a community.
Looking at the future, Pro Nobis believes that the main challenge is ensuring the full participation of the members who do not often engage with the cooperative. To do so, Pro Nobis is looking into options to implement the cooperatives' values in a more effective way among the members.
In partnership with national cooperatives, Pro Nobis aims to exchange new ideas and draw attention to the cooperative movement. The cooperative is a member of Confecoop, the Portugues National Federation of cooperatives, and of Forum Cooperativas, an informal network of young cooperatives aimed to share business tips, provide help to startup cooperatives, and create business relations amongst them.
Pro Nobis is a member of our Portuguese member Confecoop