They are value driven businesses owned and controlled by their members for the benefit the members. The International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) Statement of Co-operative Identity [PDF 94K] outlines the internationally recognised values and principles for co-operatives. It is an internal way of organising, examples of which can be found within all business types, sizes and trade sectors, and legal forms. Characteristics are:
The Co-operative sector is constantly developing as people develop new ways of applying co-operative principles to meet new social and economic needs. The following are the most common forms of co-operatives found in the UK today:
They are value driven businesses owned and controlled by their members for the benefit the community. It is a common form for voluntary and community sector activity and is appropriate for democratic, non-profit distributing organisations.
Common characteristics are: nominal or variable withdrawable shares [YouTube video: What are community shares? An animated guide] ; enshrined democracy – one member, one vote irrespective of shareholding; limits on interest payable on shares; can have a statutory asset lock; some have exempt charitable status but not all. Common sectors for Community Benefit Societies are:
A business that trades for a social and /or environmental purpose. It will have a clear sense of its ‘social mission’ which means that it will know what difference it is trying to make, who it aims to help and how it plans to do it. Its income will come through selling goods and/or services and it will also have clear rules about profit distribution.
Owned by its members who come from the community served by the organisation but do not have any access to the enterprise’s income or assets and do not benefit financially from involvement. For example clubs and CASCs (Community Amateur Sports Clubs) or where the community has taken ownership of either an existing business or service or set up a new one.
A business set up specifically to create employment opportunities for people disadvantaged in the labour market. Social firms work around three main values – enterprise, employment and empowerment.
Where the employees have a voice in how the business is run through employee engagement and a stake in the success of the business. They can take many forms from a workers co-operative to an Employee Benefit Trust, which holds shares in the business on behalf of the workers or a mutual.
Many charities are now looking to generate income from trading. Some can do this as part of their everyday activities (primary trading) but some need to set up a separate trading entity.
A member-owned financial co-operative, democratically controlled by its members and operated for the purpose of promoting thrift, providing credit at competitive rates and providing other financial services to its members.
These are businesses, voluntary organisations or individuals that come together in consortia to bid for bigger contracts or develop new services. There are two main types of consortia: a loose partnership with a lead body; or a formal consortium set up as a legal entity itself.
Public sector services are being ‘spun out’ into independent enterprises. Many of these are mutual. These can take a number of forms from being wholly owned by the employees to minority-owned or owned by a range of different stakeholders.
A CIC is a company with special additional features, created for use of people who want to conduct a business for community benefit and not purely for private advantage (see also Social Enterprise).
“Strong aspirations for any of the intrinsic goals – meaningful relationships, personal growth, community contributions – were positively associated with well being. People who strongly desired to contribute to their community, for example, had more vitality and higher self-esteem. Where people organise their behaviour in terms of intrinsic settings they seem more content, feel better about who they are and display more evidence of psychological health”
Edward L. Deci from ‘Why we do what we do’