Make it Co-operative!
11 April 2012 - Impact Hub
We had a great Hub Lunch today with Nathan Brown from Olmec and Sion Whellens from Principle Six talking about co-operatives – what they are, the values and principles they need to adhere to, how they can be structured and how to make them work effectively.
As Nathan said, “a co-operative is the ultimate kind of social enterprise”, firmly rooted in key values and principles that, rather than being nebulous idealistic concepts, provide a very practical guide to the way the company operates.
The first principle, that of being owned and controlled by its members,  is perhaps the most well known one. However, there are six more including being independent, promoting education in the theory and practice of collaboration, and the fact that Co-operatives should co-operate with each other.
Nathan and Sion dispelled a few myths during the course of the session, including the idea that nothing ever gets done in a co-operative (decision-making process can be managed however you like and not every decision has to be made by committee, nor does every member have to agree to each decision that is voted on) . In fact, according to Nathan, co-operatives are very often more effective and efficiently run because the workforce has a vested interest in making it work: “Why have a sense of ownership when you can have real ownership?”
If you’re thinking of setting up a co-operative, or turning your business into one, you can get up to four days of free support via the Co-operative Enterprise Hub . Be sure to mention Nathan and Sion so they know where the referral came from.
Here are their three tips for businesses thinking of becoming a co-op…
  1. Be in it for the right reasons (one of these must be that you genuinely believe in the co-operative’s seven principles)
  2. Don’t think there’s only one type of co-operative
  3. Don’t be put off by the lack of understanding out there