“If member-controlled enterprises are to succeed they must be built on the sound foundation of practices that sustain co-operative behaviour”
The concept of co-operation is most appealing indeed, as it offers an elegant solution to a great many problems facing people and communities. The fundamentals of co-operation need to be expressed in plain words and used in a straightforward way, because they need to be practiced by ordinary people in communities worldwide.
Co-operation entails balancing the needs of the individual with those of the group, and becomes the means of creating added value. It allows the individual to maintain sovereignty while benefiting from the rewards of joint action – combining self-help and mutual benefit. Co-operation is not an alternative to competition; it is the alternative to acting in isolation; in practice, people often co-operate in order to compete.
Co-operation underpins a wide variety of co-ops & mutuals, including co-operative societies, building societies, credit unions, friendly societies, community-benefit societies, mutual insurance societies; as well as other types of member-owned enterprises. Co-ops & mutuals are formed by, and are directed by, people who are working together with the prime intention of achieving an economic purpose.
If co-ops & mutuals are to succeed, the people involved must firmly believe that the benefits gained through co-operating outweigh the hassle that is often associated with working together. The success of any joint venture depends on building mutual trust. Members have to believe that any benefits will be shared fairly between those involved and that they will have a real say in how the venture is run. This means that benefits need to be shared broadly in relation to the volume of business transacted or the effort that each member puts into the enterprise. Genuine co-operation requires honest intent and a commitment to providing a fair deal for all stakeholders.
The building blocks of co-operation
It is useful to examine carefully the factors that cause any form of co-operation to work well in practice. What kind of framework results in effective co-operation? How do we get people to work jointly in their best mutual interest? If co-ops & mutuals are to succeed, they must be built on the sound foundation of practices that sustain co-operative behaviour, based upon how humans actually behave in real situations. Some clear lessons arise from the practice of co-operation, learned over many years and in many different parts of the world. One way of classifying these essentials is to view them as the 'building blocks of successful co-operation.
These may be summarised as:
1. Common Purpose
2. Cohesion (between those in membership)
5. Control ((democratically controlled by members)
7. Co-operation with other co-ops & mutuals
10. Voluntary and Open Membership
Co-operatives and mutuals - to be valued for what they deliver
last updated: February 2012 © Edgar Parnell 2012