The member-controlled enterprise model

Edgar Parnell’s email message: 

If we can achieve a much wider understanding of the member-controlled enterprise model, then members should be in a much stronger position to take back control. 

The proposed new Co-operatives Act could provide the opportunity to strengthen member-control. However, the danger is because the people holding the purse strings for the legal advisers on behalf of co-ops & mutuals are the professional managers, and they will be looking to simply allow for bigger and bigger co-ops that can pay bigger and bigger salaries. 

We have a really big lobbying job to do to make sure that the outcome of any legal changes is to strengthen member-control. 

I recommend Ian Snaith’s blog, which helped clarify the position for me. In due course, it is to be hoped that some real improvements will be made that will strengthen the rights of members and safeguard the stewardship aspect. Please see: http://snaithsco-oplawnews.blogspot.com/2012/01/co-operatives-bill-camerons.html

Perhaps the most important thing that I have learnt from working with co-ops & mutuals world-wide is that ordinary members are almost solely interested in the outcomes that their enterprise actually deliver. After all this will invariably be the reason why they became members in the first place. The outcomes that members want are by no means limited to getting a ‘better deal’. Typically, they also want an organization that can be trusted to do right by them, and that will continue to be around when they and their families need it. Sadly all too often, those empowered to run co-ops & mutuals lose sight of this most fundamental fact. Also, that it is their job to help to deliver those outcomes that members actually want. 

People everywhere now seem to be crying out for a better model of enterprise, one that they can really trust to deliver those outcomes that they really want.  Unfortunately, they are being let down badly, not only by many commercial business but alas also by some co-ops & mutuals.  The people running co-ops & mutuals frequently appear to become confused about the purpose of their enterprises and instead of focusing upon delivering the outcomes that members want they have their own agendas. Often they are well intentioned but fail to understand that no matter their cause, their co-op or mutual should not be used as platform for it. Others are more self-interested and place their personal interests ahead of those of the membership. In extreme cases securing the demutualisation of co-ops & mutuals; as has been the case with many building societies and agricultural co-operatives. 

Since their inception co-ops & mutuals have been the subject of rigorous study by both enthusiasts and academics, however, much of their efforts have been spent upon defining the characteristics and identity of various forms and types of co-ops and mutuals. The main concern appears to have been with the processes,  rather than with the outcomes of co-operative and mutual endeavour. Meanwhile, there has only been very limited investigation of the ‘member-controlled enterprise model’, which underpins all co-ops & mutuals and which focuses upon the achievement of outcomes.  Co-ops & mutuals need a well-defined and widely understood enterprise model, capable of providing essential guidance for all those involved in co-ops & mutuals, and which can properly inform day-to-day decision-making. 

I have now dedicated my website www.co-oppundit.org to expounding the member-controlled model of enterprise. I hope you can find the time to take a look at this website, after which I would greatly appreciate receiving your feedback.

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