Co-ops are back in fashion

Prospects for a growth in co-operative activity in the 21st century are strong, according to a paper written and delivered by Roger Sawtell, co-founder of the Daily Bread...

In it he observed that both the Industrial and Provident Services Act of 1852 and the updating of model co-operative rules in the 1970s had led to spurts of co-operative activity in the 19th and 20th centuries and he predicted a similar spurt in this century.

Mr Sawtell suggested that people, with higher levels of education, will indeed come to expect greater democracy at work, just as they now take a democratic political structure for granted. Advances in technology, the emergence of small businesses and the growing backlash against the investor ownership model of business all bode well for the co-operative sector.

Mr Sawtell argued that if this 21st “outburst of co-operative activity” is to be more deeply rooted than those of the past, lessons need to be learned to make fashionable co-ops more than a fad.

Legal structures should be as simple and inexpensive as legislation allows; co-operatives should state and stick to their non-financial objects, as well as their financial ones. Co-operative governance, now outlined in Co-operatives UK’s workers’ co-operative code of governance needs to be implemented; co-operative managers need to be entrepreneurial; salaries need to be transparent and just; and a resurgent co-operative sector will require much greater and more specific government support.

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