Multi-stakeholder cooperatives

From Cultivate.Coop

This term applies to cooperatives whose members represent more than one typical co-op ownership group, such as ‘producers’, ‘consumers’ or ‘workers’. Developing and maintaining such a cooperative enterprise demands a high level of commitment to the core concept of mutual benefits. Proponents of this ‘hybrid’ model have been active in local food movements around the US. One of the best known is Weaver Street Market in Carrboro, NC [1].

This presentation on multi-stakeholder cooperatives from the October 2010 Vermont Co-op Summit gives a general overview of the multi-stakeholder model with popular examples and organizational charts (document). A more in-depth resource is available from Ohio Employee Ownership Center, which offers a manual on structuring, incorporating, and running a multi-stakeholder co-op called Solidarity as a Business Model (document).

Uses and Examples

For nearly a decade, in Oklahoma, Nebraska, New Hampshire and other states, agricultural producers have been forming online food co-ops with neighboring consumers, who often share the work of getting the food from field (pasture, fishing ground, mill, bakery, etc.) to fork, e.g. by maintaining websites, picking up food at its point of origin, breaking wholesale units into individual orders at a distribution center, or overseeing members’ pick-up. Some online co-ops have actually been successful using Farmers Markets or retail stores (including storefront food co-ops as pick-up points, finding it increases both club buying volume and market traffic. [2] [3] [4]

In September 2010, members in one Wisconsin community incorporated as Fifth Season Cooperative, where food producers are joining with food processors, distributors, buyers and workers—and a strong local food co-op—to form a ‘multi-stakeholder cooperative network’ that has taken on the goals of strengthening the local economy, supporting local agriculture, improving local residents’ nutrition and health, and forging bonds between local food producers and local institutional buyers. [5].

Worker Consumer Hybrid

A worker-consumer hybrid cooperative is, as the name implies, a mix of the two more common forms of cooperatives, the worker cooperative and the consumer cooperative. In this type of cooperative the power is divided between the workers and consumers. This could for example be achieved by a system of quotas to the cooperatives board of directors, where the consumers and workers would elect a given number of people to the board each.

An example of such a cooperative - in addition to Weaver Street Market - is Eroski, a part of the Spanish Mondragon Corporation group which operates supermarkets and petrol stations around the whole nation and in particular in the Basque country from where the company originates.[6]

See Also