Social Enterprise Cooperatives and Mutuals

Social enterprises, cooperatives and mutuals make up a significant but often ignored component of the Australian economy. This project aims to develop the shared identity and public voice of these businesses as a rich and distinctive sector of the economy. Their defining feature that they operate not to deliver returns to investors, but to advance the economic and social interests of their members and participants.

Cooperatives and mutuals have a long history in Australia. In the 19th century, they were formed by communities of farmers, workers, consumers, savers, learners and producers to produce innovative businesses in health care, social welfare, agriculture, retailing, housing, adult education, banking, savings, investments and insurance. In the 20th century, they were steadily marginalised by the growth of both investor-owned and state-owned enterprises.

Social enterprises also have a long history. Voluntary associations undertook business ventures throughout the 19th century in education, health care, arts and culture, recreation, retailing and publishing. In the 20th century, social enterprises have emerged in many places in response to both state and market failure.

The potential for growth of social enterprises, cooperatives and mutuals is virtually limitless, but in Australia is severely constrained by a poorly developed entrepreneurial culture. Many cooperatives and mutuals have been captured by their managements, and many social enterprises have been overtaken by a grant-seeking culture. Both strands lack leadership, and a  confident advocacy of their distinctive cultures. Both lack a public voice that is recognised in Australian economic, political and business discourse.

This project aims to cultivate a distinctive culture and public voice for social enterprises, cooperatives and mutuals.

Social Enterprise Cooperatives and Mutuals is a network open to all social enterprises, cooperatives and mutuals who meet the eligibility criteria (below). This network aims to be a lean development-oriented innovation-focussed network - it is not a provider of services or member benefits, nor is it a consultancy.

Our Statement of Purpose appears below.

To join the network, complete this online registration form.

The annual membership fee is $30.*


* This fee is waived for organisations which are members of Civil Society Australia.


A Leadership Group will guide the development of the network. Expressions of Interest in participating may be expressed through the online form below.

Statement of Purpose

1. A social enterprise is a market-based business for a social purpose. It may be for-profit or not-for-profit. A cooperative or mutual is a member-based business which operates in a market to advance the interests of its members.

2. The social enterprise, cooperative and mutual sector in Australia is large and diverse but lacks a peer-generated leadership, a public voice, and shared tools for strategic development and innovation.

3. Social Enterprise Cooperatives and Mutuals is a leadership vehicle and public voice for social enterprises, cooperatives and mutuals in Australia. It is not a provider of services or member benefits.

4. The governing body of
Social Enterprise Cooperatives and Mutuals is a Leadership Group comprising representatives from the main streams of social and cooperative enterprise in Australia:   

    a. not-for-profit financial institutions
    b.
community sector ventures for a social purpose
    c. indigenous businesses and social enterprises
    d. rural community businesses and social enterprises
    e. environmental businesses and social enterprises
    f. consumer empowerment businesses
    g. employee-owned businesses
    h. multi-stakeholder enterprises
    i.
for-profits with a social purpose

5. Social Enterprise Cooperatives and Mutuals will advocate for major regulatory reform to create a favourable operating environment for social and cooperative enterprise, and will advocate for a key role in the reform of public services.

Membership

Membership of Social Enterprise Cooperatives and Mutuals is open to all enterprises that meet the following eligibility criteria:

Applicants for membership must:

1. Be an independent business;

2. Have traded for more than one year and earn 50% or more of its income from trading;

3. Be owned by its members, and/or allocate a significant proportion of profit for social or community or environmental benefit.

To join the Coalition, complete this online membership form.

The following table outlines the types of evidence that may be required.

An eligible enterprise will: Notes/Explanation
Be an independent business
 
An enterprise must be an independent business and not part of the public or charitable sector. If it has an auspicing body that is a public authority (such as a municipality, health organisation, or university), or a community organisation (such as welfare agency, sporting club, or arts body) then information will be required to demonstrate that the social enterprise is a separate trading entity with independent governance, and is not merely a fundraising vehicle for the auspice body.
Have traded for a minimum of one year and earn 50% or more of its income from trading The enterprise must earn 50% or more of its income from trading.

Trading is defined as ‘the direct exchange of goods and services’.

This definition of trading excludes government grants, philanthropic grants and donations.
Be owned by its members and/or allocate a significant proportion of profit for social or community or environmental benefit If an enterprise is not owned by its members, information will be required on how the business distributes profit.

If income is distributed to individuals, then evidence is required that at least 50% of profit is distributed for social or community or environmental benefit.

Where investors receive a share of profits from a business, evidence may be required that at least 50% of profit is distributed for social benefit before returns are distributed to investors.


To join
Social Enterprise Cooperatives and Mutuals, complete this online membership form.

 

Enquiries

Vern Hughes
0425 722 890
vern@civilsociety.org.au

 

 © Civil Society Australia 2015