Co-operatives and mutuals as social enterprises

22 October 2020

The Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals has released a new discussion paper, Co-operatives and Mutuals as Social Enterprises.

The paper looks at how co-operatives and mutuals sit within contemporary definitions of social enterprise and the alignment between the objectives of social enterprise policymakers and the social and economic purpose at the heart of co-operative and mutual enterprises.

Co-operatives and mutuals are member-owned enterprises that exist to meet the social, economic and cultural needs and aspirations of their members and communities.

Co-operatives drive inclusive growth and employment, build local community wealth, develop new ways to deliver public services and build social connectivity. They demonstrate the ability for ordinary people to start and scale democratically governed businesses on commercial principles with an established purpose other than profit maximisation.

They are an important part of the Australian social economy, ranging from worker-owned disability employment co-ops with approximately 30 members like Nundah Community Enterprises Co-operative to Australia’s largest member-owned organisations including care providers, credit unions, mutual insurers and mobility mutuals.

A recent article on Pro Bono Australia by co-op founder, director and developer Antony McMullen summarises the contribution of co-operatives to the goals of the social enterprise movement.

“Social enterprises hold great potential to make our world better,” he writes.

“To realise this transformative potential, we must ensure the fullness and diversity of this sector is recognised and embraced – including co-operatives.”

Read: Discussion Paper: Co-operatives and Mutuals as Social Enterprises

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