Why we need to get back to thinking of co-operative and mutual enterprise as a social business

17 March 2022

Co-operative and mutual enterprise provides a proven and comprehensive model for a social business, but it has been largely ignored by social entrepreneurs, writes Dr Paul Thambar from Monash Business School.

There’s a new organisational model that everyone wants to be involved with – purpose-driven social business. It’s “on-trend” and importantly, structured to deliver positive societal impact.

We are all suddenly searching for our purpose and wanting to work in and engage with organisations which have a purpose that resonates with our values.

Social business, where the primary goal is not profit maximisation but instead profit for purpose is the driver of business decisions and actions, has been touted as the responsible way to do capitalism. However, social businesses face the challenge of deciding how to structure and establish their operations where commercial and social goals are pursued and profit for purpose is the key driver.

Frequently, the answer appears to be a structure that is a hybrid of a listed company entity and a not-for-profit entity. Yet, co-operative and mutual enterprise (CME), a business model and structure for social business that has existed successfully for over 150 years, has been neglected due to a lack of education and understanding of the CME model and its role in enabling social businesses.

Read Dr Paul Thambar’s full article, Why we need to get back to thinking of co-operative and mutual enterprise as a social businessPro Bono Australia, 16 March 2022

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