A debate is emerging in the UK and elsewhere about the possible role of cooperatives and mutuals in building a better economy. But what makes for good performance by a co-op or mutual? What values should enterprises of this kind seek to embody or promote? How can they do it? These questions are, in part, questions about the underlying moral and political philosophy of co-operatvism and mutualism. A British Academy-funded research project, currently being run at Kellogg College’s Centre for Mutual and Employee-Owned Business, aims to explore these questions and develop a framework for evaluating cooperative and mutual performance. The research team would like to know what you think of their ideas. We invite your comments below each article.
Across the political spectrum there is a growing interest in mutuals and employee-owned businesses (or MEOBs).[i] At the same time, the crisis in the Co-op group has thrown open the question of what the underlying values and objectives of co-operative enterprise are or ought to be (see also Hunt 2014 and Bastani, Benjamin and Coppola 2014). What constitutes good or bad performance for an enterprise that is a mutual or employee-owned? In much conventional economic discourse we approach enterprises primarily in terms of one measure: profitability. An enterprise performs well when, and to the extent that, it is profitable. Given certain assumptions, this means it is performing efficiently. But is this really all there is to evaluating how well an enterprise performs?