Nava Strategy

Co-operative Model vs the Social Enterprise

Should you choose a co-op model or business model? The co-op model, short for the cooperative model, is a model based on the principles of democratic ownership, control, and shared benefits among its members. In a co-operative, members collectively own and govern the business, which operates for their mutual benefit. Each member typically has an equal say in decision-making processes, regardless of their level of investment or ownership stake. Profits generated by the cooperative are often distributed among members in proportion to their contribution or patronage.

The Co-operative Model

  1. Democratic Control – each member typically has one vote in the decision-making processes, regardless of the number of shares they hold. Decisions are made collectively through democratic governance structures such as general assemblies or boards of directors.
  2. Shared Ownership and Benefits – members jointly own the cooperative and share in its profits or surplus. Profits are often reinvested in the business or distributed among members based on their level of participation or patronage.
  3. Voluntary and Open Membership – cooperatives are usually open to anyone who shares their mission or can benefit from their services. Membership is typically voluntary and does not discriminate based on factors such as race, gender, or socioeconomic status.
  4. Autonomy and Independence – cooperatives operate autonomously and independently of external shareholders or investors. They prioritize the needs and interests of their members over maximizing profits for external stakeholders.
  5. Education, Training and Information – cooperatives often provide education and training to their members to help them understand cooperative principles, participate effectively in decision-making, and develop necessary skills for running the business.
  6. Cooperation among cooperatives – emphasizes collaboration for mutual success, promoting solidarity and community within the cooperative movement.
  7. Concern for community-environment – this highlights the responsibility of cooperatives to operate sustainably, respecting local cultures and minimizing environmental impact for resilient societies.
  8. Equity, diversity, and inclusion – EDI prioritizes creating an inclusive environment where all members have equal opportunities, fostering stronger, more resilient communities. Communities may also wish to incorporate, ‘justice’ to promote JEDI as a more fulsome approach.


The Social Enterprise

A social enterprise, on the other hand, is a business entity that operates with the primary objective of addressing social or environmental issues while also generating revenue. Unlike traditional businesses, which prioritize profit maximization, social enterprises aim to create a positive social impact through their activities. Social enterprises can take various legal forms, including for-profit and non-profit structures, and may pursue different missions, such as poverty alleviation, environmental conservation, or community development.

While both cooperatives and social enterprises share a commitment to social impact and sustainability, they differ in their ownership, governance, and profit distribution models:

  1. Ownership and Governance: Cooperatives are owned and governed by their members, who have equal voting rights and participate in democratic decision-making processes. In contrast, social enterprises may have diverse ownership structures, including individual founders, investors, or nonprofit organizations, and their governance structures may vary accordingly.
  2. Profit Distribution: In cooperatives, profits are typically reinvested in the business or distributed among members based on their level of participation or patronage. Social enterprises may also reinvest profits in their social mission but can distribute profits to shareholders or investors as well.
  3. Legal Structure: Cooperatives are often organized under specific cooperative laws or regulations, which define their governance, membership, and operating principles. Social enterprises can take various legal forms, including traditional corporations, nonprofit organizations, or hybrid structures tailored to their mission and objectives.

While both cooperatives and social enterprises aim to create positive social impact, they differ in their ownership, governance, and profit distribution models, reflecting different approaches to achieving social and economic goals.

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Nava Strategy is your trusted partner in helping to bridge the gap between vision and impact. We provide tailored consulting to non-profits, social enterprises, and creatives, guiding them toward sustainable growth and meaningful outcomes.


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