What is a Co-operative?

Co-operatives have operated internationally for over 160 years in all sorts of business applications, finance to farming – retail to education. It is particularly well suited to education as it allows schools which the accountable autonomy to support themselves and provides those who need it with more support from an extensive network. Co-operative are an alternative to the more traditional ‘plc’ approach and there are established and defined models for start-up and development of co-op businesses.

In general co-operatives:

  • Act together to meet the common needs of its members.
  • Share ownership and make decisions equally and democratically.
  • Provides democratic opportunities for all key stakeholders
  • Creating value for all stakeholders and share profits between members.
  • Governed and influenced by internationally recognised values and principles.

All co-operatives share a common set of values which benefit all stakeholders in the education sector and can be implemented right throughout school life:

  • Self-help–  supporting learners, parents, carers and staff to help themselves
  • Self-responsibility  –  taking responsibility for, and answer to our actions.
  • Democracy –  giving our members a say in what we do.
  • Equality –  believing that the voice of each individual should be heard.
  • Equity–  carrying out our work in a way that is fair and unbiased.
  • Solidarity –  sharing interests and common purposes with our members and other co-operatives.
  • Openness and Honesty–  being honest about what we do and the way we do it.
  • Social responsibility –  encouraging all stakeholders to take responsibility for their own community, and work together to improve it.
  • Caring for others –  treating everyone as we wish to be treated ourselves

The Co-operative Principles are the way values are put into action:

  • Voluntary and open membership  –  membership is open to everyone
  • Democratic member control  –  all members have an equal voice in making policies and electing representatives
  • Member economic participation  –  all profits are controlled democratically by members and for their benefit
  • Autonomy and independence  –  co-operatives are always independent, even when they enter into agreements with the Government and other organisations
  • Education, training and information  –  co-operatives educate and develop their members as well as their staff
  • Co-operation amongst co-operatives  –  co-operatives work together with other co‑operatives to strengthen the co-operative movement as a whole
  • Concern for community  –  co-operatives also work to improve and develop the community, both locally and internationally.

The aim of Co-operative Education in the Eastern Region is to help schools to help each other by encouraging and facilitating collaboration between MATs and individual schools in a shared network.