Cooperative Societies Models

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= The UK distinguishes Co-operative Societies and Community Benefit Societies


Josef Davies-Coates:

"Much all of the UK co-operative and community enterprises that most inspire us at United Diversity, i.e., those creating community-scale, community-owned renewably-powered infrastructure of all kinds, have chosen to incorporate as societies — and for good reason.

Societies have a number of special attributes that make them particularly suitable for community investment. A big reason most community land trusts, community energy projects, community farms, pubs and shops and so on. register as societies is because doing a Community Share offer is the best way to finance such projects. In recent years such Community Share offers have been growing exponentially and there is now a Community Shares Unit that offers advice and guidance on how to do it."


Multi-Stakeholder Cooperatives

Josef Davies-Coates:

"Rather than being organised around a single class of members the way that most co-operatives are, a multi-stakeholder co-operative is any co-op that draws its membership from two or more different classes of stakeholders. After two decades of local experimentation, Italy was the first country to adopt a multi-stakeholder statute in 1991. Over 14,000 ‘social co-ops’ now exist across Italy and provide social care, health and educational services to over 5 million people. In Quebec, home to one of the most productive and vibrant co-operative development sectors in the world, multi-stakeholder co-ops are now the fastest growing type of co-op, with more than 50% of all new co-ops opting to register what they refer to as ‘Solidarity Co-ops.’ The movement is just getting here in the UK, but there are now over 20 multi-stakeholder co-ops who have incorporated using the Somerset Rules." (

Somerset Rules

Josef Davies-Coates:

"Launched in 2009, the Somerset Rules were one of the UK’s first set of model rules for a multi-stakeholder co-op, and they’re arguably still the best. Packed full of best practice gleaned from decades of co-operative development experience, they’re structured to closely follow co-op principles, written in relatively plain English, and are cleverly drafted to allow for a wide range of different configurations. You can define the percentage of overall control each stakeholder group has. They are also ‘social accounting ready’ and are designed to enable the widest range of options for financing. In 2012 they were fully revised and overhauled and a version for use as a Community Interest Company limited by guarantee was developed. In May 2014 a Community Benefit Society version was created and we’re now in the process of adopting them for the United Diversity equivalent of the Enspiral Foundation." (

FairShares Model

Josef Davies-Coates:

"FairShares is a new brand and model for self-governing social enterprises operating under either Company or Co‑operative Law. It offers a unique approach to enterprise ownership, governance and management through its recognition and integration of founders, producers, employees, customers, service users and investors. At the heart of the FairShares model is a definition of social enterprise based on: Specifying the social purpose(s) and evaluating the social impact(s) of trading activities; conducting ethical reviews of product/service choices and production/consumption practices; and promoting socialised and democratic ownership, governance and management by primary stakeholders. In addition, all intellectual property created by FairShares Enterprises and their members are managed as an Intellectual Commons using Creative Commons licences. This all sounds perfect for Open Co-ops and so we’re really looking to learning more at Inaugural FairShares Conference in Sheffield on July 1st." (