Being part of the ‘John Lewis’ economy

We’re only a couple of weeks into 2012, but the co-operative movement seems to be a hot topic – as it should be in the International Year of the Co-operative. Yesterday, Nick Clegg also added his voice to the debate and lent his support for the ‘John Lewis economy’, launching a campaign for a well-rewarded workforce with more businesses owned by their employees.

At Online Centres Foundation, we’ve always thought of ourselves ahead of the curve and this high profile support for the mutual model seems to prove this, coming hot on the heels of us establishing our very own mutual, now only two months old, which took over the running of the UK online centres service in December.

As you’ll image, we’re quite big fans of the co-operative movement – which mutuals are a part of – and so it was great to hear Nick Clegg shout about all of the things we already know –  that organisations that engage employees experience lower absenteeism,  less staff turnover, lower production costs and in general, higher productivity. Working at UK online centres isn’t always a walk in the park – and the whole team work hard – but there’s usually a good atmosphere in the office and we go home at the end of the day feeling positive about what we’ve done.

Online Centres Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation, so our staff don’t actually make money from having a share in the business, and any surplus we make is reinvested in our social aims, but the fact that employees are encouraged to have their say and are valued means they reap genuine benefits from working here.

Nick Clegg’s speech, and the general interest around the co-operative movement, got me thinking about the benefits of being a mutual and so (you know me!) I’ve dug up some stats which I found really interesting.

  • The largest 300 co-ops in the world have a turnover of $1.6 billion, more than the total economy of Canada
  • The number of co-op members outnumbers the number of shareholders 3 to 1
  • There are over 12 million members of co-ops in the UK alone (including the 30 members of staff here at Online Centres Foundation)
  • UK co-ops outperformed other businesses by 20% in tough economic times of the past four years.

(All of these stats came via the UK Launch of the International Year of the Co-op which you can read more about here)

I know mutuals have their critics, but stats like these showing the real economic benefits the co-op movement can provide seem hard to argue with. I for one am delighted to be part of a worldwide movement that’s growing so quickly, and that puts people, collaboration and innovation at the heart of business. Here’s to 2012, the year of the co-operative!

One thought on “Being part of the ‘John Lewis’ economy

  1. The Broadband for the Rural North (B4RN) is a cooperative, a community benefit society, and is raising funds to build their own fibre network in a very remote area. The power of communities doing this sort of stuff will mean competition for the telcos and will mean we all get decent connectivity. Yes, I agree, 2012 is the year of the Coop.

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