Monday, 21 March 2016
On co-ops, social enterprises and the like
TorontotheBetter is the programme of a worker co-op called Libra. We conduct our financial operations through a credit union, a financial co-operative, and we obtain goods and services from a number of other consumer co-operatives. So, we like co-ops. Their basic principle of democratic ownership and control and their history of successful business is a lesson to all enterprises that ignore issues of worker and/or customer participation. But when we started TorontotheBetter back in 2004 we refused to limit our governing directory inclusion criterion to one social economic ownership form, even if that form was one we admired and encourage others to emulate, We dd this for two reasons: 1) many worthy socio-economic ends, such as renewable energy, can be achieved without a co-operative structure of any kind and 2) there are many forms of collective operation and ownership that can achieve similar aims as co-operation without adopting its legal structure. Hence to exclude the latter would mean excluding many social businesses that citizens of Toronto can benefit from greatly. We chose to ignore, too, the inevitably somewhat passive culture of co-ops that seems inseparable from what is otherwise a virtue of co-ops, their defining voluntarism. To include the maximum potential social and economic change in the enterprises we feature then, we must, and so do, let a thousand flowers bloom.We should not let the perfect be the enemy of the good.