While co-operatives are traditionally associated with workers, consumers, and farmers, the business model, with its emphasis on democracy and community, has also been adopted by small business owners, the self-employed, and professionals. These business co-operatives are distinct phenomenon, because they primarily consist of independent organizational entities that are not co-operatives and are generally in direct competition with one another. They are unique in that they bring together separate organizations that seek to combat market threats while adopting a philosophy based on co-operative principles. This article begins with an overview of the Australian co-operative landscape. It then defines the concept of business co-operatives and then draws upon the Visual Atlas of Australian Co-operatives History Project, which has developed a large database of Australian co-operatives over time and space, to examine the development of business co-operatives in Australia. It looks at where business co-operatives formed in the economy, the motivation underlying their formation, their average life spans, and their relationships with the broader co-operative movement. The article highlights the value of business co-operatives in introducing the values of participatory democracy and working for the common good into unanticipated markets and reinforcing the co-operative movement.
- Business Co-operatives