Business co-operatives in Australia: "Unlikely soil for a co-operative movement"

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2 Citations (Scopus)


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.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)149 - 173
Number of pages25
JournalEnterprise and Society
Issue number1
Early online date5 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - Mar 2023


  • Business Co-operatives
  • owner-drivers
  • professionals
  • retailing


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