Sharing ideas about making self-help enterprises more effective, sustainable and better at achieving their purposes and serving their members
Self-help enterprises (SHEs) - what are they and what do they do?
Millions of people worldwide are members of mutually-owned enterprises that can positively change their lives. Together, they control their self-help enterprises (SHEs), such as cooperatives, credit unions, mutual insurers, building societies, friendly societies, community enterprises and many other types too.
This distinctive form of enterprise exists to serve members, their families and communities, they should help members build a better future. SHEs work for people with widely differing needs; for example, marketing produce, supplying farming inputs, getting healthy food at fair prices, accessing financial services such as credit and savings, insurance and mortgages, providing decent housing, health, and care services, maintaining shops, pubs, and transport in their local area, or by managing their workplaces.
To view or download a diagram that shows how SHEs relate to all other forms of enterprise ‘click’ here
SHEs intervene in the market in the best interest of their members, this can be in their role as consumers, as producers, as workers, or as members of a specific community. Groups of people decide to work together with the objective of improving their position within a market. The primary aim of their joint action is to secure a ‘better deal’ for members. The alternative to taking mutual action usually is to remain at the mercy of those who dominate, manipulate or fail to serve specific markets.
The fundamental proviso
Only where enterprises are unequivocally run in the best interest of their members are the full benefits of self-help enterprises realised. In other words, provided that the organization is a bona-fide self-help enterprise, which requires that the enterprise follow a set of systems that ensure that it attains its real purpose and fulfils its essential function. In turn, this means implementing very specifically designed systems of organization, association, economics and management.
A new wave of self-help enterprises
Over the past few decades there has been a decline in most forms of direct State intervention, and in many different situations, the self-help mindset is being been resurrected. People the world over, are rediscovering that lasting solutions for many of their most pressing problems lie in the practice of self-help and mutual action. SHEs are once again regarded a providing a viable solution to the failings of the ‘free’ market, but this is hampered by the fact that most education systems have not prepared people for such a renaissance. Nevertheless, in many countries a new wave of SHEs is underway, for example in the UK during the last few years more than 350 community, shops have become established, as well as dozens of pubs, city farms and other initiatives, especially in rural locations.
The following web pages outline what steps need to be taken to ensure that SHEs achieve their real potential to improve their members' lives.
The author acknowledges the rights of the various enterprises featured in photographs on this website
Updated: December 2018 © Edgar Parnell 2018