The starting point for understanding the self-help form of enterprise is recognising that most members want their enterprises to provide:
- a better deal
- a better organization (an organization that can always be relied upon to act in the best interest of members)
- a better future.
The kind of enterprise needed to deliver the three ‘betters’ is one that:
- Is purpose-driven
- Is function-focused
- Has a fit-for-purpose system of organization
- Operates a viable market intervention strategy
- Deploys dynamic and complete systems
- Undertakes a continuous process of organizational renewal
The Self-help enterprise model incorporates all the above features
Making markets work for ordinary people
Many of the factors that prevent us from living more fulfilling lives arise because we are unable to exercise enough power in the markets we rely upon for our economic well-being. Our vulnerability to the market forces working against us becomes apparent when we cannot access the goods or services we need, where and when we need them, or on terms that are neither fair nor reasonable. The same challenge applies when we cannot achieve a fair price for our labour, knowledge, and skills and for the things we produce, grow, or supply. Self-help enterprises provide the mechanism to challenge injustices within the market.
The impact of self-help enterprises on the lives of their members depends upon both the nature of the problems facing them and the pre-existing quality of their lives. At the top end of the scale of impact, there are SHEs formed to address gross injustice within a market. In these circumstances, their intervention can result in transforming the lives of their members. For example, when poor farmers are not getting anything like a fair price for their produce, when adulterated foodstuffs at exorbitant prices are the only goods available to consumers, when there is no access to healthcare, where other essential services are unavailable; or, where unscrupulous traders, moneylenders, and property-owners are exploiting vulnerable people. SHEs also help to make life a lot better for millions of people worldwide. For example, by providing:
- Joint-marketing and other services in support of small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs)
- Healthy food at fair prices
- Community services in places where commercial businesses find it unprofitable to operate
- Insurance services that people can trust to the cover risks that arise in their lives
- Facilities for savings and credit at rates that are honest and fair
- Services that meet the health and care needs of people at various stages in their lives
- Livelihoods for people in workplaces that they control
- Affordable homes that meet their housing needs.
In all cases, provided they are run properly, SHEs can provide their members with an enhanced quality-of-life and much greater control over their own lives and livelihoods.