What are bona-fide SHEs?
SHEs are not ‘commercial businesses’, and they are not ‘charities’, they are in fact ‘associations of equal persons’ seeking to alter their position within specific markets. These facts separate them from investor-owned companies, which are ‘associations of capital'. SHEs are enterprises that ought to support their members by developing their capacity to lead more prosperous and more fulfilling lives; this requires that they help their members to withstand the vagaries of the market and the misfortunes of life.
Self-help enterprises – the benefits
The advantages of self-help enterprises include that the needs of their members fuel them, they operate entirely within the ‘real economy’ and have a geographical home (a commitment to a specific place). They can provide the opportunity for economic empowerment when business investors are moribund and are designed to deliver whatever outcomes their membership determines. Such issues can include getting a better deal, which can mean a more honest deal and a fairer deal for members which can be interpreted to mean better housing, better health, a better education, a decent job, or securing access to services when commercial businesses are not interested.
For example, SHEs provide:
- Joint-marketing and other services in support of small and medium scale enterprises
- Healthy food at fair prices
- Community services 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.
SHEs empower their members to respond positively to changing conditions, helping them to build their resilience, equipping them to face future changes that will surely come. This contrasts with the approach of many commercial businesses that regularly make their profits by exploiting the weakness of their customers, workers, and suppliers.