Specific threats to self-help enterprises
SHEs are open to many of the same hazards that can endanger all forms of organization but, in addition, they face some very particular risks. Members, and above all their leaders, ought to fully appreciate the specific hazards facing this form of enterprise and learn how these risks can be managed. Among such threats are those arising from the fact that SHEs need to be democratically controlled. Where members are not engaged with their enterprise and are neither properly informed nor empowered, their enterprise is wide-open to both internal and external hijack, often resulting in a de facto change in the ownership.
There are always predators, both within and without an organization, who will seize any opportunity to take control away from the membership. Humans can be very adept at concealing their weaknesses, including their addictions, so systematically checking on how people are behaving within our organizations is vital. Without adequate legislation and effective oversight, most organizations will predictably default to a position where they prioritise the interests of those running them day-to-day. In other cases, SHEs transform to being run in the interest of those who provide their finance. In either case, whenever this kind of change happens, the outcome is that the interests of their true owners are side-lined. Those who have in effect ‘stolen’ the enterprise from its rightful owners inevitably also resort to exploiting of their disenfranchised members. This kind of scenario can happen in all manner of organization, including investor-owned companies, cause-driven enterprises, as well as in SHEs.
It's important to understand that many enterprises bearing names that imply that they are genuine SHEs are not authentic. In some countries, businesses can get away with calling themselves names that imply they are SHEs (for example – ‘cooperatives' or ‘building societies') when they are not by any stretch of the imagination bona-fide self-help enterprises. Enterprises that started as genuine self-help enterprises have mutated into a form of enterprise that primarily serves the interests of those that control them on a day-to-day basis. Members of mutant enterprises need to re-establish member-control over their enterprises. The first step in this process is for members to gain a clear understanding of the self-help enterprise model. In some countries, changes in the law are required to ensure that self-help enterprises remain authentically member-controlled and are operating for the benefit of their members.