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Co-operatives and elections

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Co-operatives and elections

Introduction

This guidance is to help co-operatives deliver good practice when it comes to elections for board positions.

There is no legislation specifically governing elections to the board in a co-operative. But there is established good practice, which is summarised in this resource.

About this guidance

This guidance covers elements of good practice in relation to democratic elections to the board of a co-operative.

In this note 'board' means the board of directors of a co-operative or another equivalent committee of management.

This guidance may also be relevant to other forms of organisation with boards. There are other approaches to achieving democratic control by the members which are covered in more detail later on.

The guidance begins by reviewing the legal framework in which board elections take place, and then considers different stages in the election process.

Background

One of the principles of co-operation agreed by the ICA is "democratic member control":

"Co-operatives are democratic organisations controlled by their members, who actively participate in setting their policies and making decisions. Men and women serving as elected representatives are accountable to the membership. In primary co-operatives members have equal voting rights (one member, one vote) and co-operatives at other levels are also organised in a democratic manner." (our emphasis)

This accountability to the membership can take a number of forms; in a smaller workers co-operative, the members may take all decisions collectively, or they may simply be constrained by their membership size and/or the need to reflect a function (such as finance director).

Where a co-operative has a larger membership – if it is a consumer co-operative, a community organisation, or a larger housing or worker co-operative – then this democratic control by the membership frequently takes the form of an elected board, where candidates put themselves forward to the members for appointment and there is a democratic process.

Contents

Authors

This guidance was produced by Anthony Collins Solicitors LLP for the Co-operative Governance Expert Reference Panel. It is intended as general guidance only, and co-operatives intending to rely on it should consider taking specific advice before taking any action.