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Supporting fair and ethical business in partnership with The Co-operative Bank

2.3 Who will your co-op's members be?

This section gives an overview of the different kinds of members a co-op can have.

Members are your co-op. They are the people that work for it, shop or do business with it, supply it, live in it... own it.

Who your members are is key factor in terming what kind of co-op you will be, which you decide later on in the process.

Who are the members of your co-op?

It's critical both for the business model and structure of a co-operative that it gets the question of “who are the members” right.

One way to do this is to do a stakeholder analysis. It's even better to do it with a group of people who want your idea to succeed and may even become members of the co-operative you create.

Stakeholder analysis

This is a great exercise to understand the different types of people who might be involved with or affected by your proposed co-operative business.

These could be, for example:

  • You (and possibly others as founders)
  • The customers of the co-operative
  • The people who work in the co-operative
  • The local community
  • Any community of interest, for example all the growers in a region
  • Any users of the services of the enterprise
  • Suppliers to the enterprise
  • Funders 

As you go through this process, you need to identify the nature of the relationship of these stakeholder groups have or will have with your co-op business.

For example:

  • A trading relationship as customer or supplier
  • Ownership and control of the enterprise
  • Finance the enterprise through loans or shares
  • Passive supporters
  • Just need/want to be kept informed of activity/events/offers
  • Any combination of the above

Below is an example. Place your stakeholders on a chart – plotting interest and control, like the image below. 

The stakeholders in the top right box are likely to be the members of the co-operative.

Who is involved with your co-op and why?
Who are your members and why?

What are the benefits of being a co-op?

There are many benefits of being a co-op – for the business, employees, members, the wider community and the UK economy.

The above infographic has been reproduced with permission from, and originally created by, Mark Simmonds for Transition Enterprise Handbook on behalf of the Transition Network.