Canvassing for elections
The democratic election processes that take place within co-operatives should be formal and transparent and ensure that the democratic rights of members are exercised. We've prepared guidance relevant to all co-operatives to ensure elections are fair for all candidates and the members of a co-operative.
Co-operatives should promote a vibrant democracy that encourages active, democratic member participation.
When it comes to elections, it is important that they are run in a way that it is fair to all candidates – and the members of a co-operative – and that ensures that the people with the appropriate capabilities that will make the most effective directors are successful in them.
The Co-operative Corporate Governance Code states that "sufficient information should be given to members to enable them to make an informed decision on their vote in elections, including details of the candidates’ skills, knowledge and experience that lays out why their contribution will be important to the long term success of the co-operative."
Ordinarily candidates will be asked to provide appropriate information to be circulated to members prior to and during the voting period of an election.
The methods of conducting elections in co-operatives will differ depending on the size of the co-operative and its type:
- In a worker co-operative it is likely that members will all know each other and regularly come into contact with each other at work; meaning that conversations between members and candidates will take place naturally
- Co-operatives operating using sociocratic principles use a system known as the Selection Process in which role holders are chosen through open discussion and Consent rather than by secret ballot
- For large consumer co-operative with tens of thousands of members, it is likely that some candidates will not be known to members at all and others, that may have been successful in an election previously, will be more visible. So, where possible, contact with members needs to be fair across all candidates and additional measures may be needed to ensure fairness.
Some co-operatives may permit canvassing during an election cycle and they may have internal policies and processes that sets out expectations on standards of behaviour.
Canvassing means the systematic initiation of direct contact with members of a co-operative by a candidate with a view to soliciting their vote in an election.
Canvassing can be a useful tool that enables candidates to directly link to members and build relationships with them to gain insights into member need and to provide details about themselves and their capabilities. It is important that canvassing is conducted in a positive spirit in the interest of both candidates and members alike.
Canvassing Code of Practice
Co-operatives UK has developed a Code of Practice that is designed to set out the rules relating to canvassing activity permitted during an election cycle and provides information for candidates and also directors, officers, management and other employees and stakeholders of our Co-operative. You can download the Code of Practice below.
Other co-operatives – because of their size, complexity or how they interact with their members – may just want to ensure that their elections follow best practice principles
- Elections shall be undertaken in accordance with governing documents
- Elections should be open – with members having access to the right information which helps them to decide who to vote for – and fair to candidates and the members of the co‑operative.
- All candidates should conduct themselves in a way that:
- Is fair and transparent and not open to interpretation
- Is respectful and not personally critical of other candidates or the co-operative
- Is not calling for voters to boycott or actively vote against another candidate
- Is positive
- Is not untrue or misleading
- Is not damaging to the co-operative’s reputation
- Role models the co-operative’s expected behaviours, culture and values.
- Does not exert undue pressure on any person to act or vote in a particular way, including through payment or giving gifts or hospitality in return for votes.
- Board members, collectively and individually, should not publicly or privately endorse any candidate(s) in a way that is detrimental to any other candidate. Board members should role model the co-operative’s expected behaviours, culture and values
- Where a co-operative has a CEO and/or executive (senior) managers, they should not publicly or privately endorse any candidate(s) in a way that is detrimental to any other candidate.
Elections – canvassing Code of Conduct
Guidance for co-operatives to ensure elections are fair for all candidates and the members of a co-operative.
This guidance was prepared by Co-operatives UK with oversight from the Co-operative Governance Expert Reference Panel, October 2022.