Members, as the owners of a co-operative, are key to its success. Here we focus on members and how their participation can contribute towards successful growth.
Member participation is hugely important and there are numerous important avenues for member involvement:
General Meetings act as the members' democratic connection to the co-operative and provide the primary space in which members can exercise their rights. General meetings provide opportunities for members to hold the board to account and as the elected representatives it is important that the board make general meetings accessible, encourage a wide participation of members and promote opportunities for members to effectively challenge decisions.
Holding to account
As owners of the co-operative, members have a right to request and be provided with information on the co-operative's position and prospects so that they can adequately challenge the board on its decision-making. To enable this to happen it is important for quality information to be provided and for members to have the necessary skills to interpret the information put before them and to have the tools and develop the necessary skills to effectively challenge this information.
Connection to business
As owners of the co-operative, members must continue to believe and feel that their input matters to the successful growth of their co-operative. As co-operatives grow and the environment in which they trade because more complex it is often easy to lose sight of the reason the co-operative was established in the first place - to benefit the economic, social and cultural needs of those members. Co-operatives should establish ways to continually understand their membership base, consider their needs and encourage involvement in the business of the co-operative.
Communications and engagement
The methods a co-operative adopts to communicate and engage with its members and encourage greater participation in the co-operative will vary depending on the needs of those members. Those needs may change over time and as such the way a co-operative communicates with its members will also need to change to ensure that it is addressing the right needs.
Rights and responsibilities
Membership rights and responsibilities derive from the co-operative's governing document and from in some cases from statute. As a very minimum it is important the members are provided with a copy of their co-operative's governing document, can develop a broad understanding of the key elements in order for them participate fully in the governance of the co-operative.