Why are you setting up your co-operative?

By the end of this section, you will have answered the following questions about your reason(s) for starting a co-operative or community business:

  • What is your motivation for setting up 
  • What is your mission statement, or the purpose of your business.

This section asks why you want to set up a co-operative or social business – rather than just thinking “I want to start a co-operative”, your first thought should be “I want to meet a need or take advantage of an opportunity”. 

There are literally thousands of reasons why you might set up a co-operative, some examples include:

Taking over or reopening a local shop or pub with others from your community Replicating an inspiring, successful venture from elsewhere with others in your local area Adapting a co-operative idea you’ve seen for a new sector A number of freelancers want to work together 

The fact is that ANY business or organisation can be a co-operative – it’s how you run it, not what it does that makes it a co-operative.

So first, we ask you to do some real thinking about your motivation for setting up your co-operatively run business or organisation. Then we get you to refine this into a mission statement.

What is your motivation?

Think carefully about why you want to set up a co-operatively run business or organisation. We’ve asked some key questions below – some serious thinking at this early stage could be a critical reality check.

What it means to be a co-operative 

This is discussed in depth in the should my business be a co-operative section.

For now, here are a few things to consider:

  • A co-op can take any legal form of business or organisation. 
  • It provides mutual benefit: for a group of members (eg the local community, service users, customers or workers). 
  • It does not intend to restrict membership just to the people who start the business.
  • Most co-operatives will aim to make a profit, with members deciding on whether that surplus is reinvested in the business, distributed among members or given to the community.
  • The workers are paid wages like in any other business, and sometimes share the profits. 
  • Social businesses exist to address social or environmental issues. Many co-operatives are social businesses.

There is a lot more to it - please take the time to read the should my business be a co-operative section.

Motivation analysis

Use the business motivation template to say why you want to set up your business:

You don’t need to go into detail at this stage, but you should be able to confidently answer these questions before you set up your co-op or social business:

  • The need(s) your business or organisation will meet? Evidence this need is there? Who has this need? What difference would it make if that need was met? 
  • Do you want your business to be owned and democratically controlled by members? 
  • Do you (collectively) have the energy, the commitment and the capacity to see it through? 

Your mission statement

Now you are all clear on your motivation, this section is about honing in on the Mission of your co-operatively-run organisation.

What is a mission statement?

A mission statement explains, in simple to understand terms, what your co-operative is going to do and why.

  • What is it there to do? Why is your business going to exist?
  • What needs will your co-operative be set up to meet?
  • What is the intended social impact?
  • What are the member benefits?

Why is a mission statement important?

  • A clear mission statement will make it easier for everyone involved to work towards a common purpose. Ideally, this is something that is known, and agreed to, by everybody involved.
  • It can help when explaining to other people, e.g. the wider community, why you are starting a co-operative, and it can potentially inspire others to get involved.
  • Consider each word so that it has a long-term purpose to help guide the development your co-operative over time. Keep it as part of your everyday ‘ethos’ by making it visible.
  • Make sure any new activity is checked against the mission statement. If it is considered to be off-mission, you should have a good reason – and consensus – before going ahead.

What is your mission statement?

An example is Co-operatives UK's mission statement is: "To promote, develop and unite member-owned businesses across the country".

Have a think about what yours could be – make sure you design this with the people who are setting up your co-op so everyone agrees and owns this mission.

The information and tools in this section have been developed by our colleagues at Co-operative Assistance Network.

Updated: 26/03/2019