The co-operative spirit

The United Nations has named 2012 as The Year of the Co-operative.   The initiative aims to raise awareness of the nature of co-operatives as value-based operations in which the bottom line is not the only driver of business decisions.Co-operation and alternative stakeholder models have featured widely in this week's media.  The UK's Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, spoke about the employee engagement model exemplified by John Lewis - a model in which the employees have a stake in the business.  There is proof, he told his audience, that engaged employees can help create a more dynamic organisation.The BBC's In Business programme has also focused on the co-operative business model.  Peter Day reported from the Spanish headquarters of the world's largest employee owned co-operative business, the Mondragon Group.  Mondragon is a highly successful business with a range of enterprises which is owned by 70,000 of its 85,000 employees.  Strategic decision making is also done co-operatively.  Every member gets one vote in a secret ballot.  In order to manage this process Mondragon's Director of Cooperative Dissemination explains that the business focuses on getting the right information to its members so that people can reach their decision.Marketing Week has also explored new partnership models this week.  Ruth Mortimer summarises why people are exploring the opportunities of alternative business models.

At a time when we all need to pull together and make the best of 2012's unpredictable economic situation, any model that uses the brainpower, energy and enthusiasm of every stakeholder within a business seems not only like a good strategy, but a highly necessary one.