Typically, cooperatives have drawn their membership from a single class of stakeholders – producer cooperatives are owned by producers, worker cooperatives by workers, consumer cooperatives by consumers, etc. Multi-stakeholder cooperatives are co-ops that are owned and controlled by more than one type of membership class such as consumers, producers, workers, volunteers, or community supporters. Stakeholders can be individuals or organizations such as non-profits, businesses, government agencies, or even other cooperatives.
Examples of Multi-stakeholder Cooperatives
Fifth Season Cooperative is a regional food hub that aggregates and distributes locally grown produce, meats, dairy and value-added products through distributor members to hospitals, schools, and businesses in the greater Driftless Region, Minneapolis, Milwaukee, Madison and Chicago. The cooperative has six member classes that span the entire supply chain:
- Producers – growers who sell produce, meat, or dairy
- Producer groups – agricultural businesses that aggregate and sell produce, meat, or dairy
- Processors – businesses that make value-added products
- Distributors – businesses that transport agricultural products
- Buyers – may include institutions or retail operations that purchase product from the cooperative
- Workers – employees of the cooperative may become members.
Weaver Street Market was founded in Carrboro, North Carolina in 1988, and has since become the largest retail multi-stakeholder cooperative in the United States, expanding to include four grocery stores, a restaurant and a food production facility. This successful collaborative involves more than just the traditional food co-op consumer membership category, but also invites workers to be part of the ownership and governance structure.
Resources for Multi-stakeholder Cooperatives
Providing the Right Support: Are the Training Needs of Multi-Stakeholder Cooperatives Unique? UW Center for Cooperatives, 2013.
Guidelines and Sample Bylaw Language for Multi-stakeholder Cooperatives. Cooperative Development Foundation, 2012.
Solidarity as a Business Model: A Multi-Stakeholder Cooperatives Manual. Cooperative Development Center at Kent State University, 2011.
Multi-stakeholder Governance in Cooperative Organizations: Toward a New Framework for Research? Canadian Journal of Nonprofit and Social Economy Research, Fall 2011.
A Case Study of the Fifth Season Cooperative: From Inception to Incorporation, Now What? UW Center for Cooperatives, 2010.