A Crash Course in Democratic Business

There's been a recent upsurge of interest in democratic business models from thinktanks, policy platforms, and NGOs as they look for more direct and meaningful ways to redress imbalances in our economy. But there are also unhelpful confusions about these different models that can have a negative impact on policy decisions informing democratic business development at both the local and national level.

So what are the differences between co-operatives, community businesses, and employee ownership trusts and do they matter? Democratic business models have their own historical origins, offer different levels of democratic participation, are controlled by different regulatory bodies, can raise different forms of finance, and are appropriate for different aspects of local economic development.

By understanding these differences better we can be more effective in how we use these models for economic justice.

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  • A typology of democratic business models, focusing on co-operatives, community business, and employee ownership trusts
  • An overview of typical business development pathways, from startup to conversion
  • An introduction to how to invest in building the skills, culture, and infrastructure to support these democratic business models
  • An exercise using Stir to Action’s ‘development funnel’ to identify opportunities for how and when to use democratic business models in your local economy
  • An understanding of the differences between democratic business models and the advantages they offer
  • Clear understanding of the opportunities to use these models in designing democratic business approaches into local or regional economic strategies
  • Local authorities, LEPs, BIDs, professional bodies, and growth hubs that are investing in ‘plural ownership’ strategies 
  • Think tanks and policy platforms that are supportive of democratic business models

Jonny Gordon-Farleigh is the co-founder of Stir to Action, an organisation that has supported democratic business for ten years. This experience includes working in the community business sector in partnership with Power to Change, Plunkett Foundation, and Friends Provident; working on co-operative development in partnership with Preston City Council and launching UnFound, a platform co-op accelerator, with Co-operatives UK. He is also working on projects with the Employee Ownership sector with J Gadd Associates, Triodos, and the Employee Ownership Association.

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