Types and Models

Co-operatives are flexible with different forms for different types of members. The choice of model will depend on your members and how you engage with them.

For instance, if you are a smaller co-operative and your primary focus is your co-workers, a worker co-operative may be the best form of business. If your members are primarily your customers, you can form a consumer co-operative.  A geographical community or people with common interests come together to form a community benefit society (BenCom). These are enterprises that are owned and controlled by people belonging to a particular community. Normally they will carry out the activities that are of benefit to a defined community.

The International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) Statement on the Co-operative Identity describes a co-operative as ‘an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise’. All co-operative organisations operate under the ICA co-operative values and principles.

Co-operative can have many different legal forms and be used to create an organisation which falls within this ICA definition. One of the key features is usually ‘one member one vote’.

However, Community benefit societies (also known as ‘BenCom’) and co-operative societies (also known as ‘bona fide co-operative’) are the two main legal structures that can be incorporate under the Co-operative and Community Benefit Society Act (1969) Northern Ireland. The difference between the two is in the stakeholder groups that the society is set up to benefit. A co-operative is set up to benefit its members, whereas a community benefit society is set up to benefit the community more widely, whether people are members or not.

The governing document is called “Rules” and “Model Rules”, standard form of same, are available from sponsoring bodies. Co-operative Alternatives can access many sponsoring bodies and can advise you which Rules better fit your type of co-operative. The registration is carried out by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and we can support through that process. For further information, contact us on 07858 317 634 or by email tiziana@coopalternatives.coop