News

More homes; more voice – Member-based social housing

Cliff MillsIn his latest Mutuo think piece, Cliff Mills talks about the policy opportunity for mutual social housing.

There are two clear challenges for social housing today which are making it one of the top political priorities.

The first is the need to build more homes: homes that people can afford, and are of the quality that people want to live in.  The second is to give tenants a voice in how housing is provided, which includes the ability to have influence over things that impact on neighbourhoods and communities, and being able to use this voice as a mechanism for ensuring that social housing providers are accountable to communities.

Housing is more than one issue.  It cannot be separated from jobs, health and well-being, elderly care, fuel poverty, environmental issues, community safety, education and training, and much else besides.  Homes are part of neighbourhoods and have to be understood in their context. The success of housing can only be measured in this bigger context, and in interaction with that context.

Policy-makers can and should do what they can, seeing things from their strategic vantage point. But since 2000 there have been some radical developments from within the social housing movement itself which it is time to take note of, because they could make a significant contribution in meeting today’s challenges.

These developments involve a democratic member-based approach, giving individuals a voice in their organisation, sharing power beyond the board and senior executives, and at the same time making governance more robust. 

There are now eleven democratic member-based housing providers in England and Wales, which together provide over 85,000 homes. A recently released corporate strategy by one of these organisations (discussed further below) outlines how it will be delivering services and what its ambitions are over the next ten years. This document provides evidence of the relevance of this approach in meeting today’s pressing challenges.

Read more:More Homes More Voice

Mutuo working with Consumer Co-operatives Worldwide to develop business sector policy guide

Mutuo is developing a business sector policy Guide for Consumer Co-operatives Worldwide.  This will be an opportunity to address regulatory, legislative and policy barriers to the development and growth of consumer co-operatives around the world. 

Its principal use will be to develop coherent policy positions that can be used at a global, regional and national level. 

Detailed survey work of CCW members will begin shorty and we look forward to engaging with members to identify the priorities of the consumer co-operative sector.

The document builds on Mutuo’s previous policy work in producing the International Co-operative Alliance Global Manifesto in 2017.

The business sector policy guide will be published in summer 2018.

Consumer Co-operatives Worldwide (CCW) unites, represents, and defends the interests of 26 national organizations of consumer co-operatives around the globe, which represent 75 million individual members, and which register a combined total annual turnover of more than 500 billion EUR.

International Co-operative Alliance publishes Mutuo’s global guide for promotion of co-ops

ICA Global Policy Guide

Co-produced with Mutuo, the Global Policy and Advocacy Guide was designed for the International Co-operative Alliance and its members to help strengthen their advocacy efforts.

The policy guide draws together case studies of good practice from various regions and suggests methodology and communications protocols that can help to grow a consistent global approach to promoting co-operatives.

“It is important that we seek to make the case for co-operatives in an easily understood and consistent way”

Mutuo worked with the International Co-operative Alliance and its members over a nine month period to identify the movement’s policy priorities and the challenges it faced in working with national governments. The consultation process ensured that the strongest practice could be shared globally, to help co-operatives communicate their value to policy makers, legislators and regulators.

The Global Policy and Advocacy Guide is available on request via mark@mutuo.coop

Australian Government announces plans to modernise laws for co-operatives and mutuals

  • Mutual enterprise to be defined in reforms to Australian corporations law
  • New options to invest in co-operatives and mutuals
  • Allows Australians to take a stake in mutual businesses
  • Major success for Mutuo advocacy strategy with BCCM

The Australian Federal Treasurer, Hon. Scott Morrison MP, has today announced that the Australian Government will legislate to create a better business environment for co-operatives and mutuals.  The announcement means that co-operatives will have the potential to access new and additional capital for long term business investment that benefits all Australians.

Today’s news is the result of two years painstaking work from Mutuo in collaboration with the Australian Business Council for Co-operatives and Mutuals (BCCM) and fifteen great Australian Mutuals. The decision comes on the back of the Federal Senate Inquiry into Co-operatives and Mutuals in 2016 and accepts in full the recommendations of the Hammond Review to reform the business environment for the sector, which has been published today.

Mutuo’s Peter Hunt said, “This is a huge day for co-operatives and mutuals across Australia. Throughout this project we have sought to champion a better business environment for the sector and today’s announcement is a recognition of the critical impact of our sector on the wider Australian economy.

The creation of new capital instruments has the potential to build a strong new asset class to shake up the investment environment and allow co-operatives and mutuals issuing them to invest, innovate, grow and compete.”

The proposed new capital instruments are similar to those that have been developed for Building Societies and Mutual Insurers in the UK and form part of a global Mutuo campaign to give co-operative and mutual business more financing options and greater opportunity to compete.

Mutuo developing policy guide for the International Co-operative Alliance

Mutuo is currently developing a Global Policy Guide for the International Co-operative Alliance.  This will be a toolkit that can be used by the ICA and its members in their advocacy work on behalf of co-operative businesses worldwide.

The Policy Guide will provide a keen communications narrative and crisp policy recommendations that can be taken forward at a Global, regional and national level by ICA members, regions and sectors.

Detailed survey work of ICA members has already been carried out and presented to the ICA board in Bulgaria last month; these findings will inform the document’s final recommendations. We were delighted to receive 110 responses from across all regions from 47 different nation states.

The document builds on Mutuo’s previous policy work in producing the ICMIF Global Manifesto and the Business Council for Co-operatives and Mutuals Policy Blueprint for an Enterprising Nation in Australia.

The document will be completed and presented in draft at the ICA’s Global Conference in Kuala Lumpur in November 2017.

Planet UK: news from another galaxy

So now we know what the EU negotiating position on Brexit will be. To be fair, anyone could have guessed it, but here on Planet UK we are expected to be surprised.

The level of British self-delusion on the realities of this divorce are going to take some time to overcome. After all, the whole basis of the referendum was forged out of misinformation about the EU. People here will talk seriously about bendy bananas, benefit tourism and uncontrolled immigration, none of which are real things.

The referendum campaign did little to illuminate the general public, with a strong media campaign reinforcing negative EU stereotypes and impossible promises for an ‘independent’ UK written on the side of buses.

As Progressives we must take our share of responsibility for the lacklustre Remain campaign, but also for years of failing to counter the anti-European propaganda that is fed to the British public on a daily basis.

All of this is well known among our friends in the EU. The question is how British Progressives should respond next.

If we just look at a handful of the conditions of the 27, we can see how soon reality is going to collide with the fantasy world of Planet UK:

-We expect that EU citizens rights will be quickly agreed – this can be presented positively as the UK citizens in the EU will benefit equally.

-The single financial settlement is much more problematic, as it is a key tenet on Planet UK that we ‘won’t pay a penny.’ The absurdity of this position will be laid out shortly as the list of commitments are identified, at which point the huge likely cost of 40-60 billion Euros needs to be accepted to move forward.

-A ‘soft’ border with Ireland sounds ideal in principle, but will potentially produce an anomaly that makes a farce of leaving. Expect this to re-ignite long held animosities in Northern Ireland.

-The location of EU agencies are to be in the EU. Expect UK media to scream about ‘punishing’ the UK. Louder if this extends to the Euro clearing system, which looks inevitable.

-Ongoing jurisdiction for the European Court of Justice – this is guaranteed to make the arch-Brexiteers foam at the mouth. Expect a disproportionate and incoherent response from the UK.

Progressives should urgently provide leadership, yet the Labour Party position since the referendum has been a disaster. Despite an unequivocal pro-European policy platform, and with most Labour voters and virtually every Labour MP supporting Remain, the Labour Parliamentary response to Brexit has been muddled, contradictory and ultimately self-harming. Labour proposed a number of amendments to the Bill enacting Article 50, including a unilateral guarantee of rights for EU citizens in the UK and crucially, a meaningful vote in Parliament on the final deal; all were defeated by the Conservative majority.

Inexplicably, Labour then voted with the Government after the amendments failed, allowing the article 50 Bill to pass with a massive majority and feeding the folklore that there is a popular majority support for the UK Government’s idea of a hard Brexit.

The logic was that Labour would pacify the Labour supporters of Leave, who it feared would desert them for UKIP or the Conservatives in Midlands and Northern Labour constituencies. More likely, their tactics in Parliament will instead have disillusioned ardent Remainers who are now considering lending their vote to the Liberal Democrats, who have been steadfast in their opposition to the Government’s position.

This all adds to the serious challenge Labour faces in the General Election, and on current polling, is likely to face severe losses.

So is there any chance of a Progressive response to Brexit? In many ways, one could say that this situation has to get worse before it can improve. Labour will inevitably be weakened by the election, but after that, it has the chance to take a principled stand against a hard Brexit, though its influence and power will be much diminished.

In the meantime, former Prime Minister Tony Blair and others have called for voters to only support candidates (of any party) that have an open mind on the final deal for Brexit. This is unprecedented, and may have little effect on who is elected, but it may deliver a few more MPs who are prepared to insist on being able to intelligently consider a final deal before it is adopted.

The fact is that sooner or later, the UK will have to face the realities of the divorce, and it remains to be seen how the public will respond to the cold, hard, truth of leaving.

This article was first published in The Progressive Post

New business policies in the interests of customers and workers

Mutuo has today launched new policy proposals to help make business work in the interests of ordinary citizens.

The People’s Business report seeks to put cooperatives and mutuals – firms owned by customers and workers – at the heart of business policy and calls on progressive politicians to support and champion them.

It is a positive response to the disillusionment felt by so many people who feel that economic and political systems only work for the vested interests of capitalist business, the wealthy and the powerful.

Cooperatives and mutuals are the true people’s businesses – they generate profits to share amongst their customers and workers in the form of dividends or lower prices.  This way of doing business benefits consumers, employees and European nations as a whole, providing diversity and choice in markets and sharing wealth more equitably.

The report shows that the people’s business is already hugely significant – across Europe there are 130,000 cooperatives and mutuals which account for 1.3 trillion Euros in income every year and provide work for nearly 5 million Europeans.

The Peoples’ Businesses already deal with some of the biggest political challenges we face by helping create:

  1. An economy that prioritises people before other interests 
  2. Policy ideas that counterbalance the effects of globalisation 
  3. Businesses that challenge inequality and spread wealth 
  4. Financial services in the interests of customers, not capital
  5. Work that is meaningful and rewarding
  6. Access to quality affordable housing 
  7. Energy security through local control

Yet their impact is uneven across the EU. Legislation, regulation and national policies often work to limit the opportunities for the people’s businesses to flourish.

This report proposes a series of practical measures to increase the contribution of the People’s Business and help address some of these huge social and economic challenges. It offers a political vision for Progressive politicians seeking to re-connect with the people they wish to serve.

The report can be viewed in full here.

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Working with colleagues from the Foundation for European Progressive Studies (FEPS) the report launch represents the culmination of 18 months work which took us to all corners of the European Union to meet with sector experts, academics and policymakers. We examined powerful examples of where this approach to business benefits Europeans every day – for example through worker cooperatives in Spain and Italy or customer owned banks and insurers in France and food retailers and producers across Northern Europe.

Some of Europe’s best known and most enduring businesses are cooperatives and mutuals – their resilience and longevity is testament to their relevance to the people they serve – the customers and workers of Europe.

Mutuo launches Mutual of Mutual and Cooperative Capital at Quebec Summit

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Mutuo has today launched the Mutual of Mutual and Cooperative Capital at the Quebec International Summit of Cooperatives.

The project has launched after a year of close work with our partners, Charles Taylor PLC.

Introducing MoMaCC 

Mutuals and cooperatives of all sizes need to raise capital. They also need to make secure investments to deliver returns. It is proposed to create MoMaCC as a new mutual to meet these needs. 

MoMaCC’s members and investors will themselves be mutuals and cooperatives. The board of directors will be drawn from the membership.

It is believed to be the first time that mutuals and cooperatives will be able to securely raise capital through an institution that they collectively own and control.

Who will create and manage MoMaCC? 

MoMaCC will be created by two businesses with a history of working with mutuals and cooperatives – Mutuo and Charles Taylor plc. Mutuo is an independent consultancy that works internationally with mutuals and cooperatives, particularly in relation to legislation and policy.

Charles Taylor plc is a professional services provider which has managed mutuals for over 130 years. The Group currently manages four mutuals and advises a fifth.

The opportunity 

Mutuo and Charles Taylor are approaching a small number of leading mutuals and cooperatives to become the founding members of MoMaCC. Founding members will join the initial board of the mutual, controlling key decisions including quality control of membership, investment criteria and areas of operation.

Longer term the membership of MoMaCC will be open to any cooperatives or mutuals that meet the due diligence and other quality criteria set by the board. The initial membership will focus on entities within the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) top 300 plus other mutuals of similar standing.

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Join Mutuo at the 2016 International Summit of Co-operatives

Quebec2016

The International Summit of Co-operatives is the world’s leading event for business development in the co-operative and mutual community.   It is being held later this year in Quebec City, October 11-13 2016.

It offers managers, decision-makers and leaders of cooperative and mutual enterprises of all size and in all sectors, as well as anyone in the world of business, a unique venue for reflection, discussion, cooperation and training on major trends, as well as on current and future economic and financial issues.

The Summit aims to promote and foster the development of co-operative enterprises in all countries. The event attracts more than 3,000 participants from 93 countries.

The Nobel Prize winner and acclaimed economist Joseph Stiglitz has been announced as the keynote speaker at this year’s Summit. Also announced as speakers at the Summit are Mark R. Kramer, FSG co-founder and shared value advocate, and Robert Reich, influential economist and former Secretary of Labor under U.S. President Bill Clinton.

For more information on the Summit, visit the website.