The Make-up of a Co-operative Board

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This is a summary of a presentation produced by The Hive. For the full presentation, click here.

The board of a co-operative is critical to the long-term success of the organisation. Below, and in the attached links, are summaries as to how this success can be achieved. 

Whilst having like-minded individuals on a board may appear to be a good way of working, this can lead to such boards becoming homogenous and lacking in diversity and the skills and competencies required. Recruitment should focus on bringing in individuals with a different relationship to the organisation such as workers and even customers. Any member can be a director and such individuals are often ideally suited as they are invariably passionate about the aims of the organisation.

This shouldn’t however, be the only way to look at recruitment as this relies heavily on the right people coming forward to stand for election.
So how do you ensure that a board is sufficiently diverse and fulfils its aims? The primary considerations are to ensure that you:

  • Carry out regular board evaluations. This serves to inform future recruitment by providing qualifying criteria and the ability to start a board member development programme. 
  • Hold regular contested elections supported by open processes that ensure that the widest possible network of candidates is reached.
  • Build a mix of both individual and business skills on the board but also ensure that those with the values of the co-operative are represented too.

In many cases you will find that such processes will not always locate suitable candidates so a board can be further strengthened by 

  • Executive board appointments. Recruiting the CEO or senior staff, whilst not appropriate to all, brings strength, stability and highly-skilled individuals to the board.
  • Non-Executive appointments. Such individuals provide independence of judgment and character to the board and often a unique perspective that may, for example, have been gained elsewhere in the co-operative movement. The different expertise and experience required can often be identified as a skills gap on the board, however, the appointment, as with all board appointments must be ratified by the organisation’s members.

In addition, Board members should be aware of the Co-operative movement’s values and principles which, in summary, are:

Values
  • Self-help
  • Self-responsibility
  • Democracy
  • Equality
  • Equity
  • Solidarity

Principles
  • Voluntary and open membership
  • Democratic
  • Member economic participation
  • Autonomy and independence
  • Education, training and information
  • Co-operation among co-operatives
  • Concern for the community

For more on the co-operative values and principles, click here

For guidance on being a Trust Board Director, click here

For information on Board Member training, click here

For further information on The Hive, please visit www.thehive.coop/governance

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