You may ask yourself how a cooperative society works. How many members can take part in it? How do they get involved? And finally, what is the purpose of setting up an organization that will have to coordinate a group of members?
Let’s start with some basic information regarding the legal aspects of the co-op’s in Luxembourg:
|Number of shareholders||Minimum 2 – no maximum|
|Start-up capital||No minimum – no maximum|
|Liability||Limited or unlimited|
|Transfer or share parts?||You can’t transfer or share your parts to third parties|
|Memorandum of articles||Private agreement or notarised deed|
|Daily life||Same rules as for incorporated societies (monist or dual system), if not specified differently in the articles of constitution|
To illustrate what exactly a co-op is, let’s have a look at the example of the cooperative society OUNI, the first zero-waste grocery store in Luxembourg where I enrolled myself as a member. To be able to finance this pioneer project, the founders call out to every person sharing their values or willing to join them. The call was broadcasted on social media, in the press as well as during some events and presentations. That’s the part where the participative management mindset and the multiplicity of stakeholders that define the concept of cooperative society come into play. Indeed, the approach of the co-op enables it to engage and connect a huge number of members that work side by side with the associates. As far as OUNI is concerned, the co-op counts 7 shareholders and 250 members who hold more than 180 000 € in shares.
Participative management and the multiplicity of stakeholders define the concept of cooperative society.
At OUNI there are 2 “categories” of members: the “members” and the “active members”. The members hold a share of OUNI and regardless of their number of shares, every member represents an equal vote. The members are financial owners of the company which means that we could talk about an “upgraded crowdfunding”. Indeed, the members don’t only ensure the financial viability of the co-op but they create a real community around the zero-waste grocery store. The “active members”, assume the same role as the “members” but in addition to this, they commit to two working hours per month within the co-op. This is all very well and good in theory but how is that put into practice?
After a short introduction on hygienic standards and daily activities, the “active members” can contribute actively to the daily management of OUNI. In addition to the work in the grocery store.OUNI has put up work groups which are divided into different topics like finances or communication. This means that, in addition to the formal meetings or assemblies of the associates and the members of the board of directors, the members implement collective intelligence in order to face the different challenges and to decide about daily matters. This kind of commitment is particularly interesting for companies that are operating in the field of the social economy. Why?
The members don’t only ensure the financial viability of the co-op but they create a real community around the zero-waste grocery store.
Setting up a co-op inevitably induces managing and organizing a large group of members. However, this has also one advantage: the community is mobilized around the project from the very beginning. In this way, the grocery store had the opportunity to test its market offer before it got down to business. Once the store was running, OUNI already had a client base formed by its 250 members and their personal networks. Last but not least, the success and the development of the grocery store OUNI is largely due to the collective energy and the financial involvement of the members of OUNI.
To cut a long story short, a co-op is strategic because it unifies a community around its purpose and it enables to test and to develop the market before it launches. This participative organizational model is undeniably advantageous for social companies that evolve due to the rise in the citizens’ commitment.
In my opinion, OUNI offered me the opportunity to get involved in an environmental-friendly organization. Besides, I have the chance to participate actively in its process of development and decision-making. OUNI also enables me to meet new people that are also concerned about waste reduction. Long life to the co-op!