Authored Book

People-centred Businesses: Co-operatives, Mutuals and the Idea of Membership



Birchall J (2010) People-centred Businesses: Co-operatives, Mutuals and the Idea of Membership. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Johnston Birchall provides a radical new way of seeing business organizations. Distinguishing between investor and member ownership, he enables consumer, producer and employee-owned businesses to emerge clearly from a fog of misunderstanding. Drawing on economic and sociological theories, he explains why this type of business began, survived, died out or became dominant in particular markets. Providing chapters on: consumer co-operatives; building societies and savings and loans; co-operative banks and credit unions; housing co-operatives; friendly societies and mutual insurers; farmer and retailer-owned businesses; member-owned public services and utilities; and co-operatives in developing countries, he finds demutualization has only affected some sectors while in others the idea of membership has been revitalized. The banking crisis has had little impact on co-operative banks, whose risk-averse business strategy is a model for a reformed banking sector. He concludes that member-ownership can be both a weakness and a strength; lack of member involvement in governance leads to business failure, while a membership-driven strategy leads to success even in very competitive markets.

Publication date31/12/2010
PublisherPalgrave Macmillan
Publisher URL
Place of publicationLondon