When the Christmas sales on the UK high streets are tallied up, it’s no surprise that for the last five years at least, the outlook and prognosis has been gloomy. Time after time, brands are losing money or disappearing altogether due to the online shopping proclivities of the public, and the overall dire economic situation in Europe. The only exception, it seems, have been co-ops and mutual businesses – businesses shared and owned by the employees or customers themselves. The John Lewis department stores are a good example of a worker-owned egalitarian business model that continues to buck the recession trend, and make large profits every year. The paradigm seems logical – construct a business model without a constrictive hierarchy; an inclusive organization that makes people want to come to work. And this is increasingly reaping benefits.
Recently the BBC ran a piece on the potential for co-operatives to extend into the much-maligned NHS and care services in the UK. Private care has always largely been a disaster (making money off of health services is a dangerous area), but Brits are equally vocal in their disaffection for the NHS (something I never understood, from personal experience). But now, government ministers are discussing the idea of doctor/nurse-owned care facilities. This could be potentially very good, but as with anything, there is also the potential for calamity. The fear comes from those that think once businesses are owned by the employees, what’s to stop them eventually becoming privatized; after all, profit motives run through everyone, to a degree. But the opposite argument is persuasive as well – most people invested in health care are there to make a positive difference in society, so why not let them run the show, instead of layers of middle management and council funding that is usually misappropriated? Either way, this seems to be another signpost of a kinder, more socially responsible society, one that is increasingly moving away from neo-liberal economics at least; another potential positive stride after the fallout of the sub-prime money making fiasco.