Business development and advice

Co-operative support

Co-operative support

There is growing interest among business leaders and communities in creating fairer, purpose-led, more democratic businesses. Co-operatives increase prosperity and equity, creating better opportunities for everyone and spreading the benefits of economic success more evenly. Learn how Co-operative Development Scotland can help you do this.

What is a co-operative?

Co-operative businesses are democratically run organisations owned and controlled by their members to meet their needs. They are strong, diverse and stable businesses that create shared wealth that put people and place on an equal footing to profit.

Membership can be made up of employees, customers, community residents and other business, such as suppliers or partners, who all have an interest and a voice in running the co-operative.

Made in Scotland - a consortium co-operative

To be recognised as a co-operative, a business should follow seven key principles, outlined by the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA). These are:

  • Voluntary and Open Membership
  • Democratic Member Control
  • Member Economic Participation
  • Autonomy and Independence
  • Education, Training, and Information
  • Cooperation among Cooperatives
  • Concern for Community

Learn more about co-operative identity, values and principles on the ICA website

Types of co-operative business model

There are a range of co-op business models that can fit a variety of member needs and ambitions. These include:

  • Community co-operatives
  • Consortium co-operatives (collaboration between businesses)
  • Platform co-operatives (digital or tech co-operatives)
  • Worker co-operatives
  • Employee-owned businesses

You can learn more about each of these models below. 

How Co-operative Development Scotland can help

Co-operative Development Scotland (CDS), part of Scottish Enterprise, can offer advice to help you choose and implement the best co-operative business model for your organisation or community.

We also collaborate with key partners such as Co-ops UK, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, South of Scotland Enterprise, Community Shares Scotland and the Plunket Foundation to help improve understanding of co-ops and to develop a strong support landscape.

Kettle of Fish - a consortium co-operative

What kind of support is available?

We support businesses and communities looking to adopt or develop their co-operative business model by offering advice on feasibility, structure, governance, member engagement and providing the necessary legal documents.

We support both start-up and existing co-operatives. 

If you're looking to start up a new co-operative, we can help you with:

  • Business planning and feasibility
  • Advice on models and legal structures
  • Advice on governance, management, funding and other issues for the new entity
  • Support the formation of an appropriate legal entity
  • Working alongside and signposting you (where appropriate) to other key support organisations

If you need support with an existing co-op, we can help you with:

  • Governance and legal structure review
  • Implementation of new governance and/or structure
  • Securing funding
  • Refreshing your strategy
  • A co-op 'health-check' and action planning
Co-operative Development Scotland logo

Learn more with our video guide

Find out more about co-operatives and the support available to help you get started with our inclusive business model video series.

Find out more

Are you looking to start a new co-operative or develop an existing one? Contact us to find out how we can help.

Co-operative business case studies

The founders of the Start-Up Drinks Lab, a collaborative business

The Start-Up Drinks Lab's innovative solution for small-batch production

"We’re committed to supporting Scotland and Scottish produce by giving producers an accessible, affordable platform"
Read full success story
Argyll and the Isles Tourism Co-operative - a collaborative business

How the Argyll and Isles Tourism Co-operative is attracting new visitors

"This setup is... an excellent means for engaging remote rural businesses in training and development, as well as campaign activity"
Read full success story

How Granite Care Consortium became a consortium co-operative

"[The consortium] creates market stability, improves outcomes for our users and helps to build a consistently trained and skilled workforce"
Read full success story