Innovative Consumer Co-operatives: The Rise and Fall of Berkeley

1st Edition

Greg Patmore

April 27, 2020 Forthcoming
Reference - 310 Pages - 19 B/W Illustrations
ISBN 9781138614109 - CAT# K389441
Series: Routledge International Studies in Business History

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Consumer co-operatives provide a different approach to organizing business through their ideals of member ownership and democratic practice. Every co-operative member has an equal vote regardless of his or her own personal capital investment. The co-operative movement can also be an important force in promoting development and self-sufficiency in poorer areas, particularly in non-industrialised countries.

This book explores in depth the fortunes of the Berkeley Consumer Co-operative, which became the largest consumer co-operative in the United States with 116,000 members in 1984 and viewed nationally as a leader in innovative retail practices and a champion of consumer rights. The Berkeley Consumer Co-operative is promoted by both supporters and opponents of the co-operative business model as a significant example of what can go wrong with the co-operatives.

This book will provide the first in depth analysis of the history of the Berkeley Co-operative using its substantial but little used archives and oral histories to explore what the Berkeley experience means for the co-operative business model. The specific chapters relating to Berkeley will be organised around particular themes to highlight the issues relating to the co-operative business model and the local context of Berkeley. The themes relate to developments in Berkeley and the Bay Area in terms of the economy, politics and the retail environment; the management of the Berkeley co-operative, looking at governance, financial management and strategic decisions; relationship of management with members and employees; and finally, the relationship of the Berkeley Co-operative with the community.

The core message of the book is that it is not inevitable that consumer co-operatives fail, but that the story of Berkeley story can provide insights that can strengthen the co-operative business model and minimise failures on the scale of Berkeley occurring in the future.

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