Multi-stakeholder Co-operation in Social Enterprises

Rory has pioneered a new approach to developing companies, co-operatives, parternships and associations which combine:

  • the knowledge-creation model of Wikipedia;
  • the governance model of the John Lewis Partnership;
  • the values and principles of the cooperative movement.

This combination is a proxy for the FairShares Model, an approach that advocates a society in which every adult becomes a member-owner of the organisation(s) for which they work, from which they regularly buy goods and from which they receive social services. In short, a FairShares community is one in which every adult becomes a co-owner of the organisations on which they, their family and their community depend.

The FairShares Model

The FairShares Model was published by Rory in late 2012 after extensive discussions with Cliff Southcombe (MD, Social Enterprise International) and Nicci Dickins (MD, Make It Happen Consultancy). It combined unpublished findings from his PhD with case studies published in the first edition of Understanding Social Enterprise: Theory and Practice. Concurrently, Cliff and Rory published an award-winning paper in the Social Enterprise Journal about social enterprise that led members of Social Enterprise International (SEi) to update their definition. These works come together in the FairShares Model.

Rory and Cliff started running activities with students of social entrepreneurship in their Co-operative and Social Enterprise Summer Schools (between 2011 and 2014) to test out emerging FairShares concepts. By 2015, Rory was in a position to write a book - The Case for FairShares - in three parts. Part 1 set out the historical context, core arguments and development pathways of FairShares. In Part 2, he published 13 learning activities that support the transition to a new approach. In Part 3, he published three constitutions (for associations, co-operatives and companies) so they could implement FairShares Values and Principles.

A second edition of The Case for FairShares is currently begin negotiated with Evolutesix Books, with a target publication date of June 2021.

Listen to Rory's lecture on the relevance of FairShares for members of FairShares Labs

Early adopters of FairShares can be found in many countries. Projects have developed in the UK, US, Ireland, Australia and New Zealand. The EU FairShares Labs project (and Social Licence Agreements with Social Enterprise Europe) will spread it to Croatia, Hungary, Germany, Netherlands, East Africa, Nigeria and Mexico. A particularly important early adopter was Mass Mosaic (see video above). They were developing a platform cooperative to support the sharing economy. Their approach fitted with the FairShares paradigm through active support for philanthropic, mutual and market modes of exchange in a single enterprise.

Rory drafted a FairShares constitution for Rob Jameson and Eric Doriean so they could convert Mass Mosaic into AnyShare Society. They now have a constitution through which wealth and power can be shared across a community. In light of the potential benefits, AnyShare Society, the FairShares Association and Social Enterprise International are seeking further ways to collaborate and develop their approach (see video below).

The Future - FairShares Version 3.0

FairShares Association Ltd was incorporated by Rory in July 2015 (with co-founders Cliff Southcombe, Nicci Dickins and Steve Wagstaff). The company will co-ordinate the development and dissemination of FairShares IP in collaboration with entrepreneurs, consultants, educators and researchers working in the social solidarity economy. The latest version is a more integrated implementation of the FairShares Model that supports the European FairShares Labs for Social and Blue Innovation (www.fairshareslab.org). It also enables business advisers, accountants and consultants to produce Articles of Association (ByLaws) using a FairShares Rules Generator. Rory secured seed funding for a FairShares Institute at Sheffield Business School which has directly supported the FairShares Labs project and will be embedded in a Centre for Social, Cooperative and Voluntary Action at Sheffield Hallam University.

FairShares V3.0a was published on 1st January 2018.