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 It combined unpublished findings from his PhD with case studies published in the first edition of Understanding Social Enterprise: Theory and Practice.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.

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) 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.

Evidence presented by Sheffield Hallam University shows that by 31st December 2021 the FairShares Model had been taken up by practitioners, academics and consultants in 39 countries across five continents.

If you are interested in learning more, join one of the FairShares incubators at:

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 co-ordinated the development and dissemination of FairShares IP in collaboration with entrepreneurs, consultants, educators and researchers working in the social solidarity economy. The version published in 2018 is a more integrated implementation of the FairShares Model that supports the European FairShares Labs for Social and Blue Innovation (www.fairsharesplatform.eu). It also enables business advisers, accountants and consultants to produce Articles of Association (ByLaws) using a FairShares Rules Generator.

In 2021, Evolutesix founder Graham Boyd published a book with economist Jack Reardon and established the concept and practices of FairShares Commons Companies. This aim to build a regenerative economy in which stewardship of different forms of capital (natural, human, social, intellectual, manufactured and financial) are harness in support of sustainable development.