The Comparative Advantages of Single and Multi-Stakeholder Cooperatives: Reflections for a Research Agenda

Issues: Volume 7, Issue 2

Multi-stakeholding is a way to share, or democratise, decision-making power among stakeholders within organisations. Analysis, however, has not fully considered the role of this form of private governance. This paper builds on the observation of past and recent governance experiences in cooperative firms, where sharing decision-making power was associated with single stakeholdership. Though single stakeholdership seemed to be the preferred solution so far, recently multi-stakeholder governance has become more prominent also in cooperatives. In light of this evidence, this paper has three aims. The first is to set out some of the theoretical arguments for and against multi-stakeholder governance, to look at examples of multi-stakeholder models in practice, and to generate from this a set of research questions. A useful distinction to assess how multi-stakeholdership can be applied in practice is between ownership and strategic control. We then use this distinction to present examples taken from the experiences of Eroski (the big Iberian retailer), iCoop (the Korean cooperative that brings together farmers and consumers), and Italian social cooperatives, which place the desirability of multi-stakeholding as one of their constitutional features. Our conclusions emphasise the necessity of improving this field of enquiry by outlining a research agenda on multi-stakeholder cooperatives.

JEL classification: D23, P13, L20, L31
DOI: http: //
About authors: Johnston Birchall    Silvia Sacchetti    Download .PDF