Can entrepreneurship be institutionalised? The case of worker co-operatives

Cornforth, Chris (1988). Can entrepreneurship be institutionalised? The case of worker co-operatives. International Small Business Journal, 6(4) pp. 10–19.



CHRIS CORNFORTH is with the Co-operatives Research Unit of the Open University in the United Kingdom. Although the last ten years has seen a revival in the worker co-operatives sector in the UK it remains relatively small and economically weak. The primary aim of this paper is to consider how the sector might be strengthened and the implications this has for policy aimed at supporting co-operatives, and more generally small businesses. It is argued that the lack of appeal of co-operatives to potential entrepreneurs, the position of co-operatives in the economy and various constraints on growth are important barriers to the development of the sector. The paper examines the successful Mondragon co-operatives in Spain to see what lessons can be learned about how these barriers might be overcome. It is argued that the Mondragon experience challenges the dominant model of co-operatives and small business promotion in the UK. It argues that more resources need to be concentrated on assisting small businesses and co-operatives with the potential for growth and encouraging collaborative links between them. It is suggested that in order to achieve these ends the entrepreneurial process will need to be further institutionalised in the organisations that support co-operatives and small businesses.

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