Self-employment in a worker co-operative: Finding a balance between individual and community needs
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ViittausPuusa, Anu. Hokkila, Kirsi. (2015). Self-employment in a worker co-operative: Finding a balance between individual and community needs. Co-operatives and the World of Work, 2015 International Research Conference, Antalya, Turkey, 8-10 November 2015;,
This research explores self-employment in a worker co-operative context. The empirical case study was conducted using qualitative methods, with a focus on interpreting the motivations for choosing a co-operative as a business form for self-employment. We examine the relationship between co-operative practice and theory with regards to its established principles and dual nature in a framework of entrepreneurship literature. This article answers the following question: How are the characteristics of a co-operative business form interpreted and do they reflect the traditional, well-established core ideas of co-operatives? Based on the analysis, we identified 6 motivational factors that describe a co-operative as a business form in the context of self-employment. Three of these reflect the universal autonomy needs identified in self-employment literature: empowerment, self-management and freedom. We propose that the other three, security, diversity and communality, are unique features of co-operatives that stem from the established co-operative principles. In addition to the basic autonomy needs of self-employment, we conclude that co-operative structure offers various additional benefits for the self-employed. The latter features make a co-operative community a distinctive and unique forum for self-employment and serve as the essential drivers for choosing this particular business form. However, we found that, once combined with the autonomy features, they might result in problems finding a balance between individual and community needs. We therefore claim that, although co-operatives have an ability to lower the barrier to entrepreneurship, the needs of self-employed people are not unquestionably compatible with the features or needs of a co-operative company. Based on our research, we suggest that individuality and communality are the rival forces that form the most inherent contradiction in worker co-operative operations. Therefore, we propose that the striving for balance between individual needs and those of the community reflects a 'new dual role' of co-operatives.