Centre for Mutual and Employee-owned Business

A centre of excellence in research and education for the mutual and
co-owned business sectors

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Policy makers, academics, employees and citizens more generally are showing increasing interest in the participatory approach to stakeholder involvement created by co-owned and mutual enterprise. Sea changes in the UK and global economies have reinforced the importance of the mutual and co-owned business sectors, with their high standards of corporate ethics, community responsibility and long-term sustainable strategies.

The Oxford Centre for Mutual and Employee-owned Business (MEOB) is a response to this new environment. Led by the centre’s Director, Jonathan Michie, it aims to be a centre of new thinking, new ideas, new evidence and new education on these increasingly significant sectors of the UK economy. The principal activities of the Oxford Centre for Mutual and Employee-owned Business will thus be research and professional development via tailored short courses and educational programmes focused on the business needs of the mutual and co-owned sectors. With a commitment to applied knowledge and dissemination, the Centre will also run conferences, seminars and guest lectures and aims to promote networking and partnering within and beyond Oxford.

Aims:

• Lead research into the performance of the mutual and co-owned sectors
• Offer professional development programmes closely matched to the needs of relevant businesses and the development of their current and future leaders
• Encourage debate and advance new thinking about mutuality and co-ownership
• Create a national and international network of academics, practitioners and policy makers

The ownership of businesses is a crucial element in determining how they are governed, whose interests they prioritise and how they are held to account.  While conventional, shareholder-owned businesses are primarily accountable to external investors, for whom they are expected to maximise financial returns, mutual and employee-owned businesses are organised along different principles, which factor in a broader array of interests and values.

Mutuals (such as building societies in the financial sector or Foundation Trust Hospitals in the public sector) are run on behalf of their members, who use and depend on them; they do not sell shares.  Employee-owned businesses are either organised as mutuals, accountable to their employees (such as the John Lewis Partnership in the UK) or employees hold a controlling share.

This is an under-appreciated and under-researched part of the economy.  The Centre for Mutual and Employee-owned Business exists to develop and compile research on these alternative corporate forms, and to act as an academic hub for economists, sociologists, political scientists, lawyers and business and management scholars, with an interest in broadening debates about ownership and corporate governance.

The assumption that businesses ought necessarily be governed for the maximisation of financial returns to external shareholders has come under increasing strain in recent years, and there is growing public and policy interest in challenging the orthodox model of the corporation.  Via research, events, advocacy and the development of a new educational curriculum in mutual business, the Centre will seek to become a leading source of expertise on ownership and corporate governance, and to develop academic and public understanding of mutual and employee-owned models.

The Centre is supported by the member organisations for co-owned and mutual businesses in the UK – Mutuo and the Employee Ownership Association. The Centre’s first corporate sponsor is Simplyhealth.

Contact the Centre

All enquiries should be directed to Ruth Yeoman ruth.yeoman@kellogg.ox.ac.uk

Business Ethics in East Asia: Examples in Historical Context – Chris Rowley & Ingyu Oh eds (Routledge, 2017)
Mutual, Cooperative and Employee-Owned Businesses in the Asia Pacific: Diversity, Resilience and Sustainable Growth – Chris Rowley & Jonathan Michie eds (Routledge, 2015)
Ethical and Social Marketing in Asia – Bang Nguyen & Chris Rowley (Chandos Publishing, 2015)
Reframing Building Societies and Mutual Insurers: Collaboration as a source of competitive advantage – Ruth Yeoman, Kellogg College, University of Oxford and Daniel Tischer, Alliance Manchester Business School (University of Oxford, 2016)
Becoming a Public Service Mutual: Understanding Transition and Change – Will Davies and Ruth Yeoman (Cooperative Group & Mutuo, 2013)
Blueprint for a Cooperative Decade – Will Davies & Cliff Mills (International Cooperative Alliance, 2012)
Measuring Mutuality: Indicators for Financial Mutuals – Jonathan Michie & Will Davies (Association of Financial Mutuals, 2012)
Plurality, Stewardship & Engagement: The Report of the Ownership Commission (2012)
Employee Ownership: Defusing the business succession time bomb in Wales – William Davies & Jonathan Michie (Wales Co-operative Centre, 2012)
All of Our Business: Why Britain needs more private sector employee ownership – William Davies (Employee Ownership Association, 2012)
Mutuals Yearbook 2013
Bringing Mutualism Back into Business – William Davies (Policy Network, 2010)
Mutuals Yearbook 2012
Promoting Corporate Diversity in the Financial Services Sector– Jonathan Michie (2010)
A Mutual Health Service – Report of a Parliamentary Seminar (2009)
Reinventing The Firm– William Davies (Demos, 2009)
Converting financial institutions into mutual organisations – Jonathan Michie and David Llewellyn (2009)

A strategic vision for the UK financial mutuals sector

The financial mutuals sector (building societies and mutual insurers) makes a vital contribution to the UK financial services industry. Mutuals are a core feature of a diverse financial services market, ensuring that the broader financial services industry supports an economically productive and socially sustainable economy which makes lives better by providing the consumer with trusted financial products and services.

It is in this context that The Building Societies Association (BSA) and the Association of Financial Mutuals (AFM) funded the Centre for Mutual and Employee-owned Business at Kellogg College, University of Oxford to undertake independent research to investigate the strategic application of the values and principles of mutuality, and the contribution these can make to fostering the sector’s growth.

The research was conducted by Dr Ruth Yeoman, Research Fellow at the Centre for Mutual and Employee-owned Business and Dr Daniel Tischer, Lecturer in Political Economy and Organisation Studies at the University of Manchester. The project examined potential strategic drivers, such as leadership, culture and inter-organisational collaboration. The study also examined the contribution that mutuality can make to create a compelling vision for the broader financial services sector, based upon improving people’s lives.

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The Ownership Commission

The Ownership Commission was established in 2010, to examine the state of corporate ownership in the UK.  Chaired by economist, Will Hutton, and consisting of 11 commissioners drawn from business, politics and academia (including Jonathan Michie), it produced its final report [pdf] in March 2012, detailing the current make-up of ownership in Britain, and how it affects the performance and fairness of the British economy.  The report lays out a series of recommendations on how to increase the plurality of ownership forms, the stewardship of shareholders and the engagement of owners with the organisations which belong to them.

Index of Diversity

The Centre is currently working on the development of an ‘index of diversity’ for the financial services sector, so that progress towards the Coalition Agreement’s pledges to promote greater corporate diversity, including through the promotion of mutuals, can be tracked over time.  It also plans to produce new case studies of co-operative and mutual enterprises, leading to the publication of standardised ‘cases’, which will also be used in future teaching.