Not currently offered
Course code



10 units


6000 level

Course handbook


This introductory course provides students with a theoretical and practical framework for understanding the origins, principles and values, and the strengths and weaknesses of the co-operative business model. It seeks to explain how this business model is positioned in relation to the market, social and sharing economies. It explores different types of co-operatives based on different models of ownership and considers how and why these types have emerged and continue to evolve to provide solutions to a range of social, economic and environmental problems in Australia and internationally. The course will examine contemporary challenges with co-operative law, capital-raising, governance and management and seeks to identify barriers to co-operative growth and development. This is an introductory course, and a more detailed study of many of these areas will be offered in the courses: LEGL6005 Legal Frameworks and Governance and GSBS6412 Social Enterprises and Co-operative Innovation.


Not currently offered.

This Course was last offered in Trimester 1 - 2020.

Learning outcomes

On successful completion of the course students will be able to:

1. Describe the co-operative principles and values and their role in delineating a unique business model.

2. Explain the key differences between the co-operative, mutual, investor-owned company and a (not for profit) social enterprise.

3. Analyse the reasons for the emergence of co-operatives as an alternative business model following the industrial revolution and their revival and relevance in the modern economy.

4. Evaluate the strengths and weaknesses of different types of co-operatives and their potential to provide solutions to contemporary economic, social and environmental problems.

5. Analyse the impact of key challenges in co-operative law, governance and management on co-operative growth and development.

6. Explore through collaborative group work the opportunities for co-operative innovation and renewal in the sharing economy.


The topics in this course include the following:

1.     Introduction – what makes the co-operatives and mutuals different from other business models

2.     Understanding co-operative identity, values and principles.

3.     Typology of co-operatives

4.     The history, resilience and re-emergence of the co-operative model internationally

5.     Understanding past and current features impacting the Australian co-operative sector

6.     Theories explaining the resilience and advantages of the co-operative model

7.     New trends: co-operatives in public and community service delivery

8.     Co-operative innovation, technological, organisational and contributions to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

9.     Co-operative law and legal frameworks

10.   Co-operative management and member’s economic participation

11.   Co-operative governance and democratic decision-making

12.   Co-operative finance and capital raising

Assessment items

Written Assignment: Report on co-operative identity

Written Assignment: Newspaper article on co-operative advantage and resilience

Online Learning Activity: Group meetings and Individual Reflections

The University of Newcastle acknowledges the traditional custodians of the lands within our footprint areas: Awabakal, Darkinjung, Biripai, Worimi, Wonnarua, and Eora Nations. We also pay respect to the wisdom of our Elders past and present.