Available in 2018, 2019
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.

Availability2018 Course Timetables

WebLearn GradSchool

  • Trimester 1 - 2018
  • Trimester 1 - 2019

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. Identify key challenges in the areas of co-operative law, governance and management and analyse their impact on co-operative growth and development.

6. Evaluate the opportunities for co-operative platforms to innovate and compete with extractive business models in the sharing economy.


The topics in this course include the following:

1.   Introduction – co-operative principles and values

2.   Co-op history – International

3.   Co-op history - Australia

4.   The co-operative advantage

5.   Co-operative identity and types of co-operatives

6.   Financial co-operatives, credit unions and mutuals

7. Public service mutuals and community service co-operatives 

8. Co-operative law and legal frameworks

9. Co-operative governance – democracy and decision-making

10. Co-operative management – start-up, fund-raising and exit/demutualisation

11. Co-operative innovation – platform co-operativism

12. Co-operatives and the sustainable development goals (SDG)

Assessment items

Online Learning Activity: Group meetings and Individual Reflections

Written Assignment: Report on co-operative identity

Written Assignment: Research essay on co-operative advantage and innovation

Contact hours

WebLearn GradSchool

Online Activity

Online 4 hour(s) per Week for Full Term

Students will be required to complete 4 hours of guided learning via online preparation, discussion groups or self-directed learning and an additional 6 hours of independent study per week.