Public services research: The roles for co-operatives and mutuals in delivering 21st century public services

Society’s “wicked problems'* including an aging population and the rising costs of healthcare and education together with the challenges of reforms like the National Disability Insurance Scheme (NDIS) are opportunities to consider whether co-operative and mutual solutions can be applied to help design solutions that best serve the needs of end-users.

In the area of disability services in particular, the growing demand for end-user accountability is creating the need for a consumer market through the transfer of purchasing and decision-making power from the provider to the end-user.

The Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals in collaboration with the Tomorrow’s Agenda Research Institute and bankmecu has commissioned research into the roles for co-operatives and mutuals in delivering 21st century public services.

The focus for the research is on the comparative advantage (or added value) of the co-operative and mutual model in delivering services in areas including disability care, affordable housing and education.

The objective of the research is to provide an evidence base to inform
public policy and practice. Through case studies, the research investigates the comparative advantage of co-ops and mutuals in terms of:

  • Incentive optimisation (the different relationship between producers and consumers (intermediaries) for co-ops and mutuals);
  • Information asymmetry (where traditional service delivery methods fail consumers);
  • Governance (including multi-stakeholder governance and community ownership and democracy);
  • Capital raising and resourcing (from members and communities); and
  • Co-operatively designed service delivery systems.

The research is slated for completion after the 2013 Federal election and will include a green paper with a view to establishing a public sector ‘mutuals’ taskforce.

*What is a “wicked problem”? The term ‘wicked’ in this context is used, not in the sense of evil, but rather to denote an issue that is complex and highly resistant to resolution.

Read more opinion on the role of the private sector in solving “wicked problems” in this op-ed in Pro Bono News

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Hugh Jackman
Hugh Jackman, actor and supporter of IYC 2012
"...In 2012, I hope everyone comes to better understand the transforming power of co-operatives all over the world including Australia."

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