Corporation, n. An ingenious device for obtaining personal wealth without personal responsibility.
It was in the early 1900s that journalist Ambrose Bierce came up with this definition, as part of his charmingly cynical ‘Devil’s Dictionary’. At the time, society was emerging from a century of staggering changes in technological progress, economic growth and social turmoil.
Mr Bierce didn’t include a definition for a co-operative business model in his dictionary, although the Rochdale Pioneers had invented and implemented this fabulous concept in 1844. They made an imaginative quantum leap: they dreamed up a business that was run by and owned by its customers and employees, so that they had a true stake in the business.
Once again we’re living in times when there is great public cynicism with big business and the banking sector in particular, and we’re heading for a period of major economic and social upheaval as climate changes have their effect on populations across the world.
We need some radical new ways of working and living, like the Rochdale Pioneers created – whether that’s in delivering public services, or developing businesses. Have we got the imagination and the chutzpah to do it in time?
This post first appeared in the Manchester: Knowledge Capital blog.