Last month, ICMIF member the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals (BCCM) in partnership with its members, launched Australia’s first cooperative development fund to provide targeted legal, financial and governance advice. Early-stage for-purpose businesses that have members (not shareholders) can now apply to the fund to help grow their social enterprise.
The Bunya Fund was developed to address the critical gap in accessing professional advice and education on the cooperative business model which has resulted in a lack of diversity in Australian social enterprise business models. In the first year, AUD 140,000 was raised from established cooperatives and mutuals to invest in capacity building and scaling for early-stage coops and mutuals; it is expected to grow to a AUD 500k per year fund.
The Bunya Fund is designed to help grow the next generation of high impact coops and mutuals. Founding funders include Bank Australia, Australian Unity, Co-operative Bulk Handling (CBH) and CoPower. The aim of The Bunya Fund is to help emerging cooperatives and mutuals to grow and prosper to increase their positive impact on their members, their communities, the environment and society.
BCCM CEO, Melina Morrison, said “These enterprises operate across Australian society from sustainable agriculture, affordable housing, renewable energy and social care to community banking, community owned retail, Indigenous services and arts and culture. Cooperatives and mutuals empower people to work together to solve their common needs through a democratically controlled and jointly owned business model. It’s about Australians helping Australians and creating a more prosperous society where everyone can thrive by working together.”
“Importantly, the Fund aims to create more cooperation amongst cooperatives, which is a principle that all coops legally ascribe to.”
Godfrey Moase, Chair of Cooperative Power said, “As a new cooperative aiming to make energy cheaper and cleaner for a fairer Australia, we understand the value of The Bunya Fund to grow a more democratic economy. The Fund is an important link in a thriving network of cooperatives.”
The Bunya Fund will support up to five early-stage cooperative or mutuals or initiatives (or businesses converting to a cooperative or mutual structure) by providing capacity building, education and advisory services, valued at between AUD 5,000 and AUD 25,000. Eligible organisations are for-profit, not-for-profit or charitable co-operatives and mutuals, or other enterprises looking to convert to a cooperative or mutual.