Partnership models are the path to prosperity

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Deputy prime minister Nick Clegg believes he has the answer to creating strong growth for the UK. He suggests that the country needs to become “more of a John Lewis economy” with mass employee share ownership.

The message has global resonance right now. The United Nations has announced that 2012 is an “International Year of Co-operatives” and is aiming to create more co-op and mutual businesses not just in the UK but across the world. The body is running a worldwide summit this year on how to set up such firms.

It isn’t the first time that the UK coalition government has pushed the co-operative model either. The Conservative Co-operative Movement has been running since 2007 and aims to “promote the co-operative ideal” and put forward “alternative models of capitalism in which risk and profit are shared more equitably”.

A new era of partnership is also the theme of our cover story this week, which looks at the world of sport. Rather than being seen as sponsors at an arm’s length, brands want to be strategic partners.

“Sponsorship in its traditional form is dead. You have to come up with something that is an embedded, engaging experience with your partners,” according to Manchester City FC’s head of partnerships Luis Vicente. He points to a relationship with games brand Electronic Arts, which sees the businesses jointly employing staff to develop their mutual goals.

The important element of Manchester City’s new partnership model is that the company is investing money, time and management commitment in this strategy. It is not an afterthought or a bolt-on. It will be interesting to see if more firms are able to follow this path.

Indeed, research from Cass business school claims that employee-owned businesses are better at creating jobs and growing sales during the recession than other firms. “Employees who have a stake in the company they work for are more committed to delivering quality and more flexible in the face of the needs of business,” the study reports.

At a time when we all need to pull together and make the best of 2012’s unpredictable economic situation, any model that uses the brainpower, energy and enthusiasm of every stakeholder within a business seems not only like a good strategy, but a highly necessary one.

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