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The future is co-operative – short story imagines Dragon’s Den in 2032

International Year of Co-operatives logo

Imagine a scenario in which you go to business school or university expecting to gain a co-operative education, you study participatory democracy alongside maths and English in school, social media sites function as members’ co-operatives and even national organisations such as the BBC are run as co-operatives.

This is the world in which Dr Rory Ridley-Duff from Sheffield Business School sets Enterprise Version 2.0, a short story reimagining the popular enterprise TV programme Dragon’s Den to coincide with the launch of 2012, International Year of Co-operatives (IYC).

In the future as envisaged by Ridley-Duff, co-operation has superseded competition as the dominant paradigm of business. It’s 2032 and stock-broking is a criminal offence. Workplace democracy and citizen courts are the norm, as are ASBOs for predatory investors and hedge fund managers. The demise of private enterprise has led to a new generation of retail empires which “decided to split equity and dividends 50/50 between workforce and consumer members”. Only members and customers, not investors, can own equity because “you can’t just give a co-op money and expect to take its profits without regularly contributing to it”, leading to suicidal former investors turning to petty crime.

Ridley-Duff grounds the story by using the Occupy protests as a starting point for sweeping reforms that allowed co-operation to become mainstream. In the story, the Occupy protests had tangible outcomes, leading to governments taxing speculative financial transactions and paying off national debts.

Enterprise Version 2.0 is both entertaining reading and a compelling future vision for co-operators. The future looks bright – if we work together in 2012 to use the opportunities of IYC to raise awareness and show the potential of co-operatives.

Read Enterprise Version 2.0 online at

Find out more about the United Nations International Year of Co-operatives at