POLYAS Election Glossary

We provide explanations and background information on elections, voting rights and digital democracy


Mutuals are membership organizations which are owned by their members and offer them specific services. Most mutuals operate in the financial services sector, namely insurance or banking. Additional, other areas of operation include health care, community projects and other social or environmental organizations.  
Mutual societies are usually not-for-profit organizations run solely for the benefit of their members. Funds are collected from the membership base which are then placed into a collective pool from which services can be provided to members. 

Governance in mutuals

The majority of mutuals are run by a board of directors on behalf of the members. The board of directors is usually elected by the members but can also be elected by delegates if the mutual operates widely across several regions. Elections are typically conducted either at the AGM or by postal vote. Some mutuals are already voting online because it's more convenient for their voters, e.g. if the mutual has a large membership base.

Typical examples of mutuals are credit unions. Moreover, cooperatives are also based on the concept of mutuality. 

See also: Bylaws, online voting, cooperatives

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