Co-operatives UK has called on the next government to formulate a clear policy on how cooperatives can deliver public services.
The request forms part of the umbrella body's general election "cooperative call to action", published this week, and is addressed to all political parties.
Ed Mayo, secretary general of the organisation, said: "We wish to see the next government make a commitment to encourage a diverse economy where the cooperative business model features strongly."
The call to action also advocates using cooperatives to stem the recent tide of pub closures. It recommends an emergency support service for struggling pubs, enabling local people to use the cooperative model to keep pubs alive.
Community ownership of fibre-optic broadband access in rural communities is also called for.
Co-operatives UK has also this week issued the Mutuals Manifesto, in partnership with the Employee Ownership Association, the Building Societies Association, the Association of Financial Mutuals and Mutuo, which works to promote mutuals.
The manifesto recommends that public services should be supported to convert to mutual status by a business conversion unit, working across government departments.
"As the UK is now technically out of recession, the time has really come for a new agenda of cooperation," said Mayo.
Last month David Cameron pledged that public sector workers such as nurses and primary school teachers would be given the right to form taxpayer-funded cooperatives under a Conservative government.