After reading an impressive article in Monocle Magazine Issue 61th, about co-operatives, some examples as they go on in crisis times while many other companies collapse, I would like to briefly summarize some ideas, give further information compiled by me and my personal opinion, in order to study a bit better the model business of co-ops.
Co-operatives according to the International Working Organization, employ 100 million people, give membership around 1 billion people and influencing life of in global 3 billion. Last year 2012 was declared the year of cooperatives by United Nations. UN promotes them because of the social impact in local environment, improving the quality of living of people, since they promote wealth sharing.
By definition a co-operative is a business model of company owned and democratically controlled by members. The secret of the success is the social responsability behind it on one side and on the other side is the interests that emotionally connect the members and working project unlikely to shareholders, which are more involved finantially. Some values in co-ops are social-responsability, equality, solidarity, team building, democracy and transparency among others.
Other important point is that the global aim of a company is commonly shared by members and the vision is global there is no (officially need ) of sharing the vision or motivating the members to understand and feel inner the company vision.
There is a personal comment from my working experience with Vasc Country in Spain metal cooperatives, and it is that the fact that what makes companies strong is the human capital, and co-operatives strong explode it. For example, product and process development has been demonstrated in companies that always benefit of workers cooperation and feedback, think about worker as an owner and the interest behind is skyrocketed.
Other case in Spain commonly studied and followed is the Mondragon co-operative, I know closely one example of La Florida University in Valencia, continuous growing during the years based in knowledge and its sharing among members, re-invention, innovation and Exploring members talent.
Co-operatives are also example of sustainability, like in food co-op, which have gained popularity due to the eco-green era trend. It has Been popular in Barcelona eco-buying not only for the quality of the product but because its business reliability. Nobody thinks a co-operative will make a wrong delivery or a price mistake. Also the fact of being in contact with producers. The last trend in Barcelona in co-operatives is to put farmers closer to customers by organizing a customer day, where the users and farmers collide and share feedback on manufacturing and product on farmer side and on “how tasty” and features on the product on customer side.
Secrets in Co-ops is that they do not take risks so much like other companies so they don’t see downside… but who would take risk these austerity days ??