Pioneers Post
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  • user warning: UPDATE command denied to user '408302_semagad'@'10.187.244.227' for table 'cache_filter' query: UPDATE cache_filter SET data = '<p>There has never been a more fertile time for looking at alternative ways of organising society and the economy. It is as if we are waking ourselves out of a bad dream - after years of being told to let markets rip and to set ourselves against others.</p>\n<p>But we can\'t take too long to shake off our sleep. Despite the new legitimacy of ideas like a green new deal, transition communities, social enterprise and public services based on \'co-production\', those who benefit from the current model have if anything reinforced their grip on what goes on.</p>\n<p>The good news is that the basis of an alternative is already with us and co-operatives are a key part of this.</p>\n<p>Now, it is worth a word on language, so that it does not get in the way. The term \'social enterprise\' has always benefited from its own ambiguity. It is not, and never has convincingly been, an institutional form. But it is a form of identity, something that you can feel part of.</p>\n<p>That is also true for co-operatives, but there are some things that are fixed and concrete. Co-operatives come in different legal forms but in every case they go the extra mile in their constitution to give members an equal vote and to open up to new members. They sign up to a core set of values, which are held worldwide. It also helps that the term \'co-operative\' is something that is already part of everyday language.</p>\n<p>The co-operative movement was invented in Britain over a century ago. What is exciting is that there are now real signs of a revival, with the Co-operative Group enjoying a renaissance and new examples of success like The Phone Co-op, Energy4All and Glasgow City Credit Union.</p>\n<p>When I visit a co-operative such as the Lincolnshire Consumer Co-operative, with 175,000 active members, outlets across its region, a prudent and successful business approach and an outstanding track record of engagement and support in the local community, there is a real magic at work. It has scale, it has values, it has leadership and it makes a huge difference in its area.</p>\n<p>In my work I have tended to find that social entrepreneurs fall into two opposing camps on one issue which is accountability. Some people\'s instincts are to embrace the feedback and complexities of democratic accountability in organisations. Others regard it as a constraint or, at best, a necessary evil.</p>\n<p>This is a difference in co-operative models compared with wider forms of social enterprise. True, you have to make membership models work too and accountability is best if renewed over time. But co-operative models do, in the words of the government\'s Innovation Unit, avoid \'the accountability gap that characterises a number of non-profit or social enterprise providers, which ultimately answer to themselves rather than an enfranchised set of stakeholders.\'</p>\n<p>I believe that accountability helps. The recent report, <em>Bringing Democracy Home</em>, from the Commission on Co-operative and Mutual Housing demonstrates that where tenants are members, they clearly feel they get a better service. Similarly, organisations could learn from the radical innovations by the empowered employees of worker co-operatives like SUMA Whole Foods.</p>\n<p><strong>LEARNING FROM SUCCESS</strong></p>\n<p>Yes, it takes commitment, but with a co-operative model, you can turn people from consumers and workers into members. The work we are doing with the Development Trusts Association shows how, with a co-operative model, you can raise local finance through community shares. With these tools, co-operatives are helping to build community resilience, during a recession, in villages, towns and islands across the UK.</p>\n<p>The UK now has 4,820 co-operative enterprises with a combined turnover of £28.9bn. Around the world, there has been a rush of savers switching to financial co-operatives. The co-operative bank Rabobank, for example, is the only financial institution in the world with a triple A rating from both Standard &amp; Poor\'s and Moody\'s.</p>\n<p>Co-operatives can never be a substitute for the gift economy of the voluntary sector nor for the best of universal public services. But, co-operation, more than has been realised, is these sectors\' natural ally.</p>\n<p>Many of the recent advances in iterative [repetition based] games theory and experimental psychology stress that human behaviour is naturally co-operative and not just competitive. As Elinor Ostrom, the wonderful co-operative theorist who recently won the Nobel Prize for Economics, would stress, institutions can either harness that reciprocity and benefit, or undermine it and lose out.</p>\n<p>So, while unemployment is rising, for example, new research, such as the Young Foundation\'s survey of needs in Britain today, <em>Sinking and Swimming</em>, shows that those who can move on from the genuine shock of losing your job are those that have the resilience of relationships to bounce back.</p>\n<p>This is in line with health research, which shows that survival rates after having a heart attack are three times as high for people with good social support - and you are four times less likely to catch a cold if you have strong social ties. Co-operation is good for economic recovery, just as it is good for your health.</p>\n<p>Even so, we need to make a step change if we are to create a mainstream ethical and sustainable economy. Examples of how to do that, at least, are out there. As a recent report from Co-operative Development Scotland shows, in Finland, for example, the co-operative sector accounts for 21 per cent of GDP. In Switzerland, it is 16 per cent.</p>\n<p>It is not enough to talk about alternatives. Rather than talk change, we now need to organise.</p>\n<p>First, those working across the field of social enterprise, particularly on the business support side, need to get to grips with co-operative models and ditch any chip on the shoulder that says that private enterprise is simplest and best.</p>\n<p>Second, not every business will be a co-operative, but we can challenge every organisation to be more co-operative.</p>\n<p>Third, we should be more circumspect when it comes to the embrace of governments. A good deal of today\'s state-sponsored social enterprise is genuinely social but not genuinely enterprise. We need to be strategic,not tactical.</p>\n<p>Fourth, I believe we have to rethink our models of leadership. We live in an age of radical individualism - of a \'John Wayne\' diet of heroic businessmen, lone entrepreneurs and indeed social entrepreneurs. We have to relearn to co-operate and how to come together to build an inclusive and participatory economy.</p>\n<p>Fifth, we need to move our mindset on from social enterprise to social movement. When it comes to scaling up, for example, the co-operative sectors of Basque Spain and northern Italy demonstrate how to build synergies and economic resilience through overlapping patterns of ownership and systematic approaches to innovation.</p>\n<p>We have a proud history of business and social change in the UK, but the best by far is yet to come.</p>\n', created = 1467210856, expire = 1467297256, headers = '', serialized = 0 WHERE cid = '2:ad50913b74c1b99b3bbbb407160a946e' in /mnt/stor2-wc1-dfw1/408302/www.socialenterpriselive.com/web/content/includes/cache.inc on line 109.
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(Co)Producing a new world

29 January 2010

Ed Mayo, the new secretary general of Co-operatives UK, says five actions are needed to wake up to a mainstream ethical and sustainable economy

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