Doctor's Dose of Change

This document has been made available in electronic format
     by the International Co-operative Alliance ICA
                     February 1996

                 Doctor's Dose of Change

Co-operatives now find themselves in a context much different from that of
their founders. This was stressed by Dr Ian MacPherson in his address to
ICA Congress. He was  introducing the ICA  Statement on Co-operative
Identity. These changed circumstances demand that co-operatives redefine
their identity. Indeed he was of the opinion that such a review is
necessary every thirty or so years.

The present proposals are a result of a process that started eight years
ago at the 1988 Congress in Stockholm, Sweden. Sven Ake Book finished the
first part of the assignment and gave a report on Basic Co-operative Values
at the 1992 Congress. A primary reference group of six was set up to
translate these basic values into principles as a basis for actual
implementation. In addition, a questionnaire was circulated to many
co-operatives worldwide and their responses received. An Advisory Committee
consisting of fifty eminent co-operators was constantly consulted. Many
regional and national events were organized and their reports fed into the
mainstream project.

It emerged that there was some "unhappiness over the existing capital
formation principle as well as concern over the omission of a specific
reference to gender, the lack of a definition of a co-operative, and the
general absence of a reference to values and community obligations."

Dr MacPherson said that he considers the placing of the principles into the
context of a statement on co-operative identity as the most important
achievement of the review. Also this is the first time in the history of
the ICA that it has been possible to reach an acceptable definition of a
co-operative. The definition conforms relatively well to the one adopted in
1966 by the International Labour Office.

Key improvements in the draft new statement of identity and principles are:
*..inclusion of the term "self-responsibility" which embodies an important
part of the co-operative value system not adequately covered by
*  reference to "the tradition of our founders";
*  a deliberate effort to ensure that the principles are applicable to all
kinds of co-operatives and not only to consumer co-operatives;
*  a flexibility that allows variations in the behaviour of every
co-operative but demands a certain minimum standard of behaviour;
*  the principles are subtly intertwined with each other thus proposing a
broader view and approach;
*  stress is given to the centrality of the member;
*  autonomy of co-operatives is clearly stated, as a principle. "The point
is that in all cases of relations with other organisations - be they public
or private - the first key concern for co-operatives must be the protection
of their autonomy and particularly the capacity of members to control their
own organisations";
*  the idea of an indivisible reserve to reflect the truth that at least
part of the assets is usually the common property of the co-operative;
*  the obligations of co-operatives  towards their communities are
specifically spelt out.

Dr MacPherson concluded by suggesting that co-operatives can only meet
their full potential if they do the following: "Celebrating the advantages
of membership; recognizing the unique strengths provided by the
co-operative principles; empowering members, employees, managers and
elected leaders; helping co-operatives combine their resources prudently;
helping to improve the financial strength of our co-operatives; and
thinking strategically".  He thanked the ICA for giving him the privilege
to work on such an important project, and all the co-operators who had made

Bernard Kadasia