Abstracts: Workshop on Innovation and Community (1997)



Abstracts : Workshop on Innovation and Community

                    October 1997

Source : Abstracts presented to the ICA Committee on Research Annual
Conference The Co-op Advantage in Civil Economy, Bertinoro, Italy, October 1997


Dr. Adriana Rabinovich-Behrend, Switzerland

The architectural design processes named "participatives", belongs to an innovated
experiences category, although they transgress standard patterns, know-how 
and dominant values, in order to improve the quality of the architectural production.
 In these experiences, innovation is not necessarily inscribed in the space, but it 
calls attention to a change in proceedings of programming, design, appropriation
and management of the operations.

Participation in co-operative grouped housing in Switzerland has developed in near ideal
conditions; it follows popular and professional initiatives framed by political measures
of encouragement towards property, participating in experiences aimed at taking a leading
role in the production of their own environment. In this country, where only a third of
the population owns their own home, the rules in force control the letting, and leave
little room for intervention or modifications in the home. Such conditions do not allow
for an appropriation of the spaces nor a cultural development in that direction, which
leads certain inhabitants to seek, in the ownership of their home, an opportunity to
improve on this situation.

Among the different goals of participative method, we find the idea of a transformation,
partial at least, of the housing production system, which has been made possible through
a new distribution of the actors' parts during the process. This new organisation may
entail a reduction in building costs. This is one of the principal arguments maintained
by participation supporters, who propose the elimination of the promoter in the building
production, asserting that he becomes an unnecessary intermediately when architects and
inhabitants assume the control of the process. In view of this, the co-operative
organisation could be a cheaper way of building for one-self, allowing at the same time
low-income inhabitants to become owners. However, not all concrete examples reach the
goals presupposed. In experiences we have analysed, we have ascertained that:

- for want of methodological approaches specifically adapted for participatory
architectural experiences, difficulties during the design process may arise, increasing
construction deadlines and costs;

- elimination of certain intermediaries requires inhabitants to have a certain training,
which is generally acquired during the experience, and this, at the expense of high
construction costs as a result of organization and administration problems, as well as
difficulties at the building site itself.

These facts underline the necessity of specific know-how for the participation
operations. It is not sufficient to let the inhabitant decide how to build according to
his wishes. Good intentions cannot substitute knowledge, and the apprenticeship is
valuable. Thus, faced with lengthy, laborious procedures, and an increase in construction
costs, a high percentage of inhabitants, although highly motivated at the beginning of
the experience, give up half-way through. The professionals, certainly, never undertake a
second experience.

The price of housing, finally being no lower than the market value, compromises the
integration of the low-income inhabitants. This tendency, is moreover strengthened, as
the majority of the experiences are reserved for the home-owner status.

It is therefore of utmost importance to render the operations more efficient. With this
perspective in view, our research has enabled us to elaborate some recommendations which
it would be interesting to discuss and expand during the congress:

- to further a transformation of the quality of the work;
- to develop a new professional profile, the  pilot project ;
- to organize an exchange of acquired knowledge;
- to integrate the necessary knowledge while training the professionals;
- to further the integration of the tenants in these procedures.


Akira Kurimoto, Japan Society for Co-operative Studies

This paper consider how co-operatives can contribute to rebuilding community life in the
light of the ICA's 7th Principle "Concern for Community".  They are the autonomous
associations to meet members' needs through enterprises, as such they are primarily
concerned with membership but can work for the sustainable development of communities
where they operate. They have some common goals and interaction with other civic
organizations and local governments while operating some business activities as a part of
local economy. They should nourish the supportive relationship with communities through
daily contacts and contributing to the betterment of the latter, which could help both to
struggle with the crisis in case of emergency. This happened when the great earthquake
had hit Kobe area in January 1995.

This paper draws some lessons from a case study of Co-op Kobe which suffered from heavy
financial and human losses but tackled with the enormous tasks of helping rehabilitating
the suffered people and  the community at large. Co-op Kobe made a quick response at
various levels. The Board and Management made a decision to decentralize the structure to
allow the local self-reliant initiatives and urged the workforce to serve the residents
as soon as possible in the survived stores as well as at the temporary stalls where
stores were destroyed. Employees, mostly damaged by the earthquake, rushed to the co-op
premises on foot or by bike to resume operations and untiringly worked to support
members' living. Members themselves started to help each other in the proximity. Thus the
calamity awakened the volunteerism among Japanese citizens, especially the youngsters.
Co-op Kobe had implemented the contracts with the municipality to help supply necessities
in case of emergency, providing food, blankets and vehicles. Thus Co-op had contributed
to stabilization of citizen's life, preventing from the panic and exorbitant pricing
which might occur under such circumstances. "There existed Co-op in the devastated area" 
was a headline often used in the media and cited consumer voices were saying "Co-op was
ours, so it would never cheat us".

This paper further elaborates the rebuilding process of the Co-op and the communities.
Co-op Kobe undertook the rehabilitation plans in search for "Creative Reconstruction" as
against back to the past. They consist of 3 dimensions; creating new community, creating
new life and creating new co-op movement. Although the infrastructure of the cities had
been recovered until the end of 1995, still 40,000 people are living in the temporary
houses and especially the aged population has little prospect to rebuild their living.
Co-op initiated nationwide signature collection campaign requesting to develop the scheme
for securing life and houses against natural disasters. It also established the nursing
home and day care facilities in collaboration with the municipalities and installed the
biggest "welfare shop" in the reconstructed home furnishing store to contribute to
building the welfare-oriented community. It is still undergoing the reconstruction
process, e.g. operating in the temporary head office and stores, it seeks to become the
entity deeply rooted and supported by the community.

Dr. Yair Levi, CIRCOM, Israel

Non-profits are commonly presented as addressing needs that neither the state nor the
market are willing or capable of efficiently attending. This residual approach stresses
the instrumental aspect of the issue. Further to the recent emergence - mainly in West
European countries - of new non-profits, the latter's connotation tends to turn to
anormative-associative one, as part of the new alternative courses: 'third sector',
'third system','social economy' are terms increasingly used in relation to non-profits.
Considering a number of incongruencies, mainly with regard to co-operatives, which
accompany the for-profit/non-profit debate, it is argued that using a continuum instead
of the common dichotomy, could ease the approach to the issue under consideration.


Dr. Hideo Ishizuka, Japan

Japanese model of capitalism and pseudo welfare system is being questioned.  Co-operative
sector has a chance to cover the various needs of citizens in the market and civil
society.  The paper shows, as an example, probability of the role of consumers
co-operatives and medical co-operatives as a community social co-operative in relating
with a new law of a public home nursing insurance system, with analysing other relating
factors of social policy; labour, quality of life, quality of social service, tax and
premium burden.

Moreover, we refer a plan of the new general co-operative law being promoted by some
active co-operators as a design of an integrated co-operative sector which has never been
imaged.  The possibility and propriety of conception of this law is also discussed,
including the situation of reorganisation of agricultural co-operatives and credit unions
which are confronting a big bang of financial sector in Japan.

Finally we review the adequacy of the co-operatives' role as social economy sector in
Japan's society.