Abstracts: Workshop on New / Social / Gender Cooperatives (1997)

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Abstracts : Workshop on New / Social / Gender Co-operatives

                    October 1997

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


Prof. Marie J. Bouchard, D. Soc., Ecole des sciences de la gestion, 
Universite du Québec à Montreal, Canada

A third wave of co-operatives came to birth during the nineteen seventies 
in Quebec, showing major differences in regard of those preceding 
(Deschênes, 1980). Small and wanting to remain so, these co-operatives 
resisted to centralisation, therefore opposing themselves to the model 
developed by the previous waves of co-operatives (agricultural, loans and savings,
consumer,etc.). These co-ops cherished their autonomy and independence, 
preferring direct democracy to representation democracy. Involved in 
domains related to culture, job creation and life style, Quebec co-operatives are, 
for the first time in their history, animated by a genuine social project. This 
shows a rupture with the previous model of development, since these co-operatives
reject the standardisation of collective consumption (rental housing, health 
services, children daycare, etc.) as well as the taylorisation of work (worker 
owned co-operatives).

The values animating this wave of co-operatives are related to those of the 
new social movements (Maheu, 1983; Melucci, 1983), which gives evidence of
the first phase (Lipietz, 1989) of the contemporary crisis: the rethinking
of the welfare-fordist model of development. Now, these co-ops progressively bartered
their contesting position for a more complex posture which combines opposition and
complementarity with the dominant model (may it be neo-fordist or neo-liberal). These
co-operative sectors are changing in regard of 1) social relations (new forms of
professionalization, new  ties to social policy, new partnerships), of 2) institutional
rules (withdrawal of older forms of government support, new territorial modes of
regulation, new legislations), as well as 3) organisational forms (network federations,
hybridisation of legal status).

This research looks into the responses to the crisis provided by these co-ops today,
after at least a full life cycle of their original social innovation (10-15 years of
existence). The firsts findings of this study show that third wave co-operatives are
still producing social innovation in terms of relationships to consumers and workers, as
well as relationships  to the local territory. These findings tend to show that the more
recent  phase of the crisis, the «economic» phase, brings third wave co-operatives to
renew their practices as well as their ideological positioning in regard to the model of
development, producing alternatives to neo-fordist and to neo- liberal options.

Dr Rafael Chaves, Department of Applied Economics, University of Valencia,

In the Mediterranean European countries, particularly in Italy, Spain and 
France is where the worker co-operatives movement enjoys more installation
and long history. Spain is nowadays, without doubt, the European country, 
after Italy, where there is the main number of companies of this type, with
more personnel workers. According to estimates of Monzon and Morales (1996), 
based on data from the INFES - National Institute for the Promotion of the Social
Economy, of Spanish Labour Ministry, there were in 1995 14,197 worker co-ops actives, and
they employed 164,352 workers. 

Furthermore, in Spain, other enterprises named Sociedades laborales 
-"Labour societies"-, are considered by politics and academics as workers
ownerd firms, like worker co-ops. These Labour societies are capital societies controlled
by their workers: More than 51% of their shares should belong to the workers and one only
of them can not possess more than 25% of the shares. By and large, according to the cited
source, the workers firms add 19,610 enterprises with a total of 217,360 workers.

Recently it has been carried out by the Ciriec-España, in collaboration  
with the Federations of Valencian Co-operatives and the Regional Government 
of Valencia (Spain), a vast research whose aim was to analyze the different areas of the
Social Economy of this region (different kinds of co-operatives, mutualities,
associations and Labour societies), specially worker firms and Agriculture Co-operative.
This Paper that I present focuses on the principal macro-economic results obtained from
the worker co-ops area, the one which I was the scientific responsible.

The content of the present work is the following. First, a short historical reference of
Spanish and Valencian worker co-ops movement is offered. It puts in relief the strong
expansion happened since the last seventies. In second place three sides of the Valencian
worker co-operatives active are analyzed: 1) their demographic evolution, 2) their
contribution to job creation and their sectorial evolution and distribution. Finally the
article concludes with a reflection about the possible explanatory factors of the
evolution experimented by the Valencia (and Spanish) worker co-operatives.


Judith Foggin-Brown, Northumbria University, United Kingdom, Anita Lord, Sweden
Predominantly the provision of personal social services in the formal sector has been
organised by men and provided by women. Such organisation of care has come under
criticism of late not least from feminist writers, for its bureaucratic patriarchal style
of management and  hierarchical structure. 

It is suggested here that care organisation should take on a bottom-up approach which
will then lead to the empowerment of those providing and using care services. One way to
effect this is through co-operatives. Based on a one member one vote philosophy such
organisations have the potential to cultivate empowering environments indeed they are the
only model that formalise and legalise the participation of users or providers.

 Traditionally co-operatives have been organised along the lines of a consumer model,
 owned and controlled by those in receipt of the product/service, or a worker model,
 owned and controlled by those producing/providing a product/service. There are however
 problems with this model in relation to user/provider empowerment. For example, a
 uni-stakeholder co-op represents the views of a single group. This could be to the
 detriment of other groups who have a vested interest in the organisation.

A more recent model is the multi-stakeholder co-op whereby a number of people with
different interests and from varying backgrounds are involved in the same organisation.
Such an organisation would constitute 'professionals' such as general practitioners
(GP's), health visitors, care providers etc. as well as 'non-professionals' such as the
service users. The first problem however with this model is that GP's, health visitors
etc. only have a limited amount of time and would therefore find it difficult to commit
fully to the co-op. This in turn begs the question whether someone who only appears
occasionally for a meeting is deserving of the same voting rights as those who are
involved on a day-to-day basis. A further problem  is, the professional non-professional
divide would inevitably lead to a two-tier organisation of care which in turn would be no
different to the hierarchical and paternalistic organisations it had been set up to

An alternative to the uni or multi-stakeholder co-op is a bi or dual stakeholder
co-operative. Here it would be both users and providers who owned and controlled the
organisation. This would represent a radical break away from conventional models both of
care provision generally and more specifically care provided through co-operatives. It is
radical in that it  gives users and providers a rightful stake in the organisation and
provision of care. It is radical as it is empowering people rather than simply paying lip
service to the concept.


Yoko Nakajima,  Osaka University, Japan

Roughly speaking, Japanese Co-ops can be classified into two streams: one is what I call
the mainstream Co-ops; the other is the Seikatsu Clubs. There are some interesting
indicators which differentiate the two streams, but I'll concentrate on just the women's

Firstly, how have the Co-ops of the two streams been useful for the emancipation of
Japanese women and what is the relationship between the co-op movements and feminism
which demands abolition of the sexual division of labour both at home and in society?

In the process of Japanese economic growth and urbanisation, both the 
streams of Co-ops developed rapidly. At that time, the energy of the 
mainstream Co-ops depended on the middle-class and highly-educated housewives as
participants of consumer movements. On the other hand, from the beginning, the Seikatsu
Clubs were very conscious about making Japanese people and their society more autonomous.
The male founders of the first Club "found " the housewives who were potential social
activists rather than their husbands who were absorbed in competition and promotion in
their companies. In both the streams, almost all the managerial leaders have been  male.
However, the crucial difference between the males of the two streams is to what extent
they are free from the traditional notion of the sexual division of labour.

When we look at the relationship between the co-op movements and feminism, 
any co-op organisation itself is based on the precondition of the sexual division of
labour. It means we can define any co-op movement as a housewives movement in terms of
promoting the social participation of women. Therefore, if we think of feminism as the
idea of enlarging women's freedom in any sphere, the co-op movements  were, especially in
Japan, one of the important components of feminism in its broad meaning. 

However, a logical contradiction remains for the female activists. Especially not a few
women of the mainstream Co-ops seem to be conservative and inconsistent; because they
avoid the issue of the sexual division of labour inside their own family, in spite of
demanding "empowerment" as a gender problem in the Co-ops. 

Without resolving this contradiction, the women will continue to find themselves
patronised by the male leaders. On the other hand, both males and females of the Seikatsu
Clubs are more determined and sensitive to the issue of gender . The consciousness in the
Clubs can be pro-feminism without specific intention, because their social values lie in
encouraging any member of the Clubs who promotes a progressive civil society. A good
example of this is that the Clubs were the pioneer of Workers Collectives in which
Japanese housewives were able to generate their own jobs. It is a fulfilment of feminism.

Secondly, what are advantages and possibilities for future housewives to 
commit themselves to the Co-ops? Recently, mainstream co-op women have 
organised themselves into groups of volunteers whose main function is the 
care of senior citizens. This activity is a large change from the previous popular
activities, namely testing various foods outside the Co-ops and launching in-house
products inside the Co-ops. Nowadays there are a lot of NPOs and NGOs besides the Co-ops.
Accordingly it is not necessarily easy for the mainstream Co-ops to attract younger

In the case of the Seikatsu Clubs, the establishment of various types of 
Workers Collectives has been synchronising with the cutting-edge trends, 
such as the setting up of new small businesses and independent civic movements. At least
we can say that the Clubs led to innovation in the Japanese context in terms of casting
sharp questions on social problems and introducing new methods for their solution.
However, it is said that some Workers Collectives are facing a lack of younger
housewives, namely successors to the Collectives. Especially young single women would
prefer a job in a private company to a job in the Workers Collectives because of the
large differences  in both payment and working conditions. 

Just recently a survey has shown us that there aren't so many young women 
who want to keep working as regular full-time workers. This fact indicates
that the silent resistance of young women against a Japanese lifestyle centered on
paid-work and that they reject abandonment of pro-family attitudes. Also there can be new
possibilities for social movements, including any Co-ops, to be revitalized by those
women whose potential is very high. As the development of  both the streams of Co-ops has
typically shown,  Japanese "feminism" is biased in favour of unpaid social work.


Dr. Victor Pestoff, Sodertorns Hogskola, Sweden	

In this paper explores an extension and adaptation of the concept of co-production to the
area of personal social services and co-operative providers of such services. Our data
comes from a survey study of 580 parents from 60 day care services in Sweden and three
different forms of co-operative provision: parent co-operatives, voluntary organizations
and worker co-operatives. Both parent co-operatives and voluntary organizations have a
work obligation associated with membership, while worker co-operatives lack this feature,
as parents can't become members. The parents of both the first two types of co-operatives
express similar attitudes to the positive aspects of the work obligation. It facilitates
their participation, gives a feeling of belonging and valuable insights, i.e., it enables
their integration into the organization and running of co-operative day care services. In
contrast to attitudes about the work obligation, parent attitudes about their work on the
board emphasize first and foremost the political aspect of holding an elective office in
co-operative day care services, i.e., it increases parental influence.

Turning to reasons for choosing their preferred form of co-operative day care services we
noted a clear profile for each type of day care service. Influence, wanting to
participate more in their child(ren)'s daily life and closeness to home provide a clear
profile for parents with children in parent co-operatives. Special pedagogics, wanting to
influence and wanting to participate more in their child(ren)'s daily life dominate the
motives of parents with children in voluntary organizations. Both these sets of parents
clearly motivate their choice of co-operative day care form more in terms of expressive
values and less in instrumental terms. Closeness to home, a recommendation by relatives
or friends and the lack of other alternatives were the main motives of parents with
children in worker co-operatives, which clearly express the more instrumental attitudes
of parents with children in worker co-operatives.

Parents in all three types of co-operatives strongly appreciate the willingness of the
staff to discuss parents' suggestions for changes and improvements Moreover, they express
a similar level of satisfaction with the running and administration of their child(ren)'s
day care service. Moreover, many parent have previously had a child(ren) in municipal day
care services, and their comparisons between co-operative and municipal services are
clearly to the advantage of co-operatives in terms of the openness of the staff of all
types of co-operatives. They also clearly feel that co-operative day care service,
regardless of the type, is better than municipal services. 

Finally, given a free choice, they categorically state a preference for the co-operative
form, regardless of the type of co-operative. Thus, our findings suggest that no single
organizational formula can meet the needs and requirements of all parents for day care
services in Sweden. Wikström (1996) argues that co-production is motivated by the degree
of uncertainty in the exchange between the producer and consumer of goods and services
and the potential benefit to the participants from eliminating such uncertainty. The
creation of benefits related to the values of the parents is made possible by some types
of co-operative day care centers. In particular the values of parent influence,
participation in their child(ren)'s daily life, special pedagogics, feelings of belonging
are important values to the parents with children in parent co-operative and voluntary
organizations. Co-production eliminates the uncertainty related to interaction between
producers and consumers of such services, since it involves parents in the production of
day care services. Their participation is the best guarantee of quality, according to one
parent. Thus, co-production both enables the parents and empowers them in fulfilling
their own values related to the institutional care of their children.