Report of the Research Committee (1995/96)

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

     (Source: Review of International Co-operation,
     Vol.89, No.3/1996 (Annual Report 1995/96), p.78-81)

                         Report of the
                      Research Committee

Executive Committee

Chairman:           Roger Spear  (UK)

Vice-Chairmen:      Yohanan Stryjan (Sweden); Lou
                    Hammond-Ketilson (Canada)
                    Akira Kurimoto (Japan) 

Secretary:          Alina Pawlowska (ICA)

At the last ICA meeting in Manchester Roger Spear (Open
University, UK) took over from Sven Ake Book as Chair of the
ICA Research Committee. Although Sven Ake Book is still
available for consultation and advice, the current committee
comprises a global team of people providing support: Lou
Hammond-Ketilson (Canada), Yohanan Stryjan (Sweden), and Akira
Kurimoto (Japan), who was appointed in the summer. The
committee operates largely through electronic (E-mail)
communication and through the support of local national
sections for conference organisation. More formal support and
communication is provided through the good offices of ICA
Geneva, by Mary Treacy (Director Communications) and Alina
Pawlowska (Research). Sven Ake Book did an excellent job for
the Research Committee over many years, and was a popular and
respected figure. He was ably assisted by Kai Blomqvist,
amongst others. We would like to pay tribute to their hard
work and dedication in developing a lively, stimulating and
friendly research community.

Current Activities
The major activity each year is an International Research
Conference. This tends to coincide with ICA global meetings,
but recently the conference has taken place in Eastern or
Western Europe. The last conference was held in Manchester in
1995 to coincide with the ICA's 100th anniversary. It was
extremely successful with about 50 papers given on a wide
range of themes, and with about 200 participants. This year's
conferences are in Estonia (international), and Budapest
(regional). A special issue of the Review of International
Co-operation has been produced; it comprises abridged versions
of some of the best papers from the Manchester conference last
year. We are extending our membership base and improving our
capability for communication and networking (see strategy
section below).   

International Co-operatives Research Conference: Co-operative
Innovation and Change - 26-29 September 1996, Tartu, Estonia,
organised with the assistance of The Academic Society for
Co-operative Studies (Estonia). The organising Committee
includes: Yohanan Stryjan, Stockholm School of Business, Prof.
Walter Krinal, Academic Society, Lea Sudokova, MAI, and Roger
Spear, Open University. This conference is concerned with
innovation and change in the co-operative movement. The forces
of change affecting co-operatives are both external: changing
economic and political systems in the co-operatives'
environment, and internal: the changing needs and values of
the cooperatives' corpus of members, and of the organizations
themselves. The parameters of change and the responses to the
forces of change vary from country to country, from one
co-operative movement to another, and from sector to sector.
The international conference will be held in Tartu, Estonia.
Tartu is a small, charming town, and Estonia's principal 
university centre, the site of national university of Estonia
(founded in the XVII century by Gustav II Adolph of Sweden),
the School of Economics, and the Agricultural University.
Communications to and from Tallinn (capital and airport) will
be taken care of by the organizers.  

Regional (European) Co-operatives Research Conference: Labour
Markets, Unemployment and Co-ops - 27-28 October, 1996,
Budapest, organised with the assistance of The Co-operative
Research Institute, Budapest, Hungary. The organising
Committee includes: Prof. Isabel Vidal, University of
Barcelona, Laczo Ferenc, Co-op Research Institute, Budapest,
Roger Spear, Open University, Milton Keynes. This conference
is to be run in conjunction with the ICA Regional Meeting in
Budapest towards the end of October.  The conference is
concerned with the serious and deteriorating problem of
unemployment in Western, Central and Eastern Europe, and in
particular how an understanding of labour markets and
innovative approaches to employment creation can ameliorate
the situation. 

Future Strategy 
Our main aims are to strengthen and internationalise
activities, and to make the work of researchers more visible,
particularly to ordinary managers and co-operators. We will do
this by improving the quality and scope of conferences and
publications, improving our communications and our network

We will continue to hold an annual conference but will try
also to arrange or sponsor regional workshops on topical

We want to increase the visibility of research to other
researchers and to co-operators world-wide through electronic
communication, an Internet web page, regular publications (a
book of best papers every year), and more publications in
journals such as the Review of International Co-operation.
With the support of Mary Treacy, Communications Director of
ICA Geneva, we are exploring various ways we could work
together, and communicate research findings more widely (this
may include a newsletter). She is progressively developing
internet usage - we now have a web page providing information
about our meetings and publications and with links to other
sites. This way of communicating will become increasingly
important (but not exclusively so at present); nonetheless we
are also improving our communication capability by
initialising setting up a register of researchers' e-mail and
fax addresses, so please include these in future

It is essential that we make our research findings more widely
accessible. I have been trying to get a publisher for an
annual series of a book based on a selection of best papers
from our conference papers each year. This is delaying
publication of a selection from last year's conference, but I
hope to agree to something soon. In the meantime, with the
support of Mary Treacy at the ICA Geneva, we have produced a
special issue of the Review of International Co-operation.
This contains abridged versions of 10 of the best papers from
the Manchester Research Conference. 

Networking and Collaboration 
Over the next few years we will try to develop the membership
base through national nodes or organising institutions (such
as national societies of co-op studies or co-op research
institutes). We also want to build up a lively network of
individual researchers globally. This will enable us to be
more aware of each other's work, the potential of
collaboration or comparative studies; we can also more
effectively disseminate our research findings to other
researchers and co-operators. The network will be built up
organically - i.e. gradually by identifying good quality
research work. It is important to maintain high quality
standards, if research work and its findings are to be
credible and influential. We are aware that some national
research groups are very active with annual conferences and
regular meetings. We would like to build on this by helping
publicise their meetings (if desired), encouraging
international links, and stimulating other national groups to
become more active. Many of our more active members are
involved with other research networks such as CIRIEC (Centre
International de Recherche et d'Information sur l'Economie
Publique, Sociale et Co-operative) and Research Committee 10
of the International Sociological Association, and the
International Association for the Economics of Participation.
We are exploring ways we can collaborate and communicate more
effectively between our members, and with activities.
Discussions are most advanced with CIRIEC. The Research
Committee Chair and other members of the committee have
attended a number of conferences during the year and attempted
to develop these networks. We envisage that, in future,
research projects and working groups could be initiated or
promoted by the Research Committee, possibly in collaboration
with other groups or networks. We feel there is considerable
potential here, and we are only at the beginning of a long
road. One example of a collaboration is an International
Register of Researchers which the UK Society of Co-operative
Studies is putting together and which will be available on the
Internet when completed, via the ICA/UWCC Co-operative Gopher
and through web sites. CIRIEC has regular research working
groups studying various issues. It would seem highly desirable
if we could collaborate on such projects or promote similar
groups, and better still, if the topics could be related to
ICA priorities and our findings fed into their debates in a
more coordinated manner than currently.

Although we believe that the Research Committee has a vital
role to play in informing discussions about key issues of
governance, management and membership (for example), current
resources do not match these high aspirations or level of
activities indicated above. The Research Committee has a
minimal budget and relies on the goodwill and voluntary labour
of many people. Its researchers are often not members of the
co-op movement but university employees or contract
researchers who often work for the Research Committee in their
spare time. The success of our work depends on the work of
these researchers, the support of national and regional
organisers for our conferences, the work of Geneva support
staff, and last but not least our committee. In another sense
our success also depends on developing our relationship with
the co-operative movement, by making our research findings
accessible and amenable to members, managers and boards alike.

It is not always easy conducting research for both academic
consumption and for that of the movement, but it is something
to which we are committed, and will continue to strive for. In
order to succeed we will need to strengthen our resource base.
We will consider internal and external sponsorship of projects
(internal - co-operative, external - research foundations, EC,
etc), and membership charges, however in each case we will
have to increase our level of activity in order to offer
something in return. We also believe we have a good case for a
larger budget from the ICA, given the level of activities
already undertaken and underway. We are very positive about
our future research and activities. We feel we have a good
base for strengthening global research activities and their
visibility. In an increasingly knowledge-based economy and
society, good quality research will become absolutely
essential to a dynamic co-operative movement. Work carried
out this year has made good progress towards these aims.