2012 International Year of Cooperatives and Management Education – Business school response (Part 3)

Each year the United Nations identifies an issue of global importance and uses that time to raise awareness about it in the international community. The 2012 International Year of Cooperatives recognizes the diversity of the cooperative movement around the world and its contribution to socio-economic developments, such as poverty reduction, employment generation and social integration.

In Part 1 of this series introduced the International Year, while Part 2 looked at a range of examples of cooperative operations around the world. In Part 3, we will see how business schools are exploring this topic in their programmes.

Some business schools provide specialized programmes focused on cooperatives. A leading programme is Saint Mary’s University in Canada’s Master of Management  Co-operatives and Credit Unions which is designed to improve students’ understanding of management within the context of the co-operative economic model.

SDA Bocconi School of Management in Italy created a Master in Management of Social Enterprises, Not for Profit Organizations and Cooperativesbased on intensive dialogue and discussion with the cooperatives themselves. Again in Canada, L’Université du Québec à Montréal offers a specialization in cooperatives and social organizations. They also bring in the topic of cooperatives across their programmes and initiatives, emphasizing cooperatives management during orientation activities and maintaining an endowed faculty chair on the subject.

Cornell University’s Cooperative Enterprise Program aims to enhance the performance of existing cooperative businesses and facilitate the development of emerging cooperative enterprise through teaching, research, and outreach. The CEP has grown out of a long-standing outreach effort at Cornell to agricultural cooperative businesses.

A few Business schools have Centers for Cooperatives. The University of Wisconsin’s Center for Cooperatives has a dedicated site for the International Year of Cooperatives with a wealth of information including how to start a coop. They also have links to research they have done around the economic impacts of cooperatives in the US.

Gustavson School of Business in Canada incorporates cooperatives into several of their courses. The international finance course includes frequent discussions based on current news from international financial markets, and students present in class on the topic of financial co-operative institutions and their role in developing countries. They also have an active interdisciplinary Centre for Co-operative and Community-Based Economy.

 Some schools also provide space for cooperatives to develop. ISAE/FGV for example has Technological Incubators for Popular Cooperatives (ITCP), in partnership with the Stickel Foundation. These incubators have been working with two solidarity and inclusive enterprises created by women from the Brasilândia, a low‐income neighbourhood in São Paulo: Doces Talentos, an organic catering service; and Brasilianas, a sustainable fashion project.

Is your school providing programmes on Cooperatives? Share your examples in the comments area below.

2012 International Year of Cooperatives and Management Education – Business Examples from Around the World (Part 2)

Each year the United Nations identifies an issue of global importance and raises awareness about it in the international community. The 2012 International Year of Cooperatives recognizes the diversity of the cooperative movement around the world and its contribution to socio-economic developments, such as poverty reduction, employment generation and social integration.

The World Co-operative Monitor launched in October 2012 ranks the 300 largest co-operative and mutual enterprises by turnover and provides a list of these organized by industry. The official website for the Year also provides a list of national cooperative associations organized by region. A few PRME professors shared their thoughts on top cooperative practices with us:

Leo Wang, Assistant Professor, School of Business, McEwan University, Canada: Mountain Equipment Co-op in Canada is a great example of an alternative business model that is built around leaving the world a better place than when we arrived. As both a cooperative and a business engaging in sustainable practices, it tries to champion sustainability in many different aspects (supply chain, internal processes, communications with consumers, etc.). For just $5 you can get a lifetime membership which gives you the right to vote. They now have over 3.3 million members.

Elizabeth Franklin-Johnson, Euromed Management, France & CEREFIGE, France: Sol à Sol is playing an important part in constructing the social economy as well as preserving nature. Selling organic fair-trade “Maté”, a traditional Argentinean drink, this cooperative offers rural workers in Argentina a chance to develop sustainably, have access to training and have a fair price for their products. From Sol à Sol’s base in Marseille, France, goods are packaged by employees in an environment which helps the social and professional integration of adults with disabilities. Sol à Sol has managed to combine the social, economic and environmental pillars into their business model, as well as having the additional ethical angle, all of which confirm their implication is sustainability, and in my mind ticks all the boxes!

Other examples recommended by faculty and students include;

  • Mondragon in the Basque region of Spain is a cooperative movement of workers that began in 1956 which has more than 83,000 employees and 9,000 students. 85% of its industrial workers are members.
  • Rabobank in the Netherlands was founded as a cooperative over 100 years ago by enterprising rural people who had virtually no access to capital markets. It has since grown in into an international financial service provider with a wide range of products. Its focus on sustainability revolves around four themes: safe and sustainable food supply, renewable energy and cleaner production, economic participation and access to finance for all and community involvement.
  • Unimed do Brasil is the largest private healthcare operator in the world. It also has the largest number of coops – 370 – which include 109,000 doctors and 3,029 accredited hospitals that provide care for more than 18 million customers.
  • Seikatsu Club Consumers’ Cooperative Union in Japan is an organization that started in 1965.  Initially, a single Tokyo housewife organized 200 women to buy 300 bottles of milk in order to reduce the price. It has since grown and now places an emphasis on direct producer/consumer links and is dedicated to the environment, empowerment of women and improvement of workers condition. Today, there are 600 consumer co-operatives with over 22 million members (almost a fifth of the country’s total population of 127 million) who buy a wide range of food products, clothing, publications and daily goods.

What other examples of cooperatives can you think of? Share them in the comments box below.

– This is part of a three part series on the International Year of Cooperatives. Part 3 will feature the response from business schools.

 

2012 International Year of Cooperatives and Management Education – Introduction (part 1)

Each year the United Nations identifies an issue of global importance and raises awareness about it in the international community. The 2012 International Year of Cooperatives recognizes the diversity of the cooperative movement around the world and its contribution to socio-economic developments, such as poverty reduction, employment generation and social integration.

The UN defines cooperatives as: “Business enterprises owned and controlled by the very members that they serve. Their member-driven nature is one of the most clearly differentiating factors of cooperative enterprises. This fact means that decisions made in cooperatives are balanced by the pursuit of profit, and the needs and interests of members of their communities”.

  • There are over 1.4 million cooperatives in the world operating in every country from Argentina to Zambia,
  • Over 1 billion people are members of cooperatives around the world,
  • The largest 300 cooperatives account for over USD 2.0 trillion in turnover, equal to the 10th largest national economy,
  • In Asia 45.3 million people are members of a credit union,
  • Food co-ops have been innovators in the area of unit pricing, consumer protection, organic and bulk foods, and nutritional labeling,
  • 80% of Spanish olive oil, 90% of Parmesan cheese, and 75% of Fair-trade goods are produced by cooperatives,
  • In Kenya, 63% of the population derives its livelihoods from cooperatives. In the United States, 30,000 cooperatives provide more than 2 million jobs,
  • Of the 4.8 million people in Norway, 2 million are members of cooperatives and many belong to more than one; therefore, the total number of memberships may be higher.

A few resources to learn more about cooperatives around the world:

  • The official UN site for the year is http://social.un.org/coopsyear/
  • The International Year has created a YouTube channel where co-ops have been uploading short videos. There will also be a Short Film Festival in November at the UN with the theme “Cooperative Enterprises Build a Better World”. The films will be posted online after the event.
  • The two organizations coordinating the International Year of Cooperativesare the World Council of Credit Unions and the International Cooperative Alliance(ICA). The ICA website provides a wealth of information about these events.
  • Stories.coop is a website dedicated to demonstrating the diversity of the cooperative enterprise model and to telling stories of successful cooperatives around the world.
  • International Summit of Cooperatives recently took place in Canada and focused on economic and financial issues specific to cooperatives.
  • In the future, the International Day of Cooperatives will be celebrated every year on the 7 July.

– This is part of a three part series on the International Year of Cooperatives. Part 2 will feature business examples from around the world and Part 3 will feature the response from business schools.

Please share your examples of cooperatives on the discussion board below.
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