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Reforming the Cooperative Movement

Around the world, everyone is searching for new models of business that are dynamic and accountable, innovative and sustainable, environmentally responsible and people-centred. In every country, this search leads towards a rediscovery of cooperatives and mutuals – businesses that are owned not by investors or by the state but by their members, as consumers, producers, farmers, tenants, parents, residents, artists, retailers, savers or investors.

The potential for cooperatives and mutuals to become the business norm, the primary mode of enterprise in our societies in the 21st century, is unprecedented. Technology-driven connectivity makes cooperation between individuals and groups, on a large scale, less costly and more feasible than at any time in history.

Yet the potential for cooperatives and mutuals to take centre stage in the global economy is everywhere constrained by inappropriate models of leadership, management and representation. Democratic governance and member-driven innovation have been supplanted, in too many cases, by management capture, hierarchy-driven knowledge flows, market inertia and capital inadequacy.

In the 19th century, cooperatives and mutuals proudly constituted a ‘movement’ that came to involve millions of ordinary people. Today the term ‘movement’ is still used, but the entrepreneurial vitality of grassroots people it refers to needs regeneration and reform.

Reforming the Cooperative Movement is a global initiative for reform. It will encourage, facilitate, support and promote reform initiatives within and between cooperatives and mutuals. In recent years, tens of thousands of individuals in many different cooperatives and mutuals have sought regeneration and renewal of their organisations, but many have felt isolated and ineffective in their efforts. Reforming the Cooperative Movement will use online connectivity to link reformers, by country and by cooperative type. The cooperative movement has always been an international movement.

Your participation is invited. A Statement of Purpose for the project follows. A Global Leadership Group will guide the development of the network.

Expressions of Interest in participating may be expressed through this online form.

Statement of Purpose

1. The cooperative and mutual sector in the global economy is large and diverse but lacks peer-generated mechanisms for reform and regeneration, and member-generated tools for strategic development and innovation.

2. Reforming the Cooperative Movement is a peer-generated instrument for reform, transformational leadership, and innovation in cooperatives and mutuals. It uses online and face-to-face connectivity to network reformers and innovators.

3. Reforming the Cooperative Movement will address the following issues and develop strategic responses to them:

a. management capture of cooperatives and mutuals
b. contraints on member-driven governance and innovation
c. vertical rather than horizontal flows of information and communication
d. entrepreneurial vitality in cooperatives and mutuals
e. scale and member-driven governance
f. membership-based leadership
g. dependence on government patronage
h. dependence on consultancy businesses for extension and development
i. challenges in multi-stakeholder cooperation
j. bureaucratisation of the cooperative movement

4. Reforming the Cooperative Movement will encourage, facilitate, support and promote reform initiatives within and between cooperatives and mutuals world-wide.

5. A Global Leadership Group will guide the development of the network. Convenors will coordinate activity in each nation.

6. Reforming the Cooperative Movement is an independent network of participants and is a project of the Civil Society Movement. It is not a provider of services or member benefits, nor is it a consultancy business.

Register your interest here.

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