Cooperativism

Basics

Definitions

  • United States
    • Colorado: § 7-90-601 stipulates that it is illegal to use the name cooperative in a company name unless you are incorporated as a coop under one of the coop statutes or the company is operating on a “cooperative basis”
    • New York: it’s a misdemeanor with hefty fines for using the coop name without being organized under the NY coop Corp law

Types of cooperatives

U.S. scale

According to the 2014 NCBA annual report,

  • “1 in 3 Americans is a member of a co-op and they collectively hold 350 million memberships nationwide”
  • “42 million Americans rely on electricity from 900 electric co-ops in 47 states, making up 42% of the nation’s electric distribution and electrifying 75% of the nation’s landmass”
  • “Most of the nation’s 2 million farmers belong to a farmer co-op and provide 250,000 jobs and over $8 billion in annual wages”
  • “100 million Americans turn to more than 6,000 Credit Unions for their financial services”
  • “233 million Americans are served by co-op owned and affiliated insurance companies”

In 2009, a report by the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives, Research on the Economic Impact of Cooperatives, counted 29,284 cooperatives in the United States. It found:

  • “The vast majority of cooperatives are owned by consumers, with most producer cooperatives existing in the agricultural sector.”
  • “Overall, nearly 30,000 cooperatives in the United States account for >$3T in assets, over >$500B total revenue, $25B in wages and benefits, and nearly 1M jobs.”

According to these numbers, the revenue of co-ops amounted to 3.47% of the U.S. GDP in 2009.

In 2005, a National Cooperative Month Planning Committee report counted 21,367 co-ops in the United States (while noting that past counts have been as high as 40,000). This includes:

  • 127.5 million total memberships
  • Only 300 purchasing co-ops, but they represent 50,000 independent businesses. “In 2004, the 10 largest purchasing co-ops alone had revenues of more than $12 billion.”
  • “In 2004, the three largest consumer co-ops alone had revenues of $5 billion.”
  • “Cooperatives in these six sectors employ considerably more than 500,000 Americans, with aggregate payrolls of more than $15 billion annually”
  • “total annual revenues in excess of $211.9 billion”

International scale

According to the International Co-operative Alliance "facts and figures":

  • “Co-operative enterprises worldwide employ 250 million people, and generate 2.2 trillion USD in turnover”
  • “In France, 21,000 co-operatives provide over 1 million jobs representing 3.5% of the active working population”
  • “In Kenya, 50% of the population derive their livelihoods from co-operatives. Approximately 250,000 Kenyans are employed or gain most of their income from co-operatives.”
  • “In Canada, four of every ten Canadians are members of at least one co-operative. In Quebec, approximately 
70% of the population are co-op members, while in Saskatchewan 56% are members.”
  • “The country with the largest number of individual members indirectly represented by the Alliance is the United States with 256 million members. There are nearly 30,000 co-operatives in the US. The next countries are in Asia, with India following next behind the US with 93.7 million individual members. And then Japan with 77 million individual members. The fourth largest number of members is in Iran with 36.9 million individual members.”

A 2014 United Nations report on Measuring the Size and Scope of the Cooperative Economy found:

  • “2.6 Million Cooperatives have over 1 Billion memberships and clients”
  • “12.6 Million Employees work in 770,000 Cooperative offices and Outlets”
  • “US$20 Trillion in Cooperative Assets generate US$3 trillion in Annual Revenue”
  • Notably, in comparison with the above finding that the US sector is in the lead, it isn't in the top 10 globally in terms of either memberships per capita (France, Finland, Switzerland, etc.), employment per capita (New Zealand, Switzerland, Italy, etc.), and revenue as a percentage of the GDP (New Zealand, Netherlands, France, etc.)
  • “1 in every 6 people on average in the world has membership or is a client of a cooperative.”
  • Cooperative revenue amounts to 4.3% of the global GDP

Bibliography

    • Press release: “Based on data from 156 countries, the updated estimate shows that employment in or within the scope of cooperatives concerns at least 279.4 million people across the globe, in other words 9.46% of the world’s employed population.”

Business incubation

"Cooperative commonwealth"

A tradition of terminology for a cooperative system.

  • Conaty, Pat. “The Commons and Co-operative Commonwealth.” Slides for Co-operatives UK and the New Economics Foundation. November 4-5, 2013.
  • Lloyd, Henry Demarest. Wealth against Commonwealth. 1894.
  • Gordon Nembhard, Jessica. Building a Cooperative Solidarity Commonwealth. The Next System Project, 2016.
    • “By a cooperative solidarity commonwealth, I mean a system of interlocking cooperative ownership structures in all industries and all sectors of the economy, where cooperatives and other community-based enterprises support one another by building linked supply chains, collaborating on projects, and sharing funding.These interconnections start locally but build into regional, national, and international interlocking structures, as needed (and as is rational).”
    • “By solidarity system, I mean a non-hierarchical, non-exploitative, equitable set of economic relationships and activities geared toward the grassroots—that’s of the people (people before profit), indigenous, participatory, based on human needs, humane values, and ecological sustainability.”
  • Gourevitch, Alex. From Slavery to the Cooperative Commonwealth: Labor and Republican Liberty in the Nineteenth Century. Cambridge University Press, 2014.
  • Gronlund, Laurence. The cooperative commonwealth in its outlines : an exposition of modern socialism. Boston: Lee and Shepard, 1884.
  • Holcombe, H.N. “The Government of the Fabian Socialist Commonwealth.” The Quarterly Journal of Economics 35 (May 1921).
    • The Fabian society, which advocated socialism through gradualist reform, was a major articulator of the “cooperative commonwealth” vision.
  • Lindenfeld, Frank. “The Cooperative Commonwealth: An Alternative To Corporate Capitalism and State Socialism.” Presidential Address delivered at the November 1996 meetings of the Association for Humanist Sociology, Hartford, CT.
  • Pouget, Emile and Emile Pataud. Syndicalism and the co-operative commonwealth. New International Publishing Company, 1913.
  • Restakis, John. Cooperative Commonwealth & the Partner State. The Next System Project, 2017.

Cooperative reform campaigns

  • Mutual Society, The - “an opt-in social movement that aims to enable its members to live a better life. We want to do this on a large-scale, with one million members in Australia, extending internationally as we are able”
  • Reforming the Cooperative Movement - “a global initiative for reform. It will encourage, facilitate, support and promote reform initiatives within and between cooperatives and mutuals”
  • We Own It - “The national network for cooperative members' rights, education, and organizing”

Credit unions and finance

Development and infrastructure

Regional

Asia

Canada

  • CoopZone - “ promoting and supporting the growth and development of co-operatives, through mobilizing co-operative developers committed to the vision and objectives of the co-operative movement”

United States

Directories

Economics

Bibliography

Freelancing

Healthcare

  • ColoradoCare, a cooperative health care proposal
  • Colorado Recovery - “provides adults with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder or other serious mental illnesses, access to a community-based residential treatment facility, transitional living, intensive outpatient treatment, and vocational services”
  • Savio, M. and A. Righetti. “Cooperatives as a Social Enterprise in Italy: A Place for Social Integration and Rehabilitation.” Acta Psychiatr Scand 88 (1993).
  • Starr, Paul. The Social Transformation of American Medicine: The rise of a sovereign profession and the making of a vast industry. Basic Books, 1984.
    • “The first self-consciously radical attempt to reorganize medical care on a prepaid, comprehensive basis came out of the cooperative movement. In 1929 - the year that the Baylor and Ross-Loos plans were organized - the first “medical cooperative” in America was formed in rural Oklahoma. During the thirties and forties a number of others appeared across the country. The medical cooperatives, as the leader of the movement explained, emphasized four principles: group practice, prepayment, preventive medicine, and - uniquely - consumer participation. The medical profession was unremittingly hostile, and by the end of the decade succeeded in convincing most states to pass restrictive laws that effectively barred consumer-controlled plans from operating.” (302)
  • Future Care Capital. “Unleashing the potential of health and care data.” 2017.
    • Includes recommendation for health care cooperatives

Health "sharing" programs

History

Films

Management and governance

Notable examples

Platform cooperativism

The most complete database of the platform co-op ecosystem is the Internet of Ownership directory and the table it's based on.

Blockchain adoption

Data

  • Midata.coop - “enables you to gather all your different health-relevant and other personal data in one secure place”
  • TheGoodData - “Using the value of your browsing data to help people in need”

Agricultural data

Bibliography

See The Internet of Ownership Library for more.

Policy

Related

Bibliography

  • Hird, Christopher. “The Crippled Giants.” New Internationalist 106. December 1981.
    • “The brave new experiments of large industrial cooperatives established by Britain’s Labour government in the 1970s have dribbled away into the footnotes of textbooks. Why did they fail? Christopher Hird answers the hard questions and argues that the experience of the Tony Benn cooperatives could provide valuable lessons”
  • Kirkup, James. “Tories plan 'workers' co-operatives' for public sector.” The Telegraph. February 16, 2010.

Related

Publishing, media, and journalism

Bibliography

Related

Purchasing

Tech services cooperatives

Networks

Web hosting

  • Electric Embers - “a worker cooperative providing Internet hosting services and support to nonprofits, cooperatives, artists, and others contributing to the common good”
  • Gaia Host - Worker-owned hosting services
  • HCoop - “a web hosting cooperative”, user owned
  • WebHosting.coop, user owned

Bibliography

Real estate and land

Related

Ridesharing and taxis

Worker cooperation

Bibliography

  • Abell, Hilary. Worker Cooperatives: Pathways to Scale. The Democracy Collaborative (June 2014).
  • Abrams, John. Companies We Keep: Employee Ownership and the Business of Community and Place. Second edition. Chelsea Green, 2008.
    • An account of the conversion, governance, and rationale of South Mountain Company, a worker co-op builder that Abrams co-founded in Martha's Vinyard.
  • Errasti, Anjel, Ignacio Bretos, and Aitziber Nunez. “The Viability of Cooperatives: The Fall of the Mondragon Cooperative Fagor.” Review of Radical Political Economics (February 2, 2017).
    • Explores the “degeneration thesis” that originates with Sidney and Beatrice Webb, which claims that worker co-ops inevitably degenerate into capitalist firms
  • Marraffino, Joe. “Resources for the History of Worker Cooperatives in the United States.” Co-operative News. August 27, 2011.
  • Wolff, Richard. Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism. Haymarket, 2012.
    • In strongly Marxian terms (with an emphasis on surplus value), argues for “worker self-determined enterprises” (WSDE) as the basic unit of production. This is explicitly not a call for worker cooperation, exactly, or even worker ownership, as Wolff is open to a variety of ownership regimes, including ownership by workers, the state, or others. The key principle is that the productive workers determine what becomes of the surplus value their labor produces—even to the point of distinguishing between the “productive” workers (who have a special role in governance to prevent the exploitation of their labor) and the “enablers” (who handle the support jobs from cleaning to legal work).
    • Provides little explanation (other than some state support) for how such enterprises would compete in obtaining growth capital from when compared to capitalist firms.
  • Ward, Benjamin. “The Firm in Illyria: Market Syndicalism.” American Economic Review 48, no. 4 (September 1958).
    • Observing the rise of “a less centralized form of economic organization” emerging in Eastern European socialist countries (566), esp. Yugoslavia. Describes the system of worker self-management (569), including setting wages. State reserved the right to intervene (570).
    • Proposes the imaginary firm of Illyria, where firms are worker-managed, no state intervention, no minimum wage, pure competitive market. Worker-managers see to maximize their short-term income. Plant is state-owned, paid for with rent. Workers set their own wages.
    • A series of curves exploring relationships between wages and production in both Illyrian and capitalist firms. “Illyria must pay a price for its decentralized pricing system in the form of imperfect markets” (581). The firm confronts rigidity in the labor market on the supply side.
    • The Illyarian firm is at a disadvantage for growth if the workers don't voluntarily reinvest some profits. “Something additional to worker self-interest might well be necessary in the Illyrian environment to ensure entry equivalent to that under capitalism” (583).
    • Yugoslavia has had to pass an antitrust law in order to prevent companies from manipulating prices by controlling output.
    • Ends with a call for further investigation (585).

Bibliography

Related