Co-operatives - an answer to the economic crisis?
Did you know that...
- More people are employed by co-operatives worldwide than by multinationals.
- Co-operative systems are seen throughout nature and are a successful survival strategy.
- All animals with nucleated cells, including you and I, are living co-ops of different organisms.
Our expert speakers were the author and illustrator Polyp and Laura Vickery from the Co-operative Group. We were all gripped by the discussion that ensued.
In recent times the radical roots of the co-op movement have almost disappeared from people's consciousness. I'd bet hardly anyone popping into their local Co-op for a tin of beans would suspect it started in Rochdale as a revolutionary movement against a backdrop of social upheaval and oppression. It's since become a globally successful and widely adopted economic model.
So what exactly differentiates the co-operative model from current neo-liberal capitalism? Basically the principles that sit behind all co-ops are:
- One member one vote.
- Open membership.
- Fair division of profits.
This means people control the capital not the other way around. Your co-op card gives you a say in the running of the business.
I found it interesting that co-operation is not a party-led movement. It's simply a non-exploitative means for people to stand on their own feet. Laura Vickery made the point that co-operatives should not be seen as quirky alternatives to the present business model; they should be the norm. And yes, co-operatives could just be that elusive answer to our economic crisis.
With our appreciation of the co-op movement suitably rebooted we ended with a nugget of information: co-ops can be good for your health too. A recent survey found that "co-operative minded" people are more positive and more involved in their communities. Christmas has come early.
Annabella Macris, Volunteer
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