From October 6 to 9, Quebec in Canada hosted the second edition of the International Summit of Cooperatives, with the main theme being the power of innovation.
Here, CDS chief executive Sarah Deas looks at the approaches taken by co-operatives in Argentina, Spain and France.
The first part of the blog can be read here.
We heard from the Argentinian Federation of Worker Co-operatives in Technology, Innovation and Knowledge that there has been a boom in worker co-operatives. In 1990 there were just 30, now there are 10,000. Social co-operatives account for the largest proportion, followed by young professionals (mostly in technology, communications and consulting services).
The growth is due to public policy; government contracts have advantaged social and construction sector co-operatives. A percentage of co-operatives’ tax also goes into a fund to support co-operative development.
We also heard the Mondragon Corporation story – a federation of worker co-operatives based in the Basque region of Spain. It is the tenth largest Spanish company, employing 74,000 people in 257 companies and organisations spanning finance, industry, retail and knowledge. Mikel Lezamiz described the ‘four-legged support stool’ that supports growth: education, finance, social assistance and innovation. A virtuous circle.
France’s worker co-operative membership association, Les Scop, described how they are promoting the model as a solution to ownership succession. From a negligible number 10 years ago, a growing proportion (currently 15%) of their 2,200 members have chosen the worker co-operative model for succession reasons.
This percentage is expected to double in coming years. I was interested to see Les Scop’s TV advert, which forms part of a campaign targeting 55+ year old owners – perhaps an approach that we might pursue in Scotland? Les Scop has also introduced training, on the back of the new law in France that requires all companies to provide training to employees.
For anyone interested in worker co-operatives a visit to La Barberie microbrewery is a must! On arriving, I was delighted to see Scotch Ale at the top of the menu – although on this visit Pumpkin Beer was the order of the day.
Established in 1997, this worker co-operative has 25 employees, of which 15 are members. It is one of four microbreweries co-operatives in Quebec province that worked together to produce the ‘Rochdale Beer’ which was launched at the Summit. Thanks to Jessica Provencher for hosting our visit.
Read part three of Sarah Deas’ account of her visit to Quebec.