Wednesday, 19 May 2010

european worker coops to help uk rise to the cameron challenge

At the CECOP meeting of European worker coop federations in Brussels today we asked for assistance to respond to the Cabinet Office policy announced today to promote worker coops for public service delivery. And we got an enthusiastic response from Italy and Spain where they know all about externalising public services into coops.

That's the spirit. Cooperation between cooperatives. Our Principle 6 secret weapon (see International Cooperative Alliance principles)

uk government officially promotes worker coops

UK cabinet office today released their Big Society plan and state:

"section 4. Support co-ops, mutuals, charities and social enterprises

We will support the creation and expansion of mutuals, co-operatives, charities and social enterprises, and support these groups to have much greater involvement in the running of public services.

We will give public sector workers a new right to form employee-owned co-operatives and bid to take over the services they deliver. This will empower millions of public sector workers to become their own boss and help them to deliver better services."

The challenge has been made. The cooperative movement must rise to it. Not just the UK standing alone. We will be calling in assistance from cooperators from across Europe.

coops and offender training, help from Italy

Confcooperative, one of the large Italian cooperative federations offered to assist UK cooperators to set up social cooperatives to deliver training, support and re-integration into employment help for offenders and prisoners.

Social cooperatives are cooperative social enterprises and Italy has more experience of these multi-stakeholder cooperatives than anywhere else. I was asked by people trying to do something similar in the UK and I'm pleased to say that Confcooperative have enthusiastically offered help including visits to their organisations in Northern Italy.

I am the Coops UK representative to CECOP the european federation for worker coops and social coops and I am happy to make links like the above. Let us stop re-inventing the wheel and learn from our coop colleagues 'over the water'.

Tuesday, 18 May 2010

worker coops beat the credit crisis

Statistical assessment and surveys show that worker coops have been more resilient than conventional enterprises in withstanding the economic crisis.
Social services did better than manufacture & construction
Worker coops used flexibility and innovation to better overcome the crisis. better than conventional enterprises.
Worker coops had better reserves and less dependent on external finance than conventional enterprises.
Led to better sustainability of employment in worker coops.
The worker coops that failed were already in trouble. Few healthy worker coops failed.

More evidence that worker cooperative is a better model of organisation for SMEs. Over to you David Cameron, Nick Clegg and Vince Cable. Will you promote worker cooperative as the number one SME model?

Monday, 17 May 2010

Social Cooperatives - Cameron's Cooperatives?


Suddenly we find ourselves with a government intent on externalising NHS services into worker cooperatives. I share other worker coop people's unease at the thought of groups of workers working for one monopoly customer and pocketing NHS money as profits.

Is there a better solution?

Multistakeholder coops in Italy run externalised services. Type A are care coops with workers, users and others as members. Type B are employment inclusion with permanent employees as members and temporary training members. A majority or a large proportion of directors are elected by workers but their self-interest is tempered by user representatives and others from funders, trade unions etc.

Very successful, number some 7000 now. We do have multistakeholder coops in the UK. Greenwich leisure, GLL Ltd., is the best example and Somerset Cooperative Services have written UK specific model rules for multistakeholder IPS but they have not yet been as popular as social coops in Italy.

Social cooperatives are a solution to the problem of bureacratically inefficient state services and the potential misuse of public funds in the private sector. Social coops use public money to provide services. They are proper cooperatives with full democracy. Think social enterprise but cooperative. So executive salaries are agreed by the members and the organisation remains locked into its local community and does not become a detached corporate plaything of its executives.

CECOP (the European Federation of worker and social coops) and CICOPA (the world federation) are developing a world definition of a social cooperative to help other countries to develop legislation and regulations to use social cooperatives to safely use public funds for social purposes.

In a global survey of social enterprise and cooperative legislation by CICOPA, it was found that the majorityof states which had social enterprise laws used a cooperative model and not the corporate executive led model which dominates the UK. The CICOPA definition will be agreed by the ICA as a guide to these and other states, and for national cooperative associations.

Confcooperative , one of the Italian cooperative federations are happy to help us in the UK to introduce the concept of social cooperatives to our politicians and civil service. As the UK representative to CECOP and CICOPA (from Cooperatives UK) I will be trying to link them up with the appropriate people in the UK.