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.

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