Recently I had some discussions with people involved in co-ops in a few occasions. I knew very little about the movement, so I looked up some information and noted below what I’ve learned so far.
Last week in Archipiélago there was an exhibition of about 10 short films. One of them was about BAH, a food co-op that started in 1999 in Madrid. It seems extremely difficult to run a food co-op, but BAH turned out to be quite successful. We had some discussions with the film maker Yiru Chen after the display.
In the follow-up discussions Chihao observed that it seems food co-ops are the most prominent examples of successful co-ops. There are quite a few other kinds of co-ops, however. Food co-op is an example in the larger category of co-ops which is consumers cooperative, and consumers cooperatives are not limited to the agricultural sector. For example, in UK the Co-operative brand is a collective brand of many consumers cooperatives that operate over food, funeralcare, legal service, travel, energy, among others.
There is the worker cooperative, of course, which is historically the first type of cooperatives. The Rochdale principles originates from it. ICA, the International Co-operative Alliance, runs a world co-operative monitor. The report categorized co-ops into a few sectors: agriculture, wholesale-retail, industry, social, banking, insurance, and other services.
Yiru mentioned that, BAH, however, doesn’t seem to seek for the legal status as a cooperative.
The first (as far as I know) and most successful co-op in Taiwan, Homemakers Union Consumers Co-op, is also a food co-op.
Some research suggests that worker-owned firms could be competitive with conventional cooperations in busincess scale and productivity (another study on worker performance by the same author.)
An older study suggests there are many possible errors and obstacles in expanding the cooperative model of economy.
Archipiélago is a group of people in Taiwan in search for ways to operate as a creative collective.
Institute of Network Society (under China Academy of Art) is holding a hackathon — coopathon — for co-ops during December 10-12. I’ll attend the event on December 11 and 12.