Cooperative

By Yanina Bellini Saibene in English Community 100DaysToOffload

January 5, 2024

Cooperative flag. The flag consisted of the colors red, orange, green, yellow, blue, indigo and violet and symbolized the ideals and objectives of universal peace, unity that overcomes political, economic, social, racial or religious differences and the hope of humanity in a better world where freedom, personal dignity, social justice and solidarity reign.

The flag consisted of the colors red, orange, green, yellow, blue, indigo and violet and symbolized the ideals and objectives of universal peace, unity that overcomes political, economic, social, racial or religious differences and the hope of humanity in a better world where freedom, personal dignity, social justice and solidarity reign.

My last few years being part of international non-profit organizations and communities of practice have made me reflect on the types of governance and business models that are mostly used and our different successful models in these latitudes. This article is about the cooperative model. A way of doing things that has been present in my life since I was a child.

A cooperative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to form a democratic organization whose administration and management are carried out in the manner agreed upon by the members.1. Cooperative businesses are typically more productive and economically resilient than many other and frequently have social goals, which they aim to accomplish by investing a proportion of trading profits back into their communities. There are a number of principles and values:

  • Voluntary and open membership
  • Democratic member control, with each member having one vote.
  • Economic participation by members
  • Autonomy and independence
  • Education, training and information
  • Cooperation among cooperatives
  • Concern for community

My first contact with the concept of cooperativism was through my parents, who were part of the cooperative of all the public schools I attended. The goal of the co-op was (and still is - my husband and I take turns being part of the co-op at our children’s public school) to help the school have more and better services for the students.

Almost everything is run by a cooperative in my province. The idea and concepts of cooperativism are part of the curriculum in elementary school and is a one-year course in high school. There are complete high school orientations where the student receives a technical degree in cooperative management. In every town in La Pampa there is a cooperative that manages basic and important services. Because they are managed by a cooperative they are also accessible to all people living in that town.

I am part of three large cooperatives:

  1. Housing cooperative: we build houses and apartments. The cost is much lower than a private company, and the quality is higher. Many of our members do not qualify for a bank loan.

  2. Santa Rosa Public Works and Services Popular Electricity Cooperative: manages electricity, street lights, telecommunication (internet, phone), and television for the whole city. It also has funeral services, a nursery, a library, training, a magazine a TV channel with local content and local producers, and a sale of household appliances. Every town in my province has a cooperative that manages these services; some add water purification. We have some of the lowest costs in the country for these services.

  3. La Coope: a “supermarket” with reasonable prices that gives its members their share of the profits in the form of credit for our purchases every year, among other services.

In other parts of the country, there are other types of cooperatives running bussiness like banks and factories. In fact, the first cooperative credit institution in our country was Banco Popular Argentino, created in Buenos Aires in 1887, 136 years ago. The oldest cooperative in La Pampa has 90 year old, was created in 1933.

It is a successful and possible business model, beneficial for the whole community because it has the people and the community as their focus.

There are technology-based companies that have adopted the cooperative model. However, when we think about working in the development of communities of practice focus on open software, open science, open education, we adopt the models inherited from the minority world (or global north or affluent countries, whatever you want to call it), we look for “fiscal sponsors” and accept their rules and their governance models, as if they were revolutionary or were the best way to do things.

Meanwhile, in our lands we have a model that has been working for more than 130 years, where community and cooperation are the core of its functioning, where governance is democratic, open and transparent.

I know tech companies and fiscal sponsors have the money and the contacts, but that doesn’t mean they know how to do things better than we do. Nor does it mean that their model works better for us.


  1. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cooperative ↩︎

Posted on:
January 5, 2024
Length:
4 minute read, 735 words
Categories:
English Community 100DaysToOffload
Tags:
English Community 100DaysToOffload
See Also:
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How to contribute to open projects and communities
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