The People’s business: Berlin symposium summary, 28th October 2015

Peoples-business-logoThe objective for meeting was to discuss with the attendees the role of coops in facing current economic and social challenges.

Interestingly through the discussions and presentations what became apparent is, rather than looking at the different sectors for our analysis it is interesting to consider the coops in their different forms of purpose i.e. as producers, consumers, trade and industry, residents, energy consumers or as banking and financial services for example. This then gives a good point of departure for our research.

Coops cover key sectors of our society, if we take it from the perception firstly of what do we want achieve – i.e. better spread of wealth, reduced inequalities, more ownership, participatory and trust – we can then apply these to the different models existing and their role that they play in this level of governance.

Much of the values and principles from leading coops can be taken and applied to challenges our societies are currently facing. For instance trust, good governance and solidarity for instance are many values that people are calling out for in today’s societal void. These values could help reconnect people and revive the coop business model.

The presentations firstly looked at different sectors of cooperatives across Europe and then we looked at the different cases from the three participating countries. Naturally, there are wide variations between them all. For instance in central Europe particularly negative connotations relating back to the historical past of coops is one of the current limiting factors in these countries.

The discussants looked at the differences in legal structure, legislative frameworks and also general purpose and objectives of different coops in the countries.

The later discussion featured a presentation from Bastian Jantz, research fellow at Das Progressive Zentrum about distrust in the market economy, challenges of the changing demographic and energy transition. This stimulated debate on how coops are perceived in general and a discussion followed on what their future role and structure may look like.

Some interesting findings:

  • One in five Europeans are member of a coop.
  • The market share is very significant, up to 18% GDP in some countries.
  • Co-op banks have proven to be much more stable than listed banks throughout the crisis.

The Berlin symposium gathered representatives from Germany, Poland and Czech Republic. It was kindly hosted together with Das Progressive Zentrum.

Look out for more to come from other meetings in the cycle.