NEW STRATEGIES FOR COOPERATIVES: UNDERSTANDING AND MANAGING COOPERATIVE CREATION, TRANSITION AND TRANSFORMATION
AIMS OF THE CONFERENCE
Co-operatives are responding to tremendously volatile environments and must be agile, flexible and adept in meeting the needs of their members and communities. Co-operatives are exploring diverse strategies which may be related to management, organisational change, governance, collaborations, mergers and acquisitions, etc. A wide range of co-operative types and models in various stages of development and sophistication exist in both traditional and emerging fields. Definitions are blurring, based on the contexts in which co-operatives operate or have been created. A growing number of businesses are transitioning from investor owned enterprises to employee/worker owned co-operatives. Hybrid forms are springing up which are mixed with social enterprise or investor-oriented characteristics, as well as other community-oriented cultural practices.
In particular, the co-operative organisational form (traditional or modified) is experiencing a renaissance or regeneration given the fact that other business models have not performed well in various areas such as: the generation and safeguarding of employment; the creation of sustainable and equitably distributed wealth; the protection of the environment; food security; the creation of enabling environments for innovation; ensuring gender equality; providing resilience against market shocks; protecting vulnerable people; fulfilling social necessities such as healthcare, education, housing and other vital services; and, in general, meeting the economic, social and environmental needs of a wide range of people across the globe.
The purpose of the conference is to explore and ensure an understanding of the various stages of co-operative creation, transition and transformation and to discuss the strategies co-operatives may take to adequately manage such change and stages of development. In order to be successful, co-operatives must meet their objectives and benefit their members and communities, while at the same time taking into account specific contexts and the very different phases of co-operative development. For example, strategies of small, emerging co-operatives (often with a strong community base, diverse organisational forms and strong member commitment) may vary greatly from large, international business co-operatives (e.g. farmer-owned businesses). Co-operatives and related social enterprises occupy the whole range in-between these two examples, depending on scale, function, age, institutional, cultural and historical context, etc. As a consequence, the strategies and management of these varying types of co-operatives in the midst of volatility and diverse member and societal demands and challenges differ substantially.
THEMES AND AREAS OF RESEARCH
Theoretical and applied research which takes into account such differences and the manner in which co-operatives themselves are created, transform and transition are welcome, and will provide a useful and informative body of work which can be used by co-operatives from various scientific and sector areas in all stages of development.
With respect to the “pre-co-operative” stage or other business models which are synergistic or complementary, research could focus on other collective or community enterprise practices which precede, and/or foster co-operative development, as well as necessary enabling institutional support and legal and policy frameworks. Co-operatives may also form the base upon which to transition into other collective forms of entrepreneurship, as in the case of social enterprises.
Research presentations are welcome from all co-operative areas (worker, agriculture, services, credit, utilities, consumer, social, etc.) as well as research pertaining to stages of co-operative development (creation, organisational design, growth and expansion, crises and change management), enabling institutional environments, education, etc. It is anticipated that transversal workshops on the various stages of development (as opposed to a focus on co-operative type) will provide a “wrap-up” function at the end of each day´s sessions.
PROPOSALS FOR SESSIONS AND WORKSHOPS ARE WELCOME AND ENCOURAGED. If you propose a session or workshop, please suggest at least four (4) related papers on the topic. A Young Scholars Programme will also be part of the agenda and suggestions from PhDs and Post-Docs are also welcome. ALMERÍA LOCATION AND CO-OPERATIVE ROOTS
The province of Almería, in southeast Spain, has strong co-operative ties and is home to an important agricultural and credit co-operative community, with 13,000 small family farmers and approximately 70 marketing, supply and service co-operatives. It also has many social enterprises and other forms of co-operative entities, comprising a rich co-operative fabric. The city of Almería has a population of 190,000, and is on the Mediterranean Sea. Given the enormous changes experienced by the area over the last 50 years largely due to the co-operative entities, Almería has transformed from a barren land of abject poverty to a resilient and innovative economy. From this perspective of 50 years of co-operatives, the hosting institution, the University of Almería, has chosen a theme related to co-operative change, creation, transition and transformation. In addition, it has important co-operative institutions which support this conference. The Coexphal-UAL Chair which supports co-operative studies and sustainable development was founded by Coexphal, an association of producer organisations, who count the local co-operatives as associated members. Cajamar, with humble origins in the fields of Almería in the 1960s is now Spain´s largest co-operative bank and is a key support for both local and national co-operatives and continued R+D+i.