Where Co-ops are King: Emilia-Romagna

Co-op students from St. Mary's University visit the Cavim wine cooperative.

October is Co-op Month, and we're celebrating all the ways cooperatives put values into action.

Central Co-op Marketing Director Susanna Schultz recently visited the Italian region of Emilia-Romagna as part of her studies for her Masters of Management in Cooperatives and Credit Unions. Emilia-Romagna is special because of its dense network of cooperatives that create 30% of the region’s GDP and involve 2/3rds of the population as members. Cooperatives there span most sectors of the economy, especially retail, agribusiness and social services, but also with a significant presence in financial services, insurance, transportation and more.

When talking to cooperators in the region, Susanna was struck by three things:

1) Their keen awareness of themselves as stewards of their co-ops for future generations. "Current cooperators that we met really spoke a lot about how they know the cooperative doesn’t exist for their own benefit but that it was really built by previous generations of members for the members that come in the future" 

2) Their focus on innovation. "Cooperatives depend on being able to serve their members over time and as members needs change cooperatives have to change to serve their needs."

3) Their dedication to job creation and the value of work. Cooperators were really wrestling with how to increase employment while "technology changes and the nature of work shifts and.. how [people] create value for themselves, their communities and their families"

Susanna was inspired by being in an environment where cooperatives were so well known and respected, and also saw resonances with the values of Central Co-op, like of Principle 9: Concern for Workers. The co-ops of Emilia-Romagna were also a perfect example of Principle 6: Cooperation Among Cooperatives, as they work together in supply chains and are required by law to contribute 3% of their surplus to organizations that develop new co-ops.

Read more about how this amazing cooperative economy came about in this article from Yes! Magazine.

Date: Monday October 23, 2017

Category: Co-ops

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