The covid crisis has led us to question the meaning of work and has highlighted the dysfunctions of certain capitalist companies. Today, the cooperative model seems to attract more and more young professionals, particularly for its governance and democratic values. Why work in a co-op ? What are the benefits? We'll tell you all about it!
What is a cooperative?
Co-operative societies are human-centred businesses. Led by their members, they satisfy common economic, social and cultural aspirations. At the heart of how they operate: equity, equality, social justice... They bring together individuals who work together to build sustainable businesses.
Today, this model is experiencing a revival of interest among the new generations. Indeed, the latter are more sensitive to the social and solidarity economy and want to give meaning to their work. The Covid pandemic has highlighted the value of cooperatives and their resilience in crisis situations. The societal challenges during this period have been considerable: lack of supply of raw materials and products, lack of transparency on products/services, increasing economic and social inequalities... Faced with this, it becomes necessary to adopt other economic models to make society more sustainable and resilient. The cooperative model is therefore likely to gain ground in the coming years, provided that it is supported by the public authorities.
To illustrate the cooperative landscape in Belgium with figures, in 2021 there were 19,607 cooperative societies. Even if they represent only 1% of all companies active on Belgian territory and 3% of GDP; Their contribution to the economy remains very important.
The 7 Principles of Cooperatives
The International Co-operative Alliance has defined seven principles that guide cooperative companies.
Cooperatives are open to everyone (as long as they share the same values and a common desire to be entrepreneurial!) on a voluntary basis. Of course, there is no discrimination based on gender, origin, political opinions, religion... And no limit on the number of members! In addition, if they no longer wish to be part of the cooperative, they can abandon the project without constraints.
Internal democratic power
Cooperatives bring people together in a democratic way . This is because everyone is placed on an equal footing and has the same voting rights. The principle is that one person = one vote, regardless of the number of shares he/she holds. Power is therefore not concentrated in the hands of those who possess the most capital; The power belongs to everyone. Therefore, the members decide together on the future of the company. This guarantees more involvement on the part of the teams and a better quality of life at work!
Internal Economic Participation
Co-operatives are partnerships, centred on people and not exclusively on profit. They help their members control their economic future and distribute the economic and social benefits of the company fairly. One part is reserved for employees and partners, while another part is reinvested in the company so that it can grow! The profits generated are often returned in the form of patronage dividends or other activities approved by members.
Autonomy and independence
These are two values that are well established in co-operative societies. They are autonomous and, as already explained, led by their members. If they enter into agreements with other organizations or if they raise capital from outside, they do so with democratic leadership through their cooperators.
Education, training and information
A co-operative society provides its members, elected officers, managers and employees with all the resources necessary for the development of the co-operative. It also informs the general public in a transparent manner about the benefits of cooperation.
Cooperation between cooperatives
Co-operatives aim to strengthen the co-operative movement by collaborating with other co-operatives. Together, they defend the interests of their members at the local, regional, national and international levels.
Commitment to the community
Cooperatives contribute to the sustainable development of their communities, according to the terms and conditions defined by their members. Thanks to their values, they serve the general interest, and not only the common interest of the cooperative members.
Working in a co-op
By joining a cooperative, no more shareholders and bosses who decide on the company's strategy alone. Your word will count on the same level as the others. The working conditions, the salaries, the direction that the company takes will be voted on by a majority.
So let's recap, why work in a cooperative? To give meaning to your work and join a company for which transparency, proximity and social justice are the key words!
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