Co-operatives are going through a mid-life crisis, according to one our contributors. And all co-operators – old and new, young and old – are the key to ensuring the co-op business model continues to grow.
While we advocate for co-operation between co-operatives, we must not forget that we have to go beyond the institutional level. We are not just working together because it says so in our principles, co-operatives work together because it works for the benefits of all those involved.
But moving past the corporate relationship between co-ops, what is more important is the solidarity between co-op workers, members and other stakeholders.
By working together on a personal and individual level we can share knowledge and resources to not only help each other professionally, but in life as well.
Looking at the needs of society there are two clear groups of people that need help and support: younger generations and older generations.
Young people need to know how to use the co-operative model to their advantage – but they also need to be aware of it in the first place. In our feature, we speak to three young co-operators who have started – or joined – co-op businesses, who reflect on the challenges of modern co-operativism and talk about what they would have changed on their journey.
Ieva Padagaitė believes it’s the inherently personal connection that will ultimately help the growth of co-ops. “It’s up to young people in the movement to inspire and energise the growth of the movement,” she says, “and it’s up to older co-operators to enable that growth by sharing wealth, resources and knowledge.”
It’s not just business know-how that needs to be shared – a group of friends in Oxford recently came together to set up a housing co-op. By working with external investors, they can much quickly own a piece of their home.
For those just starting out in the movement, Tatiana Baskakova adds that she found a lack of will from other co-ops in her area to engage with a newer, younger co-op. An answer to this, she says, is shorter work days and the need to be more collectively organised.
Up until a few years ago, Google had a policy that allowed its engineers to spend 20% of their time on personal projects. The only catch was those personal projects had to benefit Google. It was successful and spawned Gmail, Adsense and Google Talk.
It was an innovative gesture. Could this work in the co-op sector, which should be innovative and forward-looking? Will our co-ops allow us four hours a week to work on a project for the good of co-operatives?
Can we organise our 220,000 employees in a way that we can all work together and/or independently to share ideas and knowledge for the benefit of co-ops?