Noreena Hertz, at the School of Finance at Erasmus University in Rotterdam, has written recently about the need, in this post-luxe era, to replace Gucci capitalism with coop capitalism. In an article in Wired magazine (http://www.wired.co.uk/magazine/archive/2012/04/ideas-bank/noreena-hertz), she describes Gucci capitalism as assuming that we are selfish, super-individualistic beings who care only about maximising our wealth, salaries and resources, in contrast to co-op capitalism, which prioritizes collective destiny—it values the network.
ICA is working hard during this International Year of Co-operatives to make sure that the world is aware of this difference. Our priority this year is on public awareness: to increase public awareness of the co-operative as a serious, values-based model of enterprise where the individual has a meaningful voice.
We’ve opened a communications office in the UK, and we have established a relationship with a global communications and media relations firm there—Fenton—with the intent to plant our substantive messages in mainstream media.
If you unpack our public awareness message, there are three key components to it: the co-operative is a serious enterprise model; it’s values-based; the members control it—you have a voice.
We’re leading with the first message, that the co-operative is a serious enterprise model, because we believe it is the least understood. ICA publishes a list of the 300 largest co-operatives in the world. Last year’s list reported that those 300 co-operatives had an annual turnover of USD 1.6T, equal to the world’s 9th largest economy.
The co-operative model is a thing of beauty at a community level, but it is scalable. It has proven its credibility as a serious enterprise model. We need to ensure that co-operatives are not marginalised as a small enterprise model in a world without legitimate alternatives. We need to resist what Stephen Yeo referred to recently, in a column in the Co-operative News, as the notion that “Small is beautiful. Invisible is even better.”
We have a story of success to share: the prominence of Italian co-operatives in that nation’s economy; the success of the Raiffeisen model; the health system embedded in the Japanese agricultural co-operatives. Our public awareness strategy is getting these stories out, in the context of the impact they are having.