Fabio Sabatini, Francesca Modena and Ermanno Tortia performs the first empirical investigation into the role of different types of enterprises in the creation of social trust. Drawing on a unique dataset collected through the administration of a questionnaire to a representative sample of the population of the Italian Province of Trento in March 2011, the authors find that cooperatives are the only type of enterprise where the work environment fosters the social trust of workers.
Cooperative enterprises represent a limited, but growing phenomenon in contemporary economies. Since their origins they have been important actors in supporting the most disadvantaged social groups, in guaranteeing involvement and community development, and in complementing public welfare systems. Their socially oriented nature is mainly connected to their not-for-profit entrepreneurial action, to the democratic governance based on the “one member, one vote” rule, and to the concern for the community in which they are located, as established by the seventh International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) principle, introduced in the ICA gathering in Manchester in 1995. Most importantly, in recent years these businesses have strengthened resilience to the crisis in most economic systems, by increasing organizational diversity and providing proactive answers to worsening economic conditions. While competitive markets and the public sector are experiencing serious difficulties in most countries, cooperatives are showing more stability and reactivity. This is mostly because of their reduced reliance on support by financial markets resulting in less involvement in the financial crisis.
More specifically, a finding of this analysis indicate that the status of being employed in a cooperative enterprise increases the probability that work has improved the social trust of workers by 47.5% relative to employment in public enterprises, by 36.9% relative to private enterprises and by 51% relative to self-employment. This finding suggests that the development of cooperative enterprises – and, more generally, of less hierarchical models of governance and of not purely profit maximizing forms of enterprises – may play a crucial role in the diffusion of trust and in the accumulation of social capital. This may contribute to increased resilience of the economic system, especially in times of crisis.
Follow this link to read the findings of this investigation.
He is Assistant Professor at the Department of Economics and Law of the Sapienza University of Rome. He currently teachs Public Economics at the Faculty of Economics in Latina and he collaborates with the European Research Institute on Cooperative and Social Enterprises (Euricse).
Francesca Modena is Post-doc Research Fellow in Economics at the University of Trento. Her main research interests are Poverty and Development, Household Economics, Well-being and social capital.
Ermanno Tortia is researcher at the University of Trento, Department of Economics. His research is focused on the economics of cooperation, on social enterprises and non-profit organizations, with particular attention paid to labour economics and local development.