With the International Year of Co-operatives coming to an end last week, Co-operative News spoke with Rodrigo Gouveia, Secretary-General of EuroCoop, about what co-ops can expect in the future.
The Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade focuses on building a common co-operative identity. Is there a common European identity when it comes to consumer co-operatives?
At the moment there is no common identity of European consumer co-operatives. There is a trend to adopt the brand “COOP” across several countries but there is no real joint marketing of that brand as national consumer co-operatives remain independent and autonomous.
EuroCoop intends to start a discussion regarding the contribution of consumer co-operatives to the Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade and this will certainly be a topic.
Historically, consumer co-operatives have thrived most when they reached a strong economic consolidation. This consolidation was made through mergers and acquisitions, but also through joint branding and marketing. A fundamental question is whether this strategy is also necessary at European level given the continued economic integration in the region.
What would be the main challenges that consumer co-operatives face today to increase membership participation?
Member participation is one of the main challenges that consumer co-operatives face in terms of governance. EuroCoop produced in 2011 a report that identifies the main challenges.
In my view the greatest challenge is to engage with young people in a way that they understand and care about. A crucial element is to distinguish between formal and informal participation and it is the latter that requires the most work in the future.
What is your view on having a co-operative trademark like the one for Fairtrade products? Would this be possible within say the European region?
I believe there is a great opportunity to discuss the possibility of building a co-operative trademark. The biggest challenge would be to make it meaningful.
There is a large proliferation of trademarks/logos in different areas and consumers are many times overwhelmed without really understanding what the mark stands for (Fair Trade, organic, rain forest alliance, MSC, FSC, ISO, etc.).
Are there misconceptions when it comes to co-ops within Europe? Do some people still tend to think co-ops are state-controlled?
There are many misconceptions about co-operatives everywhere in Europe. This is mainly due to the fact that it is a difficult concept to explain.
In some countries, some people associate co-operatives with socialism and state control; others believe it is an old-fashioned concept; others believe it is idealistic; others have no idea what it is…
In my view, the global co-operative movement should look at the way the concept is communicated.
This has much to do with some of the points made earlier relating to brand and marketing. Messages should be appropriate to the target audience because it is not the same to communicate with policy makers or with the general public for example.
Rodrigo Gouveia is Secretary-General of Euro Coop, the European Community of Consumer Co-operatives since May 2006.
Euro Coop is the European Community of Consumer Co-operatives, whose members are the national organisations of consumer co-operatives from 18 European countries. Created in 1957, Euro Coop today represents over 4,500 local and regional co-operatives, whose members total more than 30 million consumers across Europe.
In this article
- British co-operative movement
- Business models
- Co-operatives UK
- Consumer cooperative
- Cooperative principles
- European Cooperative Society
- European Union
- Ontario Co-operative Association
- Person Career
- Rochdale Principles
- Rodrigo Gouveia
- Social Issues
- Statement on the Co-operative Identity
- The Co-operative Group