Co-operatives are getting stronger, John Restakis told a plenary session at Co-operative Congress, but while there was hope, there were also challenges.
Co-operatives root people and businesses in their communities, said Mr Restakis, who, up until recently, has been Executive Director of the British Columbia Co-operative Association in Vancouver, Canada, since 1998. They offer a way to manage common resources like fisheries and forests, as well as a means to protect local communities and local economies.
“Co-operatives are the antibodies to globalisation,” he told delegates. “Co-operatives and co-operative economies are the best way to humanise economies.”
He told delegates about Emilia-Romagna in Italy, where one third of gross domestic product is related to co-operatives, and the Basque region of Spain, where 83,000 people are employed in 256 co-ops, including the Mondragon federation.
These co-operative economies, he said, involve not only co-ops but also the wider economy. “In Emilia-Romagna, 40,000 small firms are co-operating in production networks,” he said. “The co-operative movement in this region has had such a positive, contagious effect that everyone considers it as what works.
“Co-operators are sitting down and strategising with their governments to plan for their regions. The co-operative economy doesn’t just apply to co-ops. It can be transposed to organisations that aren’t co-ops.”
But despite the strength of the movement, Mr Restakis said, there were perpetual problems. Disparity of income was widening in the US, and the Bangladesh factory collapse — an event not dissimilar to factory disasters in Britain during the industrial revolution or New York as recently as 100 years ago — reminded us that little has changed. Corporate social responsibility was, he added, “to be blunt, a gloss".
Mr Restakis, who is from Greece, said the country of his birth was responding to its challenges by co-operating. “What’s emerging now is Greece is not just ruin and frustration but also some hope,” he said. “Workers are now taking over their factories, taking over production and finding ways of supporting their products. Co-operatives are now seen as one response to a situation where no-one else has found a solution.”
In this article
- British co-operative movement
- British Columbia
- Business models
- Co-operative Congress
- Co-operative Congress 2013
- Consumer cooperative
- Executive Director
- Executive Director of the British Columbia
- John Restakis
- Person Career
- Social Issues
- United Kingdom