Journal of Co-operative Studies Vol 47 No 2 (No 141) Autumn 2014
Welcome to the Autumn 2014 edition of the Journal of Co-operative Studies
Jan Myers and Paul A Jones
Peer Refereed Papers
To Co-operate or not Co-operate: a Case Study of Food Co-ops in England
Martin Caraher, Julie Smith and Georgia Machell
Food co-ops are highlighted in UK policy as one way of improving food provisioning systems when formal state and commercial services fail to deliver. This research takes a case study approach to food retail co-ops in England funded under a community outreach programme. The co-operatives surveyed had different priorities, some ranking health and food prices as more important than those associated with sustainability. In the majority of cases there were no formal membership structures and no involvement of members in decision-making. All operated on a part-time basis, few had business plans for future development, and many were reliant on voluntary labour or inputs from other organisations for their survival. Many food initiatives using the title food co-op were not formally constituted as co‑operatives, losing both the potential power and advantages that formal incorporation can provide and opportunities to engage in processes associated with “democracy”. There is potential for a “co‑operative of co-operatives”, with local food initiatives being members of the larger co-operative. This would enable leverage in areas of lobbying and food purchasing and provide additional leverage in terms of changing the food supply system to be more sustainable.
The Worker Co-operative Sector in Ireland: Current Status, Future Prospects
Michael Gavin, Aisling Moroney, Bridget Carroll and Michael Ward
The worker co-operative sector in Ireland is undeniably small and arguably underdeveloped. There has been limited research to date on the sector and much of what does exist is somewhat dated. This study addresses this gap in the literature and the knowledge base. Through a combination of secondary and primary research, it identifies the number and location of Irish worker co-operatives; ascertains the key industries within which they are located; and explores their economic and societal impact in terms of turnover, wages and disbursements and number employed. This phase of the research suggests that the sector is very small from what was in any case a very modest position in past decades. The study explores why the sector in Ireland is as apparently small as it is. It also offers a number of recommendations for policy-makers, the worker co-operative sector and the broader co‑operative movement which may help to energise and develop the sector in the future.
The Perception of Co-operative Values in Practice Using Baden-Württemberg, Germany as an Example
Sebastian Hill and Reiner Doluschitz
Values are gaining in importance in public perception. A form of enterprise that has based its philosophy on values since its inception around 1850 is the co-operative. In Baden-Württemberg, the co-operative association is facing structural change with a tendency towards ever larger co-operatives and concomitant alienation of members. In this context co-operative values can be used as a governance instrument. This article investigates and tries to explain the priority of co-operative values in practice in general; the differences between the co-operative sectors; and compares the co-operative values with values of other business organisations in Germany. For this purpose, a survey was undertaken in which 844 managers of co-operatives were interviewed. The results show that besides “traditional” values, co-operatives identified “modern” values in practice such as, “reliability”, “honesty” and “sustainability”. It also becomes clear that the sector of co-operative banks differs in some values significant from the other two sectors but in general there is a unity between the sectors of which values are characteristic. In comparison to other German business organisations the analysis shows that co-operatives operate to their own specific values but at the same time display many of the same values as for-profit businesses.
The Language of Demutualisation: The Case of Dakota Growers Pasta Cooperative
Thomas W Gray, Curtis Stofferahn, and Patricia Hipple
How does a value-added agricultural co-operative, owned by member wheat farmers and incentivised by state tax payers, end up in the portfolio of a multimillion dollar multinational corporation? In other words, how is an agricultural co-operative demutualised? Dakota Growers Pasta Company (DGPC) began in 1994 as a locally owned, locally controlled co-operative, organised by and for local farmers. After demutualisation, DGPC was acquired by a series of multinationals who, despite promises to keep DGPC locally oriented and controlled, shifted headquarters from North Dakota to Canada to Switzerland to Missouri and beyond. This paper describes the impetus for these acquisitions by focusing on the discourse that opened the doors to demutualisation, loss of local ownership and control, and eventually, appropriation by multinational investor-owned corporations. Fraser’s (1989) four discourse frames — privatisation, opposition, reprivatisation, and expert — are used throughout the paper to describe the debate and decision within the co-operative. The paper concludes with recommendations that could help co-operatives and state policy makers mitigate similar demutualisations in the future.
Collective Courage: A History of African American Cooperative Economic Thought and Practice, by Jessica Gordon Nembhard
Reviewed by Caroline Shenaz Hossein
Pennsylvania University Press. 2014. ISBN: 978-0-271-06217-4.