OCDC research highlights the co-operative difference in four countries

The report looks at co-ops in Kenya, Peru, Philippines and Poland

A new report by US Overseas Cooperative Development Council (OCDC) looks at ways to identify and measure the difference co-operatives make, with a focus on four countries: Kenya, Peru, Philippines and Poland.

The study, released in May, was carried out between 2017 and 2020, and involved a survey of over 8,000 people, including co-op members, measured against a comparison group of non-members. It also looked at leaders of co-operatives and communities, and other important stakeholders.

The OCDC released a Global Outcomes Report, as well as stand-alone research product, and forms part of a three-report suite. The study makes a strong case for the role of co-operatives in development.

One of the key findings was that across all four countries, members of co-operatives are outperforming national averages. Co-operative members are more likely to have higher than average incomes and are less likely to be very deprived. Members taking part in OCDC’s research attributed their economic well-being to their co-operative membership and economic motivations serve as the primary factor influencing co-operative membership.

Furthermore, the majority of respondents said they believed co-operatives positively benefited their household economically: 82% in Kenya, 71% in Poland, 94% in the Philippines and 74% in Peru.

The report also found that co-operatives help members achieve greater prosperity directly – through access to credit and higher earnings – and indirectly, by facilitating financial education, mentorship, and training.

OCDC’s research also revealed that co-operatives are highly regarded for their contributions to communities’ economic development, by both members and non-members, who praised co-ops for helping to support a robust business environment, creating jobs, attracting investment and supporting infrastructure development.

According to the study, 70% of co-operative members in Kenya and 80% of co-operative members in the Philippines thought their co-operatives offered support to members during emergencies. Furthermore, co-operative members were more likely to rely on their own savings for support than their family, relatives, and friends.

The research also suggests co-operatives play a role in empowering women, with women members’ consistently higher economic ranking, as compared to women’s average economic ranking in each country of the study across all four states. The majority of women taking part in the survey saw agency and independence resulting from their membership – 82% in Kenya, 51% in the Philippines and 46% in Peru.

The global report was officially launched during an online evidence summit on 26 May, which featured co-operative leaders and researchers from all four countries.

OCDC executive director Paul Hazen said at the event: “This research project fulfils OCDC’s mission to champion advocate and promote effective international co-operative development. OCDC is building a centre of excellence to provide leadership, best practices research and training for effective international co-operative development. As we seek to create a more prosperous, democratic and inclusive world post Covid-19. There has never been a better time to build back better and increase investment in co-operative development.

“Designing and undertaking these research projects which bridge the gap between theory and practice require partnership with academic institutions, co-operative development organisations and co-operatives of all kinds, we learned today just how these partnerships can work.”

ICA Director general, Bruno Roelants welcomed OCDC’s research, pointing out that scientific evidence of this type helped to back the UN’s claim that co-operatives in the various forms promote the fullest possible participation in economic and social development of all.

“We need policy oriented research on which development proposals, can then be constructed,” he said. He also mentioned the need to promote cooperative statistics and pointed to COPAC’s guidelines concerning statistics of cooperatives.

Judith Hermanson, director of the OCDC’s International Cooperative Research Group, added: “We found strikingly similar economic, social and community outcomes for each of these countries.”

The full report in available on OCDC’s website.