A Comparison of Cooperative Ecosystems: what institutions can bring transformation?
The social business model assumed to fit best into a social and solidarity economy is the cooperative. Cooperatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality and solidarity. This article explores which institutions may be considered critical in the social business ecosystems facilitating agricultural cooperatives. The question is addressed in two dimensions. First, what are the internal and external challenges for the cooperative as a social organization? This part of the inquiry distinguishes between cooperatives as emancipatory or context-dependent organizations in a study of their strengths and weaknesses in current Northern and Southern economies. Second, what are the challenges in building an institutional ecosystem that supports and facilitates cooperative organizations in a social and solidarity economy? This section discusses the range of market opportunities available to the cooperative business model. Findings suggest that for the creation of a true social and solidarity-based economy, governments seem to have to play a central role as the natural tendency of the cooperative is to maximize its benefits and be exclusive in its organization. This is a paradox, as the centralized governmental control this implies can also be said to impede the cooperative movement that is based on solidarity and trust.
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