Cooperatives and Mutuals
The Peoples’ Business: How cooperatives and mutuals can contribute to the policy agenda of European Progressives
Much of the disillusionment with politics that is shared across the European Union stems from our politicians’ inability to propose economic and political systems that work for ordinary people, rather than the vested interests of business, the wealthy and the powerful.
Across the E.U., social democrats too often appear to offer only an alternative management, albeit a kinder one, of the same economic systems that are seen to have failed. The only radical alternatives being discussed are throw-backs to an equally discredited state-controlled past.
We need to find a policy narrative that connects with and inspires voters by aligning the recognisable social democratic political values of fairness and democracy with a new political plan for organising our economy and society.
Social democrats should be in favour of businesses that:
- Work in the interests of their customers
- Share widely the rewards of enterprise
- Actively engage and involve their workers
Establishing the social democratic foundations of mutualism
The starting proposition is that social democrats should claim customer and employee ownership as theirs. We need to provide inspiring stories of how progressive politicians and activists played a key role in the birth and growth of co-operatives and mutuals over many years.
The intellectual placing of mutualism as a strand in social democratic thinking should be explored fully, in a series of articles that examine the various strands of experience across Member states.
Describing the contribution of co-operatives and mutuals to economies and societies across the EU
Co-operatives and mutuals exist in most EU countries and markets. Their size and significance owes much to the policy, legislative and regulatory regimes that have prevailed in each.
We should seek to quantify the current status of these types of business, both within and without the concept of the ‘social economy.’ We will examine the importance of diverse business forms to the functioning of economies, particularly in relation to the fairness of outcomes.
This comparative study will then allow us to recognise the relevant features that have helped to grow such businesses, or have acted as a barrier to their development.
Identifying the potential for mutualism to further the progressive agenda
Co-operatives and mutuals may have a meaningful part to play in helping to tackle a number of the major policy challenges facing EU members today.
For example, these could include a wide range of issues as diverse and important as: protecting the rights of consumers and workers, banking and financial services reform, rewarding work through business profit sharing and workplace democracy, reforming public services.
Through empirical examples drawn from Member nations, we will highlight the opportunities for mutuals to provide solutions to these problems.
The project will involve regional symposia in various countries and the entire project will be published in a final document at the end of the project which is scheduled for the end of 2016.
20th January - Rome
The People's Business: How cooperatives and mutuals can contribute to the policy agenda of European Progressives - Sofia 11th-12th January
The People's Business: How cooperatives and mutuals can contribute to the policy agenda of European Progressives - Barcelona 27th November
The People's Business: How cooperatives and mutuals can contribute to the policy agenda of European Progressives - Copenhague 20th November
The People's Business: How cooperatives and mutuals can contribute to the policy agenda of European Progressives - Berlin 28th October 2015
The People's Business: How cooperatives and mutuals can contribute to the policy agenda of European Progressives - Brussels 23rd September 2015
Dr Ernst Stetter Peter Hunt
Elisa Bevilacqua (EACB)
Catherine Hock (ICMIF)
Klaus Niederlander (Cooperatives Europe)
Belgium: Peter Bosmans, Director, Febecoop
Ireland: Conor Mulvihill, Irish Co-operative Organisation Society
Netherlands: Arjen van Nuland, Director, Dutch Cooperative Council
UK: Mark Willetts, Partner, Mutuo
Hilde Vernaillen, Chief Executive, P&V, Belgium