“Social needs, cooperative answers”: a new campaign for the promotion of cooperatives providing community services

Cooperatives, as the most important expression of citizens’ needs and aspirations in the form of an enterprise, have appeared naturally to provide adequate solutions to satisfy community needs, such as health, education, housing, environment, social services and labour integration for disadvantaged citizens; all of them worldwide basic needs. Over the last few years, the cooperative movement, through member-based and democratically controlled businesses, has been meeting the challenge of satisfying those needs in a more intensive manner, while at the same time contributing to economic development, sustainable employment and social cohesion in communities. Moreover, they provide higher quality and better cost-efficiency compared to other delivery patterns, according to a number of studies.

To make this reality known, CICOPA, the International Organisation of Industrial and Service Cooperatives, and IHCO, the International Health Cooperative Organization, are launching today the campaign “Social needs, cooperative answers” following a workshop organized in South Africa in the framework of the International Cooperative Alliance conference in 2013. Up until 2020, answering the call of the cooperative movement compiled in the Blueprint for a Cooperative Decade, cooperatives providing community services will have the platform www.socialneedscooperativeanswers.coop to say out loud how and why they contribute to more dignified and secure lives for millions of people worldwide. Some videos presenting concrete examples from Argentina, Spain, Brazil, the United States, Italy or Uganda about how cooperatives provide community services across the world, are already available on the website.

The president of IHCO, José Carlos Guisado has presented the campaign in the framework of the III Cooperative Summit of the Americas that is being held in Cartagena (Colombia) this week. “Health cooperatives implied a social commitment for development of communities and foster it”, Mr Guisado declared during the presentation, also mentioning the importance of digital technology and the media “to expand our cooperative knowledge and messages”.

“The cooperative model, particularly when several stakeholders are involved in a democratic control governance system, is particularly well adapted to community services. They make it possible to create synergies between different actors such as, service users, service providers and in some cases, public authorities”, says the President of CICOPA, Manuel Mariscal.

Those cooperatives can be found all over the world. Based on the available information, it is estimated that at least 12,600 cooperatives are active in the provision of social services, 5,000 cooperatives in the health sector, more than 81 million people worldwide use the facilities of health cooperatives and 2,100 schools are run as cooperatives.

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