A new type of cooperatives is now structurally internalizing the common good and the general interest of the citizenry, writes Pat Conaty:
“In Europe and in North America we have strong Co-op sector good practice to build upon. What is fascinating at present and spreading internationally as a new tendency is the Multi-Stakeholder Co-op phenomenon. Known as either Social Co-ops or Solidarity Co-ops It has its roots in Northern Italy but it has spread to Spain, Portugal, France (still rather small there), Poland, Hungary and Quebec in Canada. Our colleague John Restakis has a wonderful chapter in his book Humanising the Economy on this movement. Mike Lewis and I also have a section on the Italian Social Co-ops in our book.
The key strategic point that I would emphasise here is that the Social Co-ops in Italy and the similar Quebec Solidarity Co-ops both unite and give political voice in a collaborative way to Commoners. Their strategic mission and indeed legal obligation by statute is the pursuit of the General Interest of Citizens and the securing of the Common Good, namely as I see it and as many of them demonstrate, the practical ways to build commonwealth and well being.
In Quebec there are now 500 Solidarity Co-ops and the unusual nature of this stakeholder Co-op (as opposed to traditional worker or consumer co-ops) is leading since 2008 to a mentality shift in Quebec. I heard last week from a Canadian co-op leader in Montreal that more than 9 out of 10 of new Co-ops formed in the past couple of years in Quebec province, are Solidarity Co-ops. That is a salient change in karma, it would appear.”