COMMUNITY ECONOMICS | Thinking Out Loud | All societies are basically composed of communities and diverse ethno-cultural groups – thus, there are a range of living and civic engagements where these interact, and of course, based on an assortment of understandings, norms and behaviours impacting on our relationships with people & living systems. In the context of our changing demographics and the emerging presence of ethno-cultural entities we need to find a way to positioning cooperatives in accordance with a general understanding as to multiculturalism, ethno-cultural identities, and economic paradigmatic shifts.
- “True generosity consists precisely in fighting to destroy the causes which nourish false charity. False charity constrains the fearful and subdued, the “rejects of life,” to extend their trembling hands. True generosity lies in striving so that these hands–whether of individuals or entire peoples–need be extended less and less in supplication, so that more and more they become human hands which work and, working, transform the world.”– Paulo Freire
I am speaking of a general framework that acknowledges these unfolding realities and its work/business implications. This also requires a re-thinking of the notion of leadership, power and decision making, framed in a world where entreprenurialship, the “gig economy” and cooperative social enterprising are increasingly becoming the new currency.
What we have going here is a new instance of power, ownership and decision-making, so to speak – new in the sense that too many people have never paid much attention to other forms of economic organizing other than the free enterprise-conventional capitalism mode – no longer, as we can see all over – the monolithic domain of the rather few & privileged. So, we need to explore how our cooperative economic model translates in to the administration and management of cooperatives & social enterprises and their evolving culture.
- “The marginalization & distance between individuals of lesser rank, or standing in society or organization will cause friction for many still expect power to be distributed unevenly and unequally – feeling disempowered to anything about it and change such reality.” – Geert Hofstedes
I am thinking that what’s needed is to emphasize on one key salient point of such commercial cooperative endeavours; collective ownership. This must be underlined and cause for excitement when people are invited to join in! People must understand that no one individual is more powerful than the other, and that while a Board has some serious fiduciary responsibilities, they themselves are also accountable to the member-owners. The hierarchy is then operational-administrative; otherwise, all members are guided by the same principles and by-laws.
Our economic model inserts itself in the spirit of societies that value a more egalitarian worldview – I am thinking of a number of European countries, such as Scandinavia, Germany, Spain, France, Portugal, some provinces in Canada as well – to name just a few. Because cooperatives function generally speaking through a more horizontal structure of power where we value the fact that all have rights, freedoms and responsibilities – this is also in my view a key value for cooperatives and the economic cultural shift we wish to foster.
- “Remember your dreams and fight for them. You must know what you want from life. There is just one thing that makes your dream become impossible: the fear of failure.” – Paulo Coelho
Leaders in such structures are fluid and constantly tuning in to their fellow-travellers, fellow-citizens, or in our case, members-owners. We need to ensure our growing membership, which is becoming very diverse in ethno cultural backgrounds, and interests get a good grip of these features. And; our managerial Team must pay close attention as to what members and users expect from their platform cooperative.
The closer we are to members-owners, the easiest will be to walk along them and fine-tune our platform. People also must understand they are the workers and the owners as well – they have something essential at stake. Managerial team, and of course, Board of Directors must develop its own intelligence and intercultural competencies which will enrich praxis all around its transformative work.
Another element of this pathway is our evolutionary journey, spiced by diversity & inclusion – we should turn these into our advantage particularly around opportunities for innovation; intercultural realities in our cooperative must be celebrated and we should all strive to adapt – notwithstanding the challenges, and perhaps because of it – to the fresh airs of new times, having diversity & inclusion as one of our engines for growth.
- “The re-establishment of an ecological balance depends on the ability of society to counteract the progressive materialization of values. The ecological balance cannot be re-established unless we recognize again that only persons have ends and only persons can work towards them.”– Ivan Illich
We are trailblazing, exploring our collective intelligence, developing a healthy organizational emotional intelligence and tapping into our learnings to improve our processes and offerings. The economics of change implies that one of our critical challenges is how to move effectively and timely from a fragile financing position to one of strength and opportunities – the answer lies within and without. – LCA
About: Leo Campos A. is a Community Organizer|Cultural Worker + a Bilingual Social Marketing & Conscious Advertising Professional based in Edmonton (AB). He’s involved with an emerging cooperative social-enterprise platform project called Wayfinders Business Cooperative © please see: http://www.wayfindersbusinesscooperative.ca