In his 1996 Background Paper to the 1995 Statement of Co-operative Identity, Ian MacPherson noted that co-operatives around the world “have developed within a rich array of belief systems, including all the world’s great religions and ideologies”.

And while Christian or Muslim communities are setting up credit unions as ethical alternatives to traditional banking institutions or payday lenders, secularists are adopting co-operation as a substitute for religion.

In 2006, the website started receiving funding from the Post Carbon Institute, a US-based nonprofit initiated by Julian Darley and others that worked on similar issues. In January 2008, the Post Carbon Institute announced that it was formally adopting as part of its core programs. 

In February 2018, Harvard Law Review defined corporate culture as the tacit social order of an organisation, which shapes attitudes and behaviours.

So what is co-operative culture? Ed Mayo, secretary general of Co-operatives UK, says: “If you ask people to think of a time when their co-op was at its very best, the answers are typically about co-op culture – how people pulled together, achieved something ambitious, took care of those in need. All of these reflect behaviour, attitudes and beliefs – and this is what we mean by co-op culture.”

The report claims the federation no longer aims to put in place measures that contribute to the economic emancipation of its members, but rather to maximise returns and surpluses. And those who run the federation now come from management schools or the banking community, it adds: and because its management is no longer politically active but paid professionals, Desjardins has lost its mission.

To me, this has been a useful way to put it into words: Co-ops have traded lateral relationships for vertical ones.

There are two new websites in the global coop online ecosystem that deserve more attention:

Respect doesn't happen in a vacuum. It's a characteristic of exchanges between people. While I haven't found it particularly helpful to ask (or demand) to be respected, it occurred to me that it might be powerful to commit to communicating in ways that the recipient would consider respectful—to adopt a standard where group members would make an effort to understand what style of communication would come across as respectful to their audience and then try to engage them in that way. 

It’s hard to believe it was over 10 years ago that I wrote these booklets, together with the excellent cartoonist and illustrator Angela Martin and our patient and knowledgeable editor, Sarah Alldred (then at Co-operatives UK) now at the Co-operative College.


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