10 December 2016
The cooperative movement has a lengthy tradition of creating innovative solutions based on the sixth cooperative principle: cooperation between cooperatives. One of the most important examples of this is the creation and development of national and regional institutions which support and promote the development of cooperatives through the provision of advisory services. These services, which are specific to the cooperative movement, exist throughout the world and not only provide support instruments for local level cooperative enterprise projects, but also play a decisive role in the creation of links between cooperatives.
In France, the General Confederation of Worker Cooperatives (CG Scop) is based upon a network of thirteen Regional Unions which are located across France and three trade federations: construction and public works, communication and industry. Through the support made available by the Regional Unions (RU), the CG Scop provides assistance for the creation of cooperatives, the transfer of companies to the workers and the conversion of associations or conventional enterprises into cooperative enterprises.
Over the last few years, inter-cooperation has become one of the primary missions of the French Regional Unions. “We have initiated a series of actions to improve inter-cooperation on the basis of a questionnaire which was disseminated in June 2015”, explains Sophie Hemardinquer, director of the Midi-Pyrénées RU, to Participer, CG Scop’s magazine. “Since September, we have launched what we call the Thursday meetings which take the form of visits to cooperatives, mini-training sessions on specific topics or vocational workshops”. The entire cooperative ecosystem (members, elected representatives, permanent staff) have mobilised their efforts in order to favour exchanges to promote cooperative development.
The same approach has been adopted in the Rhône-Alpes-Auvergne region, through the establishment of territorial committees. “Our intention was to give a boost to networking across our region,” says Cyril Zorman, who is the manager of Probesys and elected representative of the RU. “There was a need to place people at the very heart of the system and for them to hold exchanges amongst themselves. The territorial committees bring local Scop together on the basis of an operating charter which has been prepared by the RU. Some 22 meetings of the territorial committees were held last year”. A wide range of exchanges can take place at these meetings, on the basis of the experiences in the various areas where the members are located. In this way, when Cyril Zorman’s enterprise required new premises, it sought advice from the other cooperatives in its own geographical area.