Promoting the understanding of cooperatives for a better world, 15-16 march 2012, Venice (Italy)

The United Nations has declared 2012 the International Year of Cooperatives in order to increase public awareness of cooperatives, promote consciousness of the global network of cooperatives and their efforts in community building and peace, support the formation and the growth of cooperatives and encourage governments and regulatory bodies to establish policies, laws and regulations conducive to cooperative formation and growth.

Cooperatives play a crucial role both in the production of general-interest services (e.g. social; health; work integration; educational) and in a number of traditional sectors (e.g. banking, agriculture), where they register outstanding results that often outperform for-profit and public enterprises. In many countries and especially in local areas, cooperatives are a significant component of the production structure.

However, notwithstanding the significance of the cooperative sector and the increasing awareness of the need to better identify the roles, potential, and limits of cooperatives, convincing and shared interpretative frameworks are lacking. Social scientists have limited themselves to studying cooperatives in a non systematic way, drawing on hypotheses that are not consistent with their constitutional characteristics, failing thus to provide an interpretation able to account for the real size and importance of the sector. This lack of understanding of cooperatives has hampered the visibility of such enterprises and has made it even more difficult to define strategic choices and development projects, as well as elaborate adequate support policies that can sustain the growth and consolidation of these organizations.

Given this situation and drawing on the findings of recent studies, Euricse in collaboration with ICA intends to commemorate the UN International Year of Cooperatives by creating a discussion forum that can promote a better understanding of the rationale, roles, potential, and impact of cooperatives. To this end, selected contributors are asked to write in-depth analyses on relevant issues and Euricse researchers will subsequently deliver a summarizing document based on these analyses. All the materials produced - focused analyses and summarizing report - will be ultimately presented on the occasion of a final Conference that is scheduled for March 2012. The Conference is the final step of a reflection on cooperatives that will be carried out by leading scholars in the next months. The summarizing report will be subsequently disseminated worldwide through the regional ICA conferences that will be held throughout 2012.

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