THE ROLES OF SUPPORT ORGANIZATIONS IN WORKER COOPERATIVE SYSTEMS: A COMPARATIVE CASE STUDY
The importance of cooperative "support organizations" or "shelter organizations" in providing resources, advice, and assistance to worker cooperatives has received increasing recognition. This research investigates two types of cooperative support organizations: "second degree cooperatives," which are formed when cooperatives join together or federate to undertake common functions; and "cooperative development organizations," which are formed externally by government or private sponsors to stimulate cooperative development. Little research has been done on the roles that the newer cooperative development organizations play, or in what ways they are similar or dissimilar to second degree cooperatives.
The research focuses on the development organizations: the O&O Investment Fund and the Philadelphia Association of Cooperative Enterprise (PACE), both in Philadelphia; and the cooperative development agencies (CDAs) in Britain. A comparative case study method is used. Comparisons are also made to the second degree cooperatives in Italy, France, Mondragon (Spain), and the kibbutzim in Israel. Support organizations are described and analyzed in terms of their formation, structure, control, financing, and roles as well as how internal interests and environmental conditions interrelated and shape their development.
The research shows that cooperative development organizations in both Britain and the United States are forming mainly because external environmental conditions have created opportunities for cooperatives as a cyclical employment strategy rather than because of internal values of cooperation. Development organizations have different structures, sources of financing, and priorities from second degree cooperatives. Second degree cooperatives must respond to the needs of their member cooperatives. Cooperative development organizations, however, tend to precede the cooperatives. They first must create successful models of cooperatives and demonstrate that cooperatives create jobs in order to satisfy their funding sources.
Cooperative development organizations have shown that they are a vehicle for accelerating cooperative development. However, the present cultural and economic environment, especially in the United States, is not highly conducive to attracting talented people to cooperatives and sustaining the growth of cooperatives. A key issue for development organizations is how to assist cooperatives in attracting or creating "cooperative" entrepreneurs and managers.
Area planning & development
0999: Area planning & development