Ken Ross returned recently from Italy excited about their co-operatives. The Emilia Romagna region is one of the most prosperous in Europe and the home of luxury car manufacturers, Ferrari, Lamborghini, Maserati and Ducati. It has a population of 4.5 million with two out of every three citizens in co-operatives. This Prezi has more background.
This map of Emilia Romagna shows the range of produce common in the region. Click here for a larger image.
The roots of the co-operative movement in Italy were in the nineteenth century. Visionaries promoted collective economic enterprises, not based on individualism and self-interest. In this interview, Italian academic Vera Zamagni also identifies socialist and Catholic foundations for the movement. More recently, Article 45 of the Italian Constitution, lays a solid policy foundation for co-operatives, for example, one person, one vote.
Vera Zamagni identifies four types of co-operatives.
- User co-ops – for collective access of goods and services.
- Producer co-ops – such as farmer co-ops.
- Social co-ops – delivering personal services such as health services.
- Worker co-ops – where workers supply capital and participate directly in management.
New Zealand agriculture has a strong co-operative tradition, but without the constitutional protection of “one person, one vote” these typically evolve to control by a managerialism with a consequent alienation of members. Faggiola is one example of co-operative food production in Northern Italy.
“…cooperatives tend to humanize the market because of their rules of functioning: the person – the member – is at the centre, not capital”. (Vera Zamagni)
It would be interesting to compare and contrast this cooperative model with the one used by the Mondragon cooperative in the Basque region of Spain.
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