By Howard Brodsky, Co-Founder and Chairman of CCA Global Partners
We’re facing so many inflection points right now, it’s more important than ever to leverage the collective knowledge and strength of businesses within the cooperative ecosystem. We must move beyond collaborative cooperation and engage in active cooperation.
The large companies we compete with on a daily basis have the resources and scale to tackle today’s biggest challenges revolving around advancing technology, AI, and shrinking work forces – and so do we, if we just work together.
Principle #6, Cooperation Among Cooperatives, has been and continues to be one of 7 foundational pillars for cooperatives. Cooperation is part of the DNA of cooperatives…but we have struggled to move from theoretical to practical. So the question for the future is how do we move from theory… to seeing Principle 6 on the ground.
We see potential in a future where cooperatives increase their competitive advantages by cooperating within structured cooperative frameworks. Frameworks that allow us to share, benchmark, network, and collaborate—cooperatively— in a real-world application of Principle #6.
COOPERATIVES OF COOPERATIVES ARE THE OPPORTUNITY.
By bringing cooperatives with like-minded objectives together, we can provide scale to compete. We can harness the power of AI and the latest technological developments. We can support established and new cooperatives and help them not only survive but thrive.
Large cooperatives like Mondragon and CCA Global Partners and mutuals like Desjardin have show that scale can make competing and winning against big corporate competitors possible. As cooperators we owe it to all cooperatives, not just the large ones, to put Principle 6 into action using our collective resources, intelligence and passion.
FUNCTIONAL AREA COOPERATIVES OF COOPERATIVES.
Our vision for cooperation among cooperatives is the development of cooperatives to serve cooperative needs. Imagine hundreds, thousands of cooperatives coming together with a similar objective. They all come together with a unified mission and the resources to support their work. Everybody wins.
WHAT DOES IT LOOK LIKE IN PRACTICE?
We challenge the cooperative community to create many more purpose-specific cooperative of cooperative businesses. Imagine an entire ecosystem of intra-cooperative businesses. It could be industry-specific coops. Or it could be a need that crosses industries, like member communications, AI integration, digital security. Intra-Cooperative Cooperation or Cooperatives of Cooperatives are a tangible way for us to rapidly grow scale of existing cooperatives as well as create new ones. It’s an opportunity to break down silos by benchmarking, sharing best practices, leverage buying power and ultimately better serving our end members…and to do all of that within a cooperative framework that is dedicated to a sustainable, circular and equitable society is a win for everyone.
HOW TO MAKE IT A REALITY?
First, we need to empower leaders in the cooperative ecosystem to take action and bring the community together. We need to think beyond our own businesses to how we can work effectively with other cooperatives. We also need to incubate these new cooperative ventures and make sure that they are easy to access. We need the cooperative community to tell us where they need help so we can connect cooperatives together based on their needs. CooperativeofCooperatives.coop (Coops4Coops) is a simple first step to create a registry of cooperatives that would like to explore the idea of working with other cooperatives either within industry or cross-industry. From there, we really look to cooperative entrepreneurs to develop businesses that solve for the challenges that we face together as the cooperative movement.
Intra-cooperative growth is a key to creating the synergy required to tackle many of the profound issues we’re facing as a planet. It’s a way to unleash the potential of cooperatives in a world in desperate need of more cooperation.