The co-operative trilemma. Co-operatives between market, state and civil society.
In this paper we focus on financial co-operatives as economic enterprises with a civic mission, their process of repositioning vis-à-vis the market, civil society and the state, and the resulting ‘co-operative trilemma’ that they face. A recent qualitative analysis of five major co-operative financial cases in Belgium (Group ARCO, Cera), the UK (The Co-operative Group), France (Le Crédit Coopératif), and the Netherlands (Rabobank) shows sound enterprises, with a long history of co-operative entrepreneurship dating back to the nineteenth century, which underwent profound transformations in response to the challenges of the financial-economic market (Gijselinckx, Develtere & Raymaekers, 2007). Unlike Coté (2001) we did not find a degeneration of co-operative principles and strategies under market pressures. We found a transformation in the sense of a renewal of their co-operative identity and mission. The five cases developed innovative methods to secure shareholder participation and a multi-stakeholderapproach. They turned out to become pioneers in so-called social responsible consuming, banking and investing. They organise professional backstopping for social and environment-friendly economic ventures and non-profit initiatives. By doing this, they are questing for a repositioning in the economic and social landscape. In this quest they have to find non-contradictory answers to the contradictory demands of the market, the civil society and the state, in other words: they face what we would like to call a ‘co-operative trilemma’ (see also Develtere & Raymaekers, 2005).
Working Paper - Caroline Gijselinckx & Patrick Develtere (2008)
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