Coordinators: Andrea Bernardi
Oxford Brookes University, United Kingdom
abernardi@brookes.ac.uk
Salvatore Monni
Roma Tre University, Italy
salvatore.monni@uniroma3.it
Rowan Tomlinson
University of Bristol, United Kingdom
rowan.tomlinson@bristol.ac.uk

Field of Interest and Rationale

This research area welcomes scholars interested in the co-operative sector, an important component of the economy in Europe, in the Americas and in the Asia Pacific, and of developing significance in Africa. The co-operative firm is a very old institution, as is the interest that economics, sociology, history and management have shown in its study. Nevertheless, the attention given to the co-operative economy, in both research and teaching, is limited, if compared to its actual dimension and potential, especially in times of crisis. This research area is interested in all forms of co-operative businesses: workers’ cooperatives; consumer cooperatives; credit unions and banks; users’ co-operatives; mutuals and insurances. We are also interested in community-level forms of collective ownership of services and public goods. Co-operatives operate in the most diverse industries, markets and societies. An interdisciplinary research approach is most welcome given the multi-faceted nature of the co-operative movement, whose symbolic birth is held to be in Manchester in 1844, though much older and more primitive forms of co-operatives have existed in Europe (back to the Roman period), Asia (during early Chinese dynasties) and in the Americas (in Pre-Columbian societies). Some of the recent interest in co-operation has been prompted by the financial crisis and the debate on the failures of capitalism. But even in growth periods, the co-operative model has been praised as an option for very contemporary needs such as workers’ participation and involvement, ownership of standards and systems in the digital economy and in creative industries, alternative currencies and peer to peer banking, and self management of community level services and facilities.

Sample Research Question

  • How do co-operatives distinguish themselves from other organisations?
  • Do co-operatives in the north and in the south of the world have much in common?
  • How does the co-operative diversity evolve in time?
  • Can co-operatives cope with downturns better than capitalist firms can?
  • Are co-operatives more sustainable and fair market actors?
  • Do we need to refine classic readings of the economic efficiency of workers co-operatives?
  • Is the co-operative firm less or more productive?
  • Is the co-operative model able to face contemporary economic challenges?
  • Should the co-operative movement enter into dialogue with the Occupy Wall Street movements?
  • Can the co-operative model help less developed countries to escape from the trap of underdevelopment?
  • Is social capital necessary to have co-operation, or rather the opposite?
  • Under which conditions do users’ or workers’ ownership prove more efficient than investors’ ownership?
  • What can we learn from the business history of the oldest co-operatives?

Contributions

This research area welcomes conference contributions based on a plurality of methods: quantitative, historical, qualitative, and conceptual. We are oriented to the policy implications of empirical research and theoretical advancement on the definition and understanding of the co-operative sector.