As people assess how the pandemic has impacted their career, community, and local economy, what opportunities are there for us? We need not limit ourselves to the work we’ve always done — especially if it’s something that can be fine-tuned with the right combination of technology and human ingenuity to provide consumers or businesses with better products, services, or experiences. Nor need we limit ourselves to living and working in non-functional structures, let alone with non-functioning/ non-sustainable/ non-adapting behaviours! (Unless we really want to…) Billions of people are still working in boring, outdated and frustrating workplaces. Most aren’t truly enjoying their jobs. In fact, a big chunk of the working population still sees Monday to Friday as a long and boring interruption between weekends.

The New Normal choice IS HERE for our economic life too. And it doesn’t mean simply changing brands ie. Coating our old habits with a new paint, like Soviet politicians did for many decades…

Consider the virus’ impact on glocal economies and the amplified dimensions of all sorts of OBVIOUS inequalities at multiple levels; with half a billion people pushed into poverty and an estimated  195+ million people losing their jobs, can cooperativism be THE ANSWER — a viable vehicle of resilience — to the many crisis we have submitted to since the beginning of this deregulated & capital-iberalised millennium? Do co-operatives have the capacity of re-activating local economies in an effective (not just ‘efficient’) way, of focusing on inclusivity (not ‘protectionism’) and sustainable (ie. ‘adaptational’) economic growth BY reaching out to everyone, especially to the most vulnerable and marginalised?

CARE in (economic) action

A study “The resilience of the cooperative model”, produced by CECOP – CICOPA Europe in 2012 identified the mechanisms which reinforce the resilience of European cooperatives in industry and services to crisis. There are many reasons to explain it, but mainly it’s the fact that worker-members, as co-owners of their businesses, share the responsibility and the management and put the business strategies in place in the short and the long term, giving the priority to safeguarding their jobs by continuous innovation and lo{c/y}al, true-value-based consumption (not only shareholder-PROFIT-maximisation). Among these crisis strategies are the temporary reduction of salaries, technological investment, adaptations for the market, use of financial reserves, righteousness, common sense, etc. French and Spanish experience (countries where the statistics on worker and social cooperatives are the most reliable) indicates that these enterprises have known a lower number of closures and of job losses than the average and are more resilient during economic downturns and crisis.

Here are two very general takes on the subject of “cooperatives” — from both achieved results and Christian philosophy-in-action perspectives. The full resources are mentioned below.

1) A Christian perspective- reflections on the social thought behind co-operativism:

“All economic, political and social problems are, in the final analysis, human problems.

‘We do not aspire to economic development as an end but as a means.

“The cooperativist ideal is to grow more as human persons.

“It is unquestionably preferable to be a poor man than a satiated pig, it is better to be a discontented Socrates, Peter or Francis than to be a contented mad person.

“Before dreaming about making managers, it is necessary to think about making mature persons. Before teaching them public relations and manners, they need to get used to forgetting about themselves.

“Being a Christian is not only to possess the truth, but it is above all to practice the truth, which is the same thing as doing what is right.”

A reflection to be applied to today’s “gig economy”: “Economic development represents human progress and constitutes a true moral duty. In the eyes of a believer, sub-employment, in all of its forms, is a scandal.”

A brilliant reformulation of the “rendering unto Caesar” teaching: “Cooperativism gives work what is work’s and gives capital what is capital’s.”

A much larger vision of the nature of work than we typically find: “The problem now is not to place ourselves in the conditions of avoiding work, but instead of making work a service and to a large extent a source of honest satisfaction. Work can and should be humanized.”

Some corrections to Marxist notions: “Our strength is not translated as struggle but as Cooperation.

“Today revolution is called participation.

“The economic revolution will or will not be moral. The moral revolution will or will not be economical.”

Striking also, given Fr. Arizmendi’s own time and place (Francoist Spain of the 1940s and 1950s), are thoughts such as these: “The position women have is, in any society, the exact measurement of its level of development.

“It is not enough to cry about adverse luck: it is women’s duty to fight to conquer the position which belongs to them, and this fight must be endured in good and bad times.”

Finally, this call to a new social vision, a third way: “If the sign of vitality is definitely not to endure but to be reborn, as was well said by a great cooperativist, if cooperativism is not only the diametrical opposite of paternalism but also of conformism and conservatism . . . then it is imperative that we remain on the cutting edge of social innovation. This is especially true when these innovations are demanded by a conscience of dignity and freedom, justice and solidarity. Those who share these feelings today do not lack strength.

“Cooperativist philosophy rejects both the collectivist and the liberal conceptions of human nature. It recognizes instead the unique value of the human person, but insists that this person cannot be totally himself or herself until entering into creative as well as spiritually and materially productive relationships with the world he or she is a part of.”



2) Historical results- of co-operativism during the 2008/9 financial crisis:

Four successive annual surveys conducted by CECOP since 2009 within its network of approximately 50,000 worker cooperatives, social cooperatives and other employee-owned enterprises active in industry and services in 17 different EU countries, suggest that although these enterprises have not been spared by the 2008/9 crisis, they have been able to limit enterprise closures and job losses better than the average business, in some cases even to recover their status of net job creators, and that they also tend to delay the impact of the crisis.

A qualitative analysis examining which factors might be at the root of such resilience, show that at the “micro” (enterprise) level, a number of short-term measures aimed at facing the immediate effects of the crisis (in particular aimed at temporarily reducing costs), were taken rapidly and with a high level of legitimacy by the cooperative members thanks to the regime of democratic control which characterises these enterprises. Many cooperatives were able to take longer term measures such as investments in innovative products, services or projects thanks to their democratic decision-making system but also thanks to the capital accumulation system which characterises them as well.

It is also observed that the “meso” (inter-enterprise) level considerably reinforces the capacity of individual cooperatives to take both short-term measures (in particular in maintaining jobs) and longer term ones, (in particular in the fields of training and education, research, innovation and internationalisation). In particular, cooperative groups have proven to maintain and even in a number of cases to increase, the number of jobs and the turnover, and thus to show a particularly strong resilience.

At the “macro” level (legislation and public policies), it appears clearly that cooperatives’ resilience is stronger in the countries that have the best legal framework protecting and promoting cooperative enterprises, such as the indivisible reserves, mutualised financial instruments, groups and consortia, in Italy, Spain and France.


Whatever your opinion about cooperatives, everyone can resonate with the idea that practical solidarity/ engagement makes human endeavours successfully work for THE WHOLE of society, community, neighbourhoods, and households. Real solidarity between bright ideas, labour, capital, fair production costs& sales prices, equitable profit margins,  equal& fair& actually paid tax for each and every legal entity, decision-participation, transparent information, real& geographic subsidiarity of responsibility, to name but a few[mfn]Gandhi championed such and more values-in-action; he’s really worth the read if you’re looking for practical — and challenging —  inspiration[/mfn]. Note the “and, and, and” &c..

If we can get our values (spirit) right, ie. our heart — not just mind — in the right gear, then people:planet:profit can  win:win:win. Together. Unity (giving-loving) not Protectionism (taking-fearing); not Me-go, but the sort of cooperation that was practised by our ‘less civilised’ ancestors, eg. the hunter-gatherers and early Christians.

Happy May Day! Btw: May Day, the first day of the month of May, is one of the quarterly days in our ancestors’ calendar.  Each of these quarterly days indicates the start of a new season. Spring is marked by 1 February (St Brigid’s Day), autumn by 1 August (Lúnasa) and winter by 1 November (Samhain). There were also folk customs associated with the eves of these festivals marking the seasonal transition.

As in much of northern Europe, May Day is a celebration and welcome of the summer. Here, it is rooted in the pre-Christian festival of Bealtaine which embraces the summer, bidding farewell to the dark winter half of the year. Flowers, dancing, and bonfires featured strongly in the festivities. People also sought protection for themselves, their homes and livestock against supernatural forces.

May Day was regarded as the symbolic start of a busy season of farm work. People worked in the fields focusing on the care of animals and their movement to different pastures. There was also an emphasis on fishing for example for salmon. It was a busy time for markets and marts in order to sell animals and at this time seasonal labourers were hired. The important job of cutting turf in the bogs also started in earnest around May Day.

Traditions associated with May include May Bushes, May Flowers, May Boughs, May Poles and May Bonfires. All are associated with luck and protection.

Pretty useful things, those last two, but not SO necessary WHEN all parties within our communities finally agree to work together in service to All… Common sense, no?