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Through their eyes: cooperators facing the crisis

27 March 2012 [ English ] français ]

In times of crisis, not all business models work in the same way. Some enterprises face new challenges and base their hopes on strong values and principles. Participation, freedom and solidarity are the cornerstones that enable them to overcome economic problems and make a sustainable future possible. They are the worker cooperatives, social cooperatives and participative enterprises. To mark the United Nations International Year of Cooperatives 2012, CECOP - CICOPA Europe is producing a documentary that will reveal how the cooperative model deals in a global economic system in crisis. In the documentary, this economic reality is told by the workers of four European cooperatives.

As in real life, in the documentary, the cooperative workers are the genuine protagonists. Their testimonies relate experiences of personal and professional development within cooperatives in several sectors. They work in different kinds of cooperatives that share the same key factors for success: a mineral water plant in Poland (Muszynianka), a company in crisis transformed into a worker cooperative in France (the Founderie de l’Aisne), a consortium of social cooperatives in Italy (Consorzio SIS) and the seventh industrial group in Spain (the Corporación Mondragón).

Facing the crisis

At European level, according to CECOP – CICOPA Europe, worker cooperatives and social cooperatives are more resistant than conventional companies operating in the same sector and located in the same territory. Moreover, these enterprises suffer from fewer redundancies and business closures.

An example of business success is the Mondragon Corporation, integrated by more than 100 entities with more than 83,000 worker-members. In its history expanding over half a century, the Mondragon Corporation has diversified its activities and put a particular emphasis on innovation. Today the corporation is active in five continents and faces the crisis relying upon its cooperative principles. "We will be consistent with our principles, values and philosophy", the President of the Mondragon Corporation, José María Aldecoa declared in the documentary.

Image of the cooperative Simone de Beauvoir, member of Consorzio SIS by Lydie Nesvadba

Image of the cooperative Simone de Beauvoir, member of Consorzio SIS by Lydie Nesvadba

Cooperatives revitalize the economy. A clear example is the re-establishment of the Fonderie de l’Aisne (France) by its former workers. The closure of the foundry caused a loss of jobs. However, some of the workers came together to continue the activity by founding a cooperative. Today they work together following a business model that allows workers to make decisions themselves. "Now we work for ourselves and for our own future," says the manager of the foundry, Pascal Foire. Therefore, the cooperative model generated a new attitude within the group of workers. According to the manager, since the cooperative was set up, the organisation runs more effectively because the workers are "really motivated and provide solutions to problems".

A photography exhibition through the eyes of workers

In addition to the documentary, CECOP – CICOPA Europe is organising a photo exhibition to be held in September at the European Parliament, with the support of the member of European Parliament Marie-Christine Vergiat, (Left Front of France). All the pictures have been taken by the photographer Lydie Nesvadba who captured a unique perspective through the eyes of the workers of those cooperatives. The collection shows the activities in the four cooperatives filmed in the documentary, highlighting the essential role of its workers. Thus, the photo exhibition shows a business vision focused on people, the central approach shared by all cooperatives.

Both the documentary, filmed by the cooperative m30m, and the photo exhibition are part of the project "Cooperate", supported by the
European Commission.

The documentary will make its debut on 26th June at the European Economic and Social Committee.

Cooperatives, more resilient to the crisis from CECOP – CICOPA Europe on Vimeo.

Extract on the interview of José María Aldecoa, President of Mondragon Corporation on the purpose of the documentary. He analyzes the current crisis and defends the cooperative model as a reference to build a fairer society.