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Cooperatives Bring Inspiration as well as Results

Author: Alternativa Zdola

In 2013 Alternativa Zdola joined the Visegrad Fund's project "Inclusive Local Economies through Cooperatives Development" endorsed by the International Visegrad Fund. The project is administered by the Slovak association Utopia and includes Hungarian and Polish partners. It maps out the current status of cooperatives in individual countries and documents inspiring examples of best practices relating to legislation, as well as media coverage. As an outcome of this project a "cooperative incubator" will be created in each of the four countries, which will serve as information and advisory centers for individuals interested in cooperatives.



In 2013 the European Parliament issued a report which emphasized the benefits and resilience of cooperatives in times of crisis and urged member states to support and strengthen this sector and establish the required legal and financial infrastructure. The focus and name of the project reflect its relevance for local sustainability and social impact.


An analysis of the role of cooperatives in the Czech Republic in terms of history, legal framework and media coverage was conducted along with field research on six diverse cooperatives (manufacturing, agricultural, consumer, apartment and a coop employing handicapped individuals). The surveys were comprehensive and included questions concerning the type of the coop, management approach, input from individual members as well as the local authorities, customers and local population. Notwithstanding the type, size, focus and locality of individual coops the research has shown that even though cooperatives are overlooked politically, they have significant benefits for local communities.


The findings revealed individual coop members are well informed of their rights and welcome the possibility of self-realization, as well as participation in the decision-making process. Employees appreciate the friendly, cordial work environment, job security, learning new things and the opportunity to influence their surroundings.


Konzum, whose tradition dates back to the 19th century, was selected as one of the participating cooperatives. They consistently respect international principles of cooperatives and have joined the COOP group as well as the Co-operative Association of the Czech Republic and the international EUROCOOP and are a member of Orlicko Local Action Group. In addition, they closely cooperate with local non-profits (dozens of local organizations). The coop aims to improve the lives of people in the local community and strengthen regional awareness, to become the best and permanent supplier of quality (primarily regional) food for member families and provide food in less profitable villages.


Alternativa Zdola presented the results of this research, as well as the experiences of other countries from around the world, at an international conference in Bratislava. The audience was particularly interested in examples from Poland, where the support of incubators assisting with cooperative start-ups, is very high in an effort to decrease high unemployment, especially among younger people. In Latin America cooperatives are common in most sectors except for IT.


Alternativa Zdola also introduced an analysis of media coverage of cooperatives in 2012-2014. Total of 405 articles dealt with the theme of cooperatives, mainly in Haló noviny and Parlamentní listy. The majority of articles focused on general information about coops and overall, they were either positive or neutral. This research was affected by elections presidential and senatorial at the time, which revealed a correlation between the theme of cooperatives and the names Táňa Fischerová and Ilona Švihlíková.


In order to promote awareness of cooperative themes in schools (social sciences) and in everyday life, a brochure describing the principles, history and current status of cooperatives in the Czech Republic and abroad was published. It includes brief information on 11 coops, which participated in the research. This brochure is available free of charge through the listed contact information: