Almost 300 hundred years ago, facing major poverty, exclusion and inequalities, men and women created a new way to meet their needs: co-operatives and mutuals (CM). The model, inspired by values of equality, democracy, freedom, equity, solidarity and empowerment, has evolved in its practice and theory, and has had significant impacts on development. Still today, this project of innovative organization challenges our understanding of economy and business management.
Prepared for the International Summit on Co-operatives held in October 2012 in Québec City, the Institut de recherche et d’éducation pour les coopératives et les mutuelles de l’Université de Sherbrooke (IRECUS) has carried out a vast study of the accomplishments and future challenges for co-operatives and mutuals.
The objectives of the study were the following: 1) to establish a global portrayal of the socio-economic impact of co-operatives and mutuals and their contribution to build a better world; 2) to further the understanding of the successes and challenges of this business model and how co-operative identity plays a role.
This study confirms the relevance of the model and explains its contribution to a better world, with three main dynamics, proper to its identity. Effectively, cooperatives and mutuals directly contribute to: 1) assuring economic, social and political stabilization and regulation; 2) maintaining an equitable access to goods and services; 3) promoting economic, social and political diversity and inclusion.