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Cooperation - a human system


Cooperation as a system

The system of cooperation needs to be implemented in its entirety, it is the essential system that supports many of the other systems that are needed in all self-help enterprises; and without it, co-ops are unlikely to achieve anything worthwhile. The prime goal of the system of cooperation is to ensure that people work-together harmoniously to achieve their common goals. Cooperation is based upon reciprocity – that is to say, ‘give and take’. It can never be all ‘give’, or all ‘take’ by any member; otherwise, the result is exploitation, not cooperation. Members who want to enjoy only the benefits of cooperation without contributing to the common cause will inevitably undermine any form of cooperative endeavour.

Obstacles to cooperation

Dishonesty, duplicity and unwarranted selfishness are infectious forms of behaviour that become rife when people are treated unfairly and feel powerless. In contrast, cooperative behaviour can become contagious, where, as members, people feel valued and believe that they are being treated fairly; then they are usually ready to commit to their joint enterprise. The benefits brought by such behavioural changes can help both individuals and their communities, and this result of a ripple-effect can be life-changing for many people. Individuals are often torn between belonging to a community (including their co-op) and maximising their own personal welfare.

For cooperation to work, people need to be adult in their outlook and to be treated as responsible individuals. So, as well as social norms, formal arrangements such as legal contracts, laws, and rules need to be in place to ensure that all members gain fairly from the activities of their enterprise. For instance, the accuracy and fairness of decisions could be ensured by introducing quorum-thresholds, requiring well over a simple majority of voting members to make any significant rule amendments.

What do we mean by culture?

The culture of an organization is revealed in the collective behaviour of the people who are part of the organization, and in the meanings that people attach to their actions. Culture includes its standards of behaviour, its vision of its purpose and function; and in the norms, working language, systems, beliefs, and habits, prevailing throughout the organization.

To find out more about culture in co-ops
Watch this 19 min video now or view later

Barn raising
Working together
climbing a mountain
Mutual action
people planning
Members must be involved in the planning process
Video about Culture in Co-ops

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Updated: April 2021 © Edgar Parnell 2021
Cooperatives and all other types of self-help enterprise
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