Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The ILO and Co-ops in the 2008 Crisis

Here is some fine recent material I came across on studies of co-operatives:

Cooperatives and the crisis: “Our customers are also our owners”
Cooperatives have been more resilient to the deepening global economic and jobs crisis than other sectors. Report from Sweden.
Article | July 2, 2010
Another call is coming in from a customer to a modern call centre in Malmö in southern Sweden. The caller wants to discuss insurance, and the call centre agent, sitting at their terminal and speaking through a head-set, begins to explain the terms of the policies available. The conversation progresses, the sale is made.
The transaction takes place not in the Swedish language, however, but in Kurdish. The Swedish cooperative insurer Folksam first piloted the idea of a multilingual call centre more than ten years ago, and its Malmö base can now handle calls in seventeen languages, including Somali, Farsi, Arabic and Polish. In a country where almost one in five of the population is from a migrant community, it’s a sensible business service to offer and according to Folksam attracts 100,000 calls a year. As a direct consequence, Folksam now claims the lion’s share of the insurance market of Sweden’s immigrant communities.
It’s the sort of idea that, you’d think, a bright new start-up company might come up with. But Folksam is no such thing: it is something of a venerable presence in the Swedish world of finance, having been offering Swedish people insurance for 102 years.
Reconciling economic and social values
Its chief executive Anders Sundström argues that Folksam’s business success can be attributed to its social values. Originally set up to meet the needs of Sweden’s early social and trade union movements, it has maintained its difference from other insurers, not least in its company structure. It operates without shareholders, as one of the global family of cooperative and mutual financial institutions. As the company’s website puts it, “Our customers are also our owners. The profit doesn’t go to shareholders, it stays within the company and benefits us all.”
read the rest of the article here:

see also the ILO report on the resilience of co-operatives in the recent crisis:

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