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Promoting cooperatives and the Social Economy in Greece

The report "Promoting cooperatives and the Social Economy in Greece - How to promote the social economy in Greece through social cooperatives, worker cooperatives, and cooperatives of artisans and of SMEs" was undertaken by CICOPA at International Labour Irganisation (ILO) request.

Acknowledgements

CICOPA wish to thank all CICOPA members for their constant support and cooperation. In particular, the following persons should be thanked for their substantial contribution and for the information provided: Jose Arildo Mota Lopes and Victor Mellão of the Union of Cooperatives and Solidarity Enterprises of Brazil (UNISOL), Jose Orbaiceta of the Worker Cooperative Federation of Argentina (FECOOTRA), Isabel Soto of the Andalusian Federation of Workers Cooperatives (FAECTA), Hazel Corcoran and Peter Hough of the Canadian Worker Cooperative Federation (CWCF), Melissa Hoover of the US Federation of Worker Cooperatives (USFWC), and Yoshi Yamada of the Japanese Worker Cooperative Union (JWCU). An especially heartfelt thank goes to Lucas Mprechas and Dimitris Kitsikopoulos from the Greek NGO KAPA Network for the material they sent us and for the precious help they provided us on Greek cooperative legislation, as well as for their careful re-reading of the first part of this report. This report was undertaken at ILO request and under t he technical supervision of Pierre Laliberté, Specialist in Labour Issues, in ILO-ACTRAV. CICOPA wish to thank ILO’s technical input and support.

Introduction

CICOPA is pleased to deliver to the ILO this report on how the experience of cooperatives and cooperative support institutions from its world-wide network could concretely and substantially contribute to Greece’s sustainable economic recovery.

A very clear observation has been made by a number of authors: cooperatives in general, and cooperatives from the CICOPA world-wide network in p
articular, have generally fared better under the ongoing crisis, now in its sixth year, than other enterprises of similar sectors, sizes and countries. Not only the evidence, but also the reasons for such resilience have been analysed by CICOPA and CICOPA regional bodies, other cooperative organisations as well as the ILO itself in a series of surveys, reports, books and documentary films. Suffice it here to underline that this is a creative type of resilience, one which blends with a good deal of innovation of all types (organisational, social, managerial, technical).

As in previous crises, cooperatives are again showing that they are a key pillar in the development of a social economy. Social, worker, and artisans’ cooperatives play a specific role in this, in many industries and services and in both urban and rural areas: in countries where both cooperatives in general and worker, social and artisans’ cooperatives in particular are highly developed (eg Italy, France, Canada, Spain or Brazil), we can observe that the latter typologies of cooperatives contribute to reinforcing other types of cooperatives as well, such as agricultural, consumer and banking cooperatives, as well as other types of social and solidarity economy initiatives.

In the first part of this report, we will briefly summarize the challenges facing Greece as well as the existing cooperative and social economy context, both in terms of regulatory framework and of the reality on the ground.

In the second, more extended part, we will try to summarize some CICOPA network’s experience and expertise in different countries across the world, which appears to be particularly relevant to the Greek context today, such as business transfers to the employees of enterprises on the verge of closing down, the integration of vulnerable groups, social services to small children and the elderly, the rural economy, artisans’ groupings, tourism, economic organising among immigrants, multi-stakeholder and mixed forms of cooperatives. This section is aimed at stimulating the imagination of the reader, and make him/her understand the potential of cooperatives and the large international experience that could be put to good use in Greece.
In the third part of this report, we will describe the international coordinating experience of CICOPA itself, in running complex development projects, stimulating the setting up of national cooperative federations, elaborating world sectoral cooperative standards, as well as analysing and advising on a vast array of cooperative legislation.

In the fourth and last part, we provide a series of recommendations based on CICOPA’s own development experience on how to launch a social economy project grounded in the promotion of cooperatives in Greece in the near future. We hope that this report will be of immediate use to the ILO and to the Greek government and civil society. We are convinced that the social institutions in Greek society constitute a solid terrain on which worker, social and artisans’ cooperatives can be organi sed and a social economy can be developed, which, in turn, could substantially contribute to a much needed and well deserved economic recovery.