Innovation



Work today is increasingly associated with new technology and the economy of knowledge. Since brilliant minds don’t always have access to significant capital, the co-operative may be an excellent choice to do business by combining the minds of several people.
 
Despite its excellent scientific and didactic areas (also in Emilia-Romagna), the Italian university system still has a difficult time in connecting research and the economic world, university laboratories and production enterprises.


However, significant progress has been made over the last few years, in providing a future to university spinoffs, that is those enterprise embryos whose aim is to transform a research idea into a business idea. Co-operation plays a role and endeavours to constantly improve. Projects promoting co-operation in favour of the creation of new innovative co-ops are developed based on the need to connect the world of research with the production industry.

 



It’s still true that co-operatives may be traditionally classified in three types.


Worker-owned co-operative. Members are workers, who provide their co-operative work at the best economic and professional conditions (thus the resulting key figure of the “working member”).


Consumer-owned co-operative. Members are individuals who take advantage of the co-operative’s goods and/or services at more favourable conditions as compared to the market.


Producer-owned co-operative. Members are subjects who provide products to be transformed and sold (for example, in the agriculture sector) or services to be provided for work taken on by the co-operative from private and public purchasers. 


 

These three typical types have led to many categories of co-operatives, which are classified based on the sector they operate in (fishing, transport, agriculture, manufacturing, social...) or the type of member (consumer, retailer, inhabitant...), while always valorising people’s work.



 

A very interesting answer to the increasing weight of technology and knowledge are knowledge co-operatives, which are based on professionals and on their wealth of specific, qualified competencies. It is not a true category but unlike all trends in this period of economic and employment crisis, many have been created over the last few years and unite engineers, architects, computer experts and also physicians, solicitors and technicians from various areas.

In Italy’s small towns, in poor areas with difficult access and connection to infrastructures and services in the cities, new community co-operatives are developing, with the intention of keeping alive and valorising areas at the risk of being depopulated (there are 5,683 towns in Italy with less than 5,000 inhabitants, equal to 70.2% of the total, in which over 10 million people live, equal to 17% of the overall population).
 
Positive experiences of co-operatives of inhabitants and social co-operatives have resulted in innovative social housing projects, which constitute a true frontier for welfare (access to a home for segments of the population subjected to discrimination) and protecting the environment (efficient technology for saving energy becomes accessible precisely due to a shared investment).


It is precisely based on these conditions that new consumer-owned co-operatives are created in the field of renewable energy (for example, to purchase photovoltaic installations) or for shared transport projects (district car-sharing).



In short, co-operation evolves and demonstrates its ability to meet the new needs of people in a changing society as local economic and global conditions change.

 




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For more information on co-operatives of knowledge, this is a brochure from 2009 by Legacoop Italy (in italian only).





The project of community co-operatives told by Legacoop Italy (in italian only).