Today's post is the third in a four-part series derived from my strategy memo, "Reinventing Law for the Commons." This excerpt continues with Part II, "Legal Innovations in Beating the Bounds," with "clusters" #5 through #9. The collection of entries here are now posted on a Commons for the Law wiki hosted by the Commons Transition website.
5. Co-operative Law
There are a number of legal and organizational innovations transforming co-operatives these days, making them moreoriented to commoning and the common good than just marketplace success. However, these innovations are geographically dispersed and not necessarily widely known, even within the co-operative movement. One of the most notable new organizational forms is the multistakeholder co-operative (or “social and solidarity cooperative”), which has been rapidly proliferating in recent years. It got its start in Italy in 1963 when families in Italy joined forces with paid care workers to develop co-operatives to provide social care, healthcare and educational services. This new paradigm collectivizes and centralizes basic overhead services (administration, personnel, accounting, etc.) and in this way empowers smaller social economy ventures (similar to “omni-commons,” see section #8 below).
In a sense, multistakeholder co-ops regularize governance for co-stewardship of commons spaces and moves away from rigid bureaucratic methods that increasingly don’t work. Multistakeholder co-ops now employ more than 360,000 in paid jobs, including the disabled, the formerly imprisoned and marginalized people, and more than 40,000 volunteers. Social co-operatives have spread to all regions of Italy and today number more than 14,000, making it a significant sector of the Italian economy that is neither market- nor state-based. Today there are multi-stakeholder co-operative movements in Quebec in Canada and in a wide number of countries in Europe including France, Spain, Poland, Hungary, Finland and Greece.