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Will development cooperatives save the world?

16 of February '23

Have the pandemic, the energy crisis and the war in Ukraine taught us anything? If not, so much the worse for us. But if we have learned any lessons, they should direct us toward greater collective resilience, not just the immune one. With help comes cooperatives!

As part of our #ReportThursday series, we present documents, reports and guides on architecture, cities and local government that are certainly worth publicizing and promoting. This week we look at the "Urban Resilience Package" report produced by CoopTech Hub and the Heinrich Böll Foundation.

In view of the events of recent years, it is reasonable to ask, is it possible to manage without crises today? As the authors of the study point out at the outset, there is no neutral development, it is always based on crises. How to deal with them? Development cooperatives are supposed to help with this, but before we mention it, it is worth asking what builds resilience.

The "Urban Resilience Package" report is available on the authors' website.


The "Urban Resilience Package" report was developed by experts © CoopTech Hub | Heinrich Böll Foundation.

© CoopTech Hub | Heinrich Böll Foundation.

how to build resilience?

The above subtitle could introduce the product placement of a health supplement, but we prefer to focus on other issues. The resilience of local communities in the context of energy and climate crises, the diminishing role of urban centers, pandemics or humanitarian crises can be built on three elements, according to the report's authors.

First and foremost, adaptation, adjusting to what is likely to happen and using available resources to cushion the impact. Equally important is mitigation to contain crises or at least minimize them. The last element mentioned is recovery - repairing and rebuilding is as important as adapting.

These three elements make up the building of resilience by local communities, allowing them to limit crises. They also make up the essence of the solutions proposed by the authors - cooperatives.

Trzy filary rozwojowe spółdzielni rozwojowej

three development pillars of a development cooperative

© CoopTech Hub | Heinrich Böll Foundation.

a recipe for crises - cooperatives!

The word cooperative grows into a pejorative in Poland. When we hear it, we think of an organized power group around a few post-Prlovian buildings, for whom technology is just entering the moment of knowledge of the cell phone. That's a mistaken definition, as the report's authors prove.

Development cooperatives, which the report's authors encourage the establishment and development of, can change the face of the word. Their goal is to carry out strategic objectives for the municipality in which they are established. They are built on three pillars: joint ownership, joint investment and joint management.

Such entities can serve to lead an equitable energy transition, raise skills and create jobs, and allow investments that carry real social value alongside dividends. Part of the problem in building them so far has been the false dichotomy in thinking that we only have a choice between total public ownership or total private ownership - cooperatives break down this divide.

Spółdzielnie mogą być przestrzenią współpracy

cooperatives can be a space for cooperation

© CoopTech Hub | Heinrich Böll Foundation.

What advantages does such a structure have? First of all, cooperatives, the report's authors cite, go bankrupt less often. They also adapt better to new conditions, making it possible to manage a crisis in difficult circumstances. Development cooper atives are also characterized by greater municipal decision-making, as well as taking into account the voice of everyone who has a stake. Significantly, the report's authors point out that shares should not only come from finances, but also from actions for the benefit of the cooperative.

Who should interfere with the creation of cooperatives? Their development should begin in municipal institutions, which should oversee the creation and initial phases of the cooperatives' existence. The next step should be to open up to companies, institutions and, above all, residents.

Najważniejszą kwestią jest odpowiadać nie tylko na problemy dzisiejsze ale również na te, które mogą pojawić się jutro

The most important issue is to respond not only to today's problems, but also to those that may arise tomorrow

© CoopTech Hub | Heinrich Böll Foundation.

An example cited by the project's authors includes Evergreen Cooperatives, an institution established in 2008 to combat the problems of deindustrialization in Cleveland. The creation of such a cooperative, which quickly fraternized with local institutions. In the pandemic, this allowed the preservation of many jobs, and Evergreen Cooperatives thrives on buying companies and turning them into cooperatives.

Przykład działania spółdzielni z Cleveland

An example of how a Cleveland-based cooperative works

© CoopTech Hub | Heinrich Böll Foundation.

time for our cities?

The example of Cleveland from the perspective of Poland sounds exotic - fortunately, there are closer examples, co-created by the CoopTech Hub and the Heinrich Böll Foundation. Konin and Dabrowa Gornicza - two different cities with different problems and structure, which decided to create their cooperatives in cooperation with experts.

Theknow-how and workshops for creating cooperatives are described later in the report, which we encourage you to look into. Converting to the cooperative formula can be a gamechanger for small towns or medium-sized cities - places that are uniquely unable to cope with many of the negative effects of a modern economy in which metropolises have become a force. In one sentence: Let's cooperate instead of divide!

The report "Urban Resilience Package" is available on the authors' website.

Model rozwoju spółdzielni na przykładzie Dąbrowy Górniczej

Cooperative development model on the example of Dabrowa Gornicza

© CoopTech Hub | Heinrich Böll Foundation.

Developed by Wiktor Bochenek

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