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Co-op model more flexible

BEA DOTTIN, [email protected]

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Cooperatives, namely non-financial ones, have an important role to play in Barbados’ economy and society.
Reflecting on the International Year Of Cooperatives (IYC) Forum held last month, Barbados Cooperative & Credit Union League Limited’s general manager Anthony Pilgrim said he was pleased with the event’s outcome and hoped it would aid the sector’s development.
“The forum did an excellent job in highlighting the substantial but largely untold contribution that cooperatives have been making to the economic and social development of the global community.
“In particular, we in Barbados were given a global tour of highly successful non-financial cooperatives which may have been a revelation for many persons present,” the general manager explained.
Noting that cooperatives faced their own special challenges, Pilgrim said he hoped the forum would serve as a launching pad to improve the sector.
“While our financial cooperatives – credit unions – have been very successful, this pattern of success has not been mirrored by the non-financial cooperatives. We must work assiduously to ensure that the IYC Forum is a catalyst for change in galvanizing support for initiatives [toward] further growth and development of the non-financial cooperatives,” he noted, adding that the forum also highlighted the flexibility of the cooperative business model as an alternative to the usual for-profit approach to business.      
He pointed out that efforts to create a more sustainable non-cooperative sector have led to suggestions for the creation of a cooperative fund that would serve as a capital base, thus helping the sector to grow.
Pilgrim observed that while the idea had been around for some time and was excellent, “there are a lot of issues that would have to be clearly thought out before they could become real.
Would a separate entity be set up to manage the fund?
“What type of governance structure would the entity have? Would individuals who contribute to the fund benefit financially, and if so, what would be the mechanics of the process to pass on investment returns? Which projects would be selected for financing and what would be the criteria for selection?” he queried, adding that these questions needed to be answered before proceeding with such an endeavour.
Other proposals to improve the state of non-financial cooperatives have been made, some of which, Pilgrim admits, hold some promise.
“Two studies commissioned by the Government have been done on co-ops. One in particular, the study done by Basil Murray, made some excellent recommendations which should be examined with a view toward implementation. This is a good starting point.  
“We also need to work harder at developing strategic links between the financial co-ops and the non-financial co-ops. There is certainly room for sharing of knowledge and experiences as it relates to building successful co-ops. In addition, the very large membership of financial co-ops is a potential market for products and services,” he said.
While the general manager cautioned that the creation of cooperatives could not be forced, “we can certainly do a lot more to promote the cooperative ethos and business model”.
He asserted that “one of the great things about co-ops is the extensive global network. There are plenty of opportunities for networking, to discover best practices and to share knowledge and experiences that would certainly redound to the benefit of the co-operative movement in Barbados”. (NH)

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