Advancing The Cooperative Movement in Australia and Italy Symposium
21st Jul 2011 -
The second symposium of Australia - Italy Co-operatives Research Group met in Trento, Italy between the 21st and 23rd, July 2011. The symposium, hosted by EuRISCE and the University of Trento, was opened by Murray Cobban, the former Australian Ambassador to Italy and now the University of Sydney's Regional Director for Europe. The symposium was attended by fifteen Italian academics researching cooperatives in Italy lead by Professor Carlo Borzaga President of EuRISCE. Three representatives from Sydney University attended: Professor Greg Patmore, Dr Martha Knox-Haley, Mr Anthony Jensen and Mr Richard O'Leary from the Macleay Regional Co-operative.
Eighteen papers were presented which will form the foundation of the final report on the 'Past, Present and Potential of the Cooperative Movements in Italy and Australia'. There were eight Australian presentations ranging from credit unions for and run by indigenous communities encouraging and educating saving; to job satisfaction in cooperatives; a model for successful consumer cooperation; a comparison of housing cooperatives in Sweden; and worker cooperatives in New South Wales as a vehicle to enable workers to preserve jobs in distressed companies based on the Italian Marcora Law.
The Italian papers covered four key areas. Firstly the opportunities for new areas of cooperative growth such as utility cooperatives which embraced the whole community in areas of energy, water and waste management with an interesting example of electricity generation; the use of social cooperatives to combat crime in Southern Italy and deliver social services nationally. There were also papers demonstrating how the Lega Federation works strategically with sectors such as housing, retail and worker cooperatives to constantly reinvent their operations and challenge the market. While other papers focused on the Italian legislation underpinning the cooperative sector, the effectiveness of the 'asset lock' in preventing demutualisation and the formation of social capital by cooperatives. Finally there were papers that sought to demonstrate the robustness of the Italian financial cooperative sector.
The research project now moves into its next stage with the two groups of researchers defining collaborative joint venture research projects to identify the characteristics of success, benefits of cooperation and national strategies of support. A report is planned for submission to the Australian Federal Government as well as a book and a final symposium to be held at the University of Sydney in Australia in 2012.