E Summary and Conclusions

Both consumer and worker cooperatives as well as NPOs can make unique contributions to renewing the public sector and enriching the welfare state, if their roles in the provision of social welfare services are better understood. Consumer co-ops can empower the clients and consumers of such services, while worker co-ops can enrich and renew the work life of the providers of such services. Other types of NPOs can contribute to greater effectiveness in achieving the goals of the welfare state. Thus, rather than simply privatizing the welfare state, there are strong theoretical arguments for ‘cooperatizing’ social services and/or involving other voluntary organizations in the provision of social services.

Figure 2.2 summarizes the advantages of the various institutional alternatives in relation to the goal of renewing the public sector and the enrichment of the welfare state, as well as to the market and political

Institutional Alternatives for Exit and Voice, Enrichment of Working Life and Enhancing Public Goal Fulfillment

Figure 2.2 Institutional Alternatives for Exit and Voice, Enrichment of Working Life and Enhancing Public Goal Fulfillment.

Source: V. Pestoff, 1992.

Key: X=weak, XX=medium, XXX=strong, ( ) potential.

reactions characterized as exit and voice and the enrichment of work life. One X indicates that a particular form of social welfare service only meets a particular objective poorly, while two XXs indicates a medium relationship and three XXXs a strong relationship. A parenthesis indicates that the strength of the relationship depends on certain circumstances. Thus, the influence of exit on private providers of social welfare services is highly dependent on the existence of significant market competition. This clearly varies not only from country to country, but also from branch to branch in any given country.

From the outset, the intention has been to consider three often ignored alternatives to public and private social services. Our summary comments will thus primarily be restricted to cooperative and nonprofit alternatives. The main contribution of consumer cooperatives to renewing the public sector and enriching the welfare state comes in terms of directly empowering the clients or consumers of such services by providing them with an institutionalized voice. This also indirectly contributes to the enrichment of work life and public goal fulfillment.

The main contribution of worker cooperatives to renewing the public sector and enriching the welfare state is in terms of directly enriching work life. They also indirectly contribute, under certain circumstances, to the revitalization of the market - exit - alternative and to greater public goal fulfillment.

The main contribution of NPOs to renewing the public sector and enriching the welfare state is in terms of directly enhancing the effectiveness and goal fulfillment of the public sector. Under certain circumstances, they can also make a modest but indirect contribution to client empowerment and the enrichment of work life.

Consumer cooperatives, thus, provide the greatest opportunity for the exercise of voice as an institution of consumer influence and also for some exit influence. Both the public and nonprofit provision of social welfare services potentially allow for some consumer voice, again depending on certain circumstances. Producer cooperatives provide for weak voice, while private provision excludes voice - relying on exit where competition exists.

Worker cooperatives are conceived as the principal alternative for enriching and renewing work life. Given the high degree of economic concentration and hierarchical control in most branches of the Swedish economy, there is no reason to postulate axiomatically that private providers will be competitive (Pestoff and Ronit, 1990; Pestoff, 1992). It is, however, highly unlikely that worker cooperative social welfare services could ever gain an oligopolistic or monopolistic position. Thus, they allow for more exit influence than either private competitors or consumer cooperatives.

Cooperatives and other NPOs can also enhance public goal fulfillment when they serve as a complement and supplement to public social welfare services, rather than as an alternative to it. An additional consideration associated with cooperative social services stems from the possibility of combining the positive features of both types of cooperatives (i.e. worker and consumer co-ops) in the same organizational form. Multi-stakeholder cooperatives were formed and have been run experimentally for a number of years in Canada (Jordan, 1989). The separate interests of the employees and the clients of cooperative organizations have been given institutional representation in a unique fashion in such cooperatives (Pestoff, 1995). Whether this could serve as a model for similar efforts in combining both the interests of workers and consumers of social welfare services in Sweden or other countries remains to be seen. It could, however, provide grounds for undertaking an interesting experiment in certain areas such as healthcare - where multi-stakeholder social welfare service cooperatives could be developed.

The practical ramifications of this discussion of cooperative social services are numerous. An empirical study of the subject provided the first systematic documentation of consumer empowerment and work environment enrichment in cooperative social services in Sweden. It allowed for a direct comparison of consumer empowerment and work environment in consumer and worker forms of cooperative social services as well as nonprofit organizations and municipal services (Pestoff, 1998).

 
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