Development of an Analytical Framework

In order to develop an analytical framework (phase one of the research process), we went through a three-step screening process. This allowed us to identify important contextual factors and CSE’s characteristics.

318 Gdler von Ravensburg, Lang et al.

Screening Process to Identify Distinctive Dimensions and Variants

In the first step of developing the analytical framework, all eighteen CPs were screened for the perspectives they offered on CSE. In a qualitative content analysis of the dataset, we identified sections in each CP dealing with the phenomenon of CSE and derived specific perspectives and arguments that national authors thought crucial to the conceptualisation of CSE in their respective context (i.e., at the national level, except for the province of Quebec). We identified five clusters of perspectives:

  • • wide historical context and cooperative-specific development “paths”, including embeddedness in the economic system, company and nonprofit organisation (NPO) law, tax law and institutionalised supervision (Huybrechts et al. 2016);
  • • CSE in different conceptualisations of societal transformation (from at least three perspectives: cooperative movement, state, non-profit/ common-good sector);
  • • fields of CSEs’ activities/sectors in comparison to social enterprise in general and to institutionalised cooperative sectors;
  • • role of policies and institutions linking social capital across different societal sectors (e.g., public bodies, philanthropists, private corporate investors, etc.), effective at different spatial scales;
  • • type of CSE governance.

In the second step, to assess the relevance of the various perspectives identified, all eighteen CPs were analysed to determine which perspectives were shared by more than a third of them. This was the case for the contextual factors outlined in section 19.2.2 and CSEs’ characteristics outlined in section 19.2.3. These interim results were suitable to serve as dimensions for the cross-country comparative analysis focusing on the interplay between contextual factors, on the one hand, and characteristics of CSE, on the other hand. Only twelve out of the eighteen papers, however, referred to all the selected dimensions in some depth. So, it was decided to continue the analysis with only these twelve CPs—on Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Poland, Spain, Switzerland and the US.

In the third step of the screening process, these twelve CPs were examined in order to identify variants for each of the dimensions identified. Through an inductive process again, between four and six variants were defined for each dimension. The content of these variants is explained in section 19.3. We decided to follow up on those variants that were present in more than three CPs, so only these have been included in the final analytical framework.

Cooperative Social Enterprises 319

Contextual Factors Identified

Six contextual factors were present in more than a third of the eighteen CPs selected in the first step of phase 1.

  • • Nearly all CPs’ authors focused, in their accounts of CSE, on historical developments. A range of CPs made clear reference to historical trajectories of the whole socio-economic system in the country, highlighting the links between such contexts and the cooperative sector’s organisational models, including CSE.
  • • Another frequent focus was on the emergence of new social movements. CSEs often seem to emerge in response to socioeconomic crises, for example, to meet the resulting demands for social services and solve unemployment problems, or they aim to promote a “green” sustainability agenda through ecological living.
  • Legal provisions for cooperatives often determine CSE activities. Some countries have developed a specific legal framework to regulate the phenomenon of CSE and/or to facilitate its development and stimulate its growth; such a development has been observed in Italy (Poledrini 2015), Poland (Piechowski 2010), France (Hiez 2013) and Hungary (European Commission 2014d) with the creation of the legal form of “social cooperative”; in Spain, with the “social-initiative cooperative” (CIS) legal form; and in the province of Quebec, in Canada, with the “solidarity cooperative” legal form.
  • Intermediaries link cooperative organisations and their members to actors in the institutional environment (e.g., government bodies, banks, institutional investors) through lobbying or as regulators of the cooperative sector. These intermediary bodies can also be federations; secondary cooperatives; national, regional or local umbrella organisations (including social enterprises); and research institutions.
  • Social-economy-related policies are at the basis of the emergence of CSE especially in Spain, France, Hungary and Poland,3 while in other countries, CSE development is influenced by broader social or regional policies. More precisely, the social-economy approach is firmly based on the belief that isomorphism can only be avoided by favouring participatory governance and limited profit distribution (Fici 2015: 26). Consequently, legal provisions to ensure the protection of these features are usually central in the countries where the social-economy approach is important; this is the case for many romance-language countries, as illustrated for example by the French “collective-interest cooperative”. By contrast, in North America, Australia, Germany, Austria or Switzerland, the concept of social economy has never, or only very recently, been associated with the concept of cooperatives.
  • 320 Gdler von Ravensburg, Lang et al.
  • • Nearly all CPs’ authors report that alternative legal forms to the cooperative one do exist in their respective countries/region.

CSE's Characteristics Identified

Regarding the characteristics of CSEs, the following eight features were found to be central by most CP authors:

  • Autonomy: Two aspects of autonomy can be distinguished. Political autonomy (or autonomy in terms of governance) refers to the influence of political decision-makers and interests on the strategic development of the CSE. A second aspect, namely that of financial autonomy, refers to those situations where (social) policies and subsidies are not vital for the CSE and a diversity of contract partners exists.
  • Membership composition: CSE membership composition can be homogenous and/or heterogeneous. Homogenous membership refers to the situation where all members share common interests. By contrast, in organisations with heterogeneous membership, there are different subgroups, with divergent interests. The CPs analysed further suggest to distinguish two major forms of heterogeneous membership: (1) with two subgroups, as for example in credit cooperatives; and (2) with multiple subgroups, as in multi-stakeholder cooperatives, where the different subgroups have at least one common interest but also diverging interests.
  • Types of goods and services: Data from the CPs reveal that CSEs provide various kinds of goods and services. Indeed, they can provide private goods, when they address only their members’ needs, such as in agriculture, or they can provide public or merit goods, when they generate benefits for non-members. Goods and services can be of a collective type (common goods) or of an individual one (personal services).
  • Main source of revenue: Our analysis showed two main sources of revenue for CSEs, namely (market) sales, including sales to government bodies, on the one hand, and public subsidies and grants, on the other hand. From the initial cross-country comparison, we can hypothesise that CSEs are more dependent on sales in liberal market contexts (e.g., the US; see Cooney 2015) than in traditional welfare and corporatist state contexts (e.g., Germany; see Birkholzer et al. 2015).
  • Predominant fields of activity: Across the different countries analysed, three predominant fields of CSE activity can be identified: work integration, personal services (e.g., child care) and local/regional infrastructure development (cooperatives providing public or proximity services).
  • Types of benefits/beneficiaries: Another dimension (linked to others) refers to the main benefits that CSEs provide or the main

Cooperative Social Enterprises 321 beneficiaries that they serve. Based on our analysis, we can distinguish three main categories of benefits/beneficiaries: provision of employment for members; servicing members (hereby leading to indirect benefits for members); and servicing wider groups of beneficiaries, including non-members.

  • Participatory character of the governance: Our analysis of CPs suggests three variants: the board can include only members; the board can include (non-member) beneficiaries; there is a possibility for external stakeholders to be part of the board.
  • Profit distribution: The dimension of profit distribution can be categorised in the following way: profit distribution can be prohibited or regulated by law; or it can be decided by the members; or there are no restrictions at all.
 
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