Co-ops and Inclusive Business

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We had the opportunity to suggest for the academic personalities at a forum in UP Baguio to look into the co-operative model as the perfect example of inclusive business and possibly, a topic for academic research. These co-ops should also be properly supported and promoted by including co-operative studies in their curriculum.

This was how it happened. It was my first time to hear about inclusive business when there was an invitation to attend an Inclusive Business Forum at UP Baguio. Unaware of what that is, my curiosity tickled my interest to attend the forum. Besides, the organizers instructed us to invite co-ops for the said activity. So why not go there too. And off I went.

At home, I did a quick google search to know more about this concept of Inclusive Business in order to appreciate this better. As anybody would normally do, I consulted Wikipedia. It reads “Inclusive Business is a sustainable business that benefits low-income communities. It is a business initiative that, keeping its for-profit nature, contributes to poverty reduction through the inclusion of low income communities in its value chain.” And I said, this is describing something I’m too familiar about. This is no other than a co-operative!

Reading further, “Inclusive businesses find profitable ways to engage the low-income segment into their business operations in a way that benefits the low-income communities and creates sustainable livelihoods. This can include directly employing low-income people, targeting development of suppliers and service providers from low-income communities and providing affordable goods and services targeted at low-income communities.” This is indeed describing a co-operative.

Back at the forum, while I was listening to the several 10-minute wonderful lectures one after another, I was smiling and frustrated at the same time because they have no idea that they were talking about co-ops. They were discussing that business should be like this and like that and they were describing exactly what a co-op is but nobody mentioned anything about co-ops. They were in constant search for a business model that would likely engage in Inclusive Business not knowing that co-ops have been doing this for ages right under their noses.

You see, co-operatives help people help themselves. I mean, this is about people empowerment, giving them the opportunity to chart their own success and destiny. In the midst of hopelessness and helplessness, the co-op will give them a chance make a positive difference in their own lives. The main objective of a co-operative as enunciated in the Co-op Code is to improve the quality of life of members. Thereby, making them contributors to community development. Membership is not even discriminatory because it is open and voluntary regardless of race, gender, political or religious affiliation.

In addition, co-ops aim to position themselves as leaders in economic, cultural and environmental sustainability.  Co-ops provide easy access to financial services, provide employment and even livelihood to their members. Co-ops are involved in community development making it a better place to live in. It is a co-operative principle which is their way of giving back. And I wonder why nobody, even the academic professors who discussed the so-called Inclusive Business during the forum, took notice of this.

So, I was eager to stand and inform them that what they were talking all along are co-operatives.

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