« Cooperatives Between Worker Activism and Normalization – A Comparative Perspective », organized by #DemocratizingWork and OSUN Economic Democracy Initiative

First workshop of the #DemocratizingWork Global Workshop Series

Speakers: Sonia Maria Dias (WIEGO), Suroto Ph (AKSES, INKUR Federation), Morshed Mannan (European University Institute, The New School NYC), with Lisa Herzog (University of Groningen, Netherlands) and Flavia Maximo (University of Ouro Preto, Brazil) as chairs

Cooperatives are often seen as the democratic form of work, with workers not only sharing in governance structures, but actually owning the company. And yet, the form that cooperatives take in different countries is very distinct. In some parts of the world, they result from forms of worker activism, often in response to crisis, and are embedded in broader social struggles for social justice and the emancipation of workers. In other countries, they occupy a small, but stable niche and struggle not to become normalized with regard to business practices and work relations. And in the digital sphere, the principle of cooperatives has been rediscovered in the « platform cooperativism“ movement, which sees growing interest in industries such as delivery or household services. 

How much promise lies in the form of cooperatives for organizing work? Do they live up to their promise to give workers real voice in the workplace? How do the experiences in different countries compare, and what can they learn from each other? How could we ensure that more capitalist firms can turn to the cooperative form? This webinar brings together three speakers, from three continents, with ample expertise about the cooperative sector and its specific challenges. Together with them, and in dialogue with the audience, we want to explore how cooperatives can contribute to the democratization, decommodification and decarbonization of work, and what kind of structural changes would allow more cooperatives to be successful. 

Training originally in sociology and with a PhD in Political Sciences, Sonia Maria Dias is a “garbologist” specializing in solid waste management. Prior to joining the Women in Informal Employment: Globalizing and Organizing network (WIEGO), she has had experience as a city officer working in the municipal cleaning agency of her hometown in Brazil, as a consultant for international agencies, and as an Eisenhower Fellow for the Common Interest Program on Challenges of Urbanization, amongst other voluntary and academic roles. Sonia’s interests include promoting social inclusion, gender equity and occupational health in waste forums worldwide.

Suroto Ph graduated with a bachelor’s degree in economic faculty from Jenderal Sudirman University, Purwokerto, Central Java, Indonesia. Since his student days’ he is active in various activities for developing socio-economic, democracy and cooperative thinking and practices. He has led cooperative study institutions and has been the founder of several cooperatives and active in various cooperative activities both nationally and internationally. Currently, he is the Chairman of the National Association of Socio-Economic Strategic Cadres (i.e AKSES) and CEO (Chief Executive Officer) of the National Federation of People’s Enterprises Cooperative (i.e INKUR Federation). He has written various freelance articles in various media outlets, especially in the fields of cooperatives and socio-economic, democracy and development issues and actively advocates for various economic regulations and policies.

Morshed Mannan is a legal researcher focusing on blockchain governance and platform cooperatives. He received his Ph.D. from Leiden Law School, Leiden University on the emergence of democratic firms in the platform economy. He is member of the BlockchainGov research project and a Research Affiliate of the Institute for the Cooperative Digital Economy at The New School in New York City. Prior to the MWF programme, Morshed was a Research Associate at the Robert Schuman Centre. During the course of his Ph.D., Morshed acted as an expert for the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs on the legal framework for platform cooperatives and consulted for the International Co-operative Alliance and the NCBA CLUSA-International on topics of cooperative law. Mannan has also been called to the Bar of England and Wales and is enrolled in the Bar of Bangladesh.