Tag Archives: Capitalism

To dig through the ‘dirt’ yourself, or to crave the worm on the hook?

People were made to be loved. Things were created to be used. The reason the world is in chaos is because things are loved and people are used. – Dalai Lama

Do you follow the market or nature? Are you a consumer or a creator? Are you a capitalist or a humanist? Yes, it’s an either-or decision! You cannot run and drive, fast and eat at the same time, or increase shareholder value and keep all jobs in a crisis. The decision is always to be made. However, most people get overwhelmed by consumption habits in the process as we are never told what to do but are constantly told what to buy.

A simple everyday example: Many people have forgotten during or after their childhood that our natural way of maintaining strong and healthy feet is to walk barefoot. Instead, we are sold cushions and supports that degenerate our walking form, weaken our joints and impair our feeling of grip. Not good for the individual, but profitable not only for the shoe industry, but also for the medical industry. Or that the weather is only as bad as our clothes, they say. This is an interesting concept from a sales perspective, but catastrophic to our ability to benefit from hot and cold exposure. For this reason, companies like to offer saunas and cryotherapy instead. So, what we lost in nature can be bought back in the market.

These upside-down worlds are omnipresent. And the more frustrating the turning away from the appreciation of all of our nature, the more salvation is promised and sought in the market. A vicious circle. Therefore, it seems like better advice to do exactly the opposite of what is being advertised to us. Some examples:

  • Have you saved money and now interest rates are falling and the only ones benefiting from it are financial institutions? Have you invested in stocks and now investors have earned on the upswing while the small investors bear the loss after the big ones exit? In the real estate market, too, the little fish are usually one step too late.
  • Have you invested in diplomas and are now overqualified?
  • Have you been able to keep up with showing how much you enjoy eating and drinking and being part of the foodie lifestyle, but need to consider hiring a weight loss coach?
  • Are you using stairs, elevators, and other equipment that promises you a more comfortable life, but you are thinking of buying an indoor treadmill, gym membership, or something similar?
  • How has the daily media news contributed to your personal growth? If these leave you sad, angry, worried, and stressed out, it is recommended that you get a prescription for medicine and book a relaxing vacation somewhere for a week or two. It won’t be without side effects (though additional pills may be available for) or enough, of course, but you can rebook and change your lifestyle after you retire, right? – I doubt.
  • Etc.

The more I take care not to fall victim to every marketing trend, every scare tactic, and every commercially exploited promise of salvation, the clearer it becomes. The people who pull the cords would prefer me to be dependent on their help like a farm animal; that makes them appear charitable despite the moneymaking. However, in contrast to fully bred farm animal breeds, I believe that our natural human self-efficacy and responsibility are still available to us. It is still possible to find much healthier and more satisfying alternatives for much of what is suggested to be consumed on the market through our own activities according to our nature. Because in the end I actually prefer digging in the dirt myself than craving for the worm on the hook.

What are your examples and experiences?

The XXI Century ‘Bread and Games’ Death Trap

e.g.

• Bread = Amazon

• Games = Netflix

• Late Roman decadence = late capitalist decadence

• Gladiators = social media «influencers»

• Visitors/Spectators = On the screens

• Plague = corona virus

• Decline of business and culture = “Corona” measures

• Further elimination of democratic elements, “royal” campaigns in the deserted areas (e.g. under Charlemagne) = “Corona” consequences (weakening of the middle class and sell-off of SMEs, expansion of global online monopolies)

The leader-follower relationship: Theories and related strategies

1.It is crucial to what role models children are exposed. Babies intuitively follow the eye gaze of their mothers. Little geese adopt the first seen subject after hatching as their caregiver (so-called IMPRINTING). And imprisoned children regard the prison guards as their parents to follow.

2.Followers emulate primarily other followers, not necessarily the leader. A movement is made by courageous followers who show others how to follow too. Therefore it is essential to nurture followers.

3.To form a positive social identity (as everybody seeks to), people use self-categorization. According to SOCIAL IDENTITY THEORY, this risks leading to biased social comparison in which people tend to over-favorize one’s own group’s individuals’ positive characteristics while they stereotype and discriminate out-group members having mainly negative traits.

4.PROTOTYPICAL PERCEPTIONS cause people to think that the followers of the group they identify with can be persuaded by information, while out-group followers are mis-perceived as needing to be coerced by force.

5.Individuals who follow a leader against their own moral beliefs or good judgment may do so because they socially identify with the leader and consciously choose to follow his/her MORAL COMPASS.

6.Leaders in a mutually beneficial leader-follower relationship provide public goods to their followership. In return, followers voluntarily pay their costs to the leader in the form of prestige. When leaders gain more relative power, and their high status becomes less dependent on their willingness to pay the costs of benefitting followers, the SERVICE-FOR-PRESTIGE THEORY predicts that leader-follower relations will become more based on leaders’ ability to dominate and exploit.

7.In the phenomena of RECIPROCITY, we should differentiate whether it is about our genuine desire to return favors unconditionally based on feelings of thankfulness, or whether we get trapped into “marketing tricks” that let us act upon feelings of obligation and guilt.

8.A secure ATTACHMENT STYLE helps people trusting in lasting relationships, self-confidentially seeking out and providing social support that empowers themselves and colleagues alike. Insecurely attached people may cause stronger exclusion and exploitation of others.

9.Effective followers as fostered by TRANSFORMATIONAL LEADERSHIP are those who are not only actively involved, but those who are also critically thinking to influence decision-making and change. Conformist followers who are not challenging the status quo contribute less to innovation and business performance improvement.

10.DIVERSITY AND INCLUSIVENESS are vital also from a business perspective because better-connected networks enable more knowledge sharing that is favorable for innovation and improves business performance, which ultimately results in increased profitability.

11.REVERSE MENTORING allows any employees to assume, (informal) leadership roles. Reverse mentoring not only promotes bi-directional knowledge exchange, but it can help isolated older leaders to enter into more egalitarian relationships as well.

12.Utilizing CONSTRUCTIVE HUMOR may be an effective leadership strategy to win trust and commitment from followers as it bridges authority gaps and encourages the both-sided expression of positive emotions even when addressing difficult matters.

 

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Leaders are not born, they are made

1.Whether in a formal position, at work or in private, our influence on others is more significant than we think. It may be your today’s courageous example that inspires somebody else even years later to do the right thing as well.

2.To be a leader means to be a continuous learner, and learners are readers.

3.While leadership theories as a relatively young science are becoming ‘smarter,’ there is also ancient and timeless leadership wisdom based on ‘kindness.’

4.Against persistent myths: Leaders are not born, they are made.

5.Do not let you blend by the ‘halo effect’ to conclude that people being good or powerful in one area might be consequently amazing in other areas too.

6.Adapt your leadership style according to the situation and development phase of the people needing direction, coaching, support, or delegation.

7.While transactional leaders make today better by rewarding good performance, transformational leaders are focused on making tomorrow better too.

8.For personal charisma, develop your emotional and social intelligence. As a visionary leader, learn how to visualize an attractive and ideal future that inspires others to follow their heart.

9.A majority of employees is disengaged. Increased participation is required to move beyond consumer behavior. Only with emotional and economic co-ownership will people assume more responsibility/accountability.

10.The administration of existing businesses often leaves little room for leadership that involves the creation of new meaning and change. Differentiate a position-based management career requiring short-term profitability goals versus a self-guided leadership desire to make a difference beyond market considerations in the long-term. You always can be a leader!

11.Always re-evaluate your beliefs in symbols and rules, don’t assume, don’t judge, and listen to people for who they truly are. That’s how you can empower yourself and others to become more free, understanding, and creative.

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The Meaning of Work (and Cultural Considerations at the Example of Japan)

mathias-sager-meaning of work life quote.png

 

Introduction

Definition of meaning

Although ‘meaning’ isn’t reducible to a state-like single factor [1], the meaning of a concept (i.e., work) is related to how an individual does experience the significance of a situation that causes related inferential intentions to behave in a certain way [2]. While for many people the primary meaning of work lies in the earning of money for making a living, work provides also for values such as achievement, honor, and social relationships that determine how central the purpose of work is as compared to other life aspects like leisure, family, and community [3].

Economist and psychologist approach to work

The economist approach to work assumes a transactional exchange of time and effort for money. Non-financial job values have gotten limited attention by economists when examining work motivation and productivity. However, like for example, academics who have highest job security without the need to outperform, and who study beyond working hours without monetary incentives, are motivated by pure contribution to a subject, intellectual stimulation, and the satisfaction from a deliberate exchange of knowledge. Similarly, entrepreneurs enjoy the freedom of autonomous decision-making regardless of ‘pain’ put into it in the form of time and effort. Top talents have been found to prefer to work for social organizations rather than just for the best paying one [4].

Albeit the financialized political economy [5] ignores many aspects of work, such as its creative and interpersonal (social) value [6], the examples show that through psychological satisfaction, work can be a source of meaning beyond merely earning an income [4].

 

Cultural features of work meaning

Work creates culture, culture creates work

Culture as a guiding set of material, mental, and spiritual values that are based on a group’s experiences over time, creates meaning on how to behave and work [7] and, at the same time, its meaning itself is produced by work. Consequently, work should be considered a meaning-making construct of and within culture respectively as the producer and product of people’s mindset simultaneously [8]. A culture, therefore, can be only as rich and meaningful as the work that produces it is itself. 

“Adulthood” identity

In most Western cultures, there is today a less clear boundary between school and work life. In Japanese society though, there exists still a distinct point in time (usually beginning of April every year) that is marking the end of one’s student identity through entering the working world on full-time basis, which means to becoming a ‘shakaijin,’ i.e., a person of society/workforce [9]. Companies use recruitment practices and regular personal assessment throughout an adult’s work life to socialize [10]. Age-based reward and promotion systems also support this ongoing socialization process [15]. More recently, the traditional path to adulthood and ‘companyism’ has become more diverse, and the increasing number of part-time workers and contractors is shaping a changing understanding of the transition to adulthood and work life, one that takes place rather through action than through the acquisition of the ‘shakaijin’ status [10].

Masculine breadwinner identity

Company respectively work-led socialization reinforces gender roles. The breadwinning role is a priority in masculine identity. After the earthquake in 2011, men’s concern in Fukushima was less related to health than to the loss of their economic situation [11]. As in Japanese patriarchal culture, the father role is still primarily related to company job-related work, childcare duties are culturally assigned to solely to the female role (i.e., mother or grandmother), which provides a widespread potential for work-family conflicts. Shared family and work-related commitments, however, begin to be seen as essential to improve self-worthiness and a sense of meaningfulness in life [12]. Men who don’t exhibit a regular full-time job are more likely to marry late. Also, males with non-standard jobs have the lowest chance of getting children, an effect that is prevalent in Japan, but not in the US, for example [13].

Given the importance of work as a provider of status, identity, and meaning, it is understandable that Japanese commit with a lot of grit to it [14]. Over time, Japan’s values align more closely with global trends insofar as there is a great emphasis on the economic function of work as well [15]. Will that be enough meaning to engage the next generations of employees as well? Research is showing that lack of meaning at work is reducing work volition and work-related well-being significantly [16].

Economy of dignity and respect

A further question is how much a collectivist society may be able to reduce the dependency on others and society overall because over-dependency on the meaning of work risks to hamper dignity. The individual capacity to understand and position oneself as a fully recognized societal participant is vital to the notion of dignity as sourced from within. It is to hope that companies and society, not only in Japan, help to create dignity by de-stigmatizing of traditional personhood markers such as employment type and gender roles [17]. It’s maybe such a shift from status-focus to an action-focus orientation that also explains the changing meaning of ‘sonkei’ (Japanese for respect). Formal respect (e.g., towards age-based status) is increasingly recognized as a moral duty rather than an emotion built on genuine love and admiration [18].

Benefits from meaningful work

Psychological well-being

The benefit of employees perceiving their work as meaningful come as experiences of greater happiness, job satisfaction, team spirit, and commitment ([19]; [20]), thus reducing turnover rates and long-term sickness absences. This is because of the positive emotional bondage to the workplace that is an end in itself; a characteristic also called intrinsic motivation [21]. A greater sense of meaning in one’s work can be protective of burnout [22]. Eudaimonia is a term describing the sort of well-being that comes from living an engaging, meaningful, and fulfilling life [23]. Such a spirit at the workplace can be fostered by letting employees feel they contribute to something more significant in connection to a common connection and purpose [24].

Performance and physical health

Work meaning is also closely linked to better outcomes, such as increased income, quality of work, and job satisfaction [25]. Finally, a sense of purpose and sense of socially embedded growth in and from work (i.e., eudaimonic, meaning-based well-being versus hedonic, pleasure-based job-satisfaction [26]) was found to be associated with positive health outcomes, for example, by the means of supporting one’s physical resistance against adversities like inflammation or viral infection [27]. The Japanese type of stress-death, the so-called ‘karoushi’ (death from overwork) cannot be seen as a physiological phenomenon only. Rather death is caused by a vicious cycle of depressive feelings, and states of helplessness and unescapable despair combined with overwork [28].

Fostering meaning at work

A culture of mentorship and nostalgia

For a long time, job satisfaction research has been focused on an organizational perspective without sufficiently considering the role of the job on family, the standard of living, personal development, and on a worker’s larger worldview [26]. It is crucial to understand better situational contexts in which meaning ensues. Researchers found that the highest levels of meaning arise during spiritual practices and work hours, especially when performing social job components such as talking to people. As a general pattern, meaning occurs most during states of increased awareness [29]. An organizational listening climate may facilitate such an awareness [30], and acting as a self-reflective mentor might be a useful avenue of experiencing meaning at work [31]. Indeed, studies among nursing practices from different countries (e.g., Canada, India, Ireland, Japan, and Korea) confirm that leaders and a culture of mentorship are important for fostering meaning of work for both mentors and the mentees [32]. Also, the induction of nostalgia (i.e., remembering sentimental events from the past) can be used to meet employees longing for wistful affection to the past and may increase an employee’s perception of the meaningfulness of his/her organizational life and therefore the attachment to it [19].

The need for humanizing the economy

The hope that unfulfilling, unsatisfying, and even health and life-threatening mental stress at work will improve may be overshadowed by the continuing centrality of profit margins and efficiency in corporations. Neo-liberal development in Japan has shaken the traditions of secure long-term employment and a state responsible for citizens welfare. While the need for meaning at the workplace implies rather a humanization of the economy and society, capitalist marketization of everything is continuing. Corporate managers continue to exploit deregulated labor and capital and maintain insecurity and growing competition among workers. [33]. While rhetoric is sometimes trying to convince otherwise, understandably in the light of how grim the reality reveals, capitalism’s ultimate sense is about capital rather than humanity. In case of conflict, business goals come before anything else. Regardless of how meaningful employees perceive their job, no CEO is considered unsuccessful when driving profits within legal constraints and without caring especially about humanistically meaningful jobs. It’s, therefore, as an example, a non-surprising and common observation that such managers only after their retirement turn to a more dedicated anthropological role of contributing to society.

Meaning determines moral and ethical intentions and behavior

It seems that people need to find answers from within because the treadmill of the pursuit of consumption, pleasure, and economic success from work won’t fulfill the potential of greater meaning at work in many cases, regardless of how comfortable or tough the circumstances. It is each and everyone’s responsibility to fill the void of meaning through their sacred awareness, philosophy, and artful approach to put it into practice. And it is critical that we help others to do so too. The meaning of work should be considered simultaneously from an individual, organizational, and societal perspective, considering its psychological function for everyone. Meaning is the basis on which intentions ensue and according actions follow [2]. Consequently, claiming peaceful fulfillment in one’s work is an essential part of and prerequisite for moral and ethical behavior towards oneself and others alike.

 

References

[1] Leontiev, D. A. (2013). Personal meaning: A challenge for psychology. Journal Of Positive Psychology, 8(6), 459-470. doi:10.1080/17439760.2013.830767

[2] Liberman, S., & López Olmedo, R. (2017). Psychological Meaning of ‘Coauthorship’ among Scientists Using the Natural Semantic Networks Technique. Social Epistemology: A Journal Of Knowledge, Culture, And Policy, 31(2), 152-164.

[3] THE MEANING OF WORKING: JAPAN VS USA. (2011). Allied Academies International Conference: Proceedings of the Academy for Studies in International Business (ASIB), 11(1), 7-11.

[4] Cassar, L., & Meier, S. (2018). Nonmonetary Incentives and the Implications of Work as a Source of Meaning. Journal Of Economic Perspectives, 32(3), 215-238. doi:http://dx.doi.org.liverpool.idm.oclc.org/10.1257/jep.32.3.215

[5] Lapping, C., & Glynos, J. (2018). Psychical Contexts of Subjectivity and Performative Practices of Remuneration: Teaching Assistants’ Narratives of Work. Journal Of Education Policy, 33(1), 23-42.

[6] Gill, F. (2000). The meaning of work: Lessons from sociology, psychology, and political theory. JOURNAL OF SOCIOECONOMICS, (6). 725.

[7] Francis, V. F. (2018). Infusing Dispute Resolution Teaching and Training with Culture and Diversity. Ohio State Journal On Dispute Resolution, (Issue 2), 171.

[8] Bendassolli, P. F. (2016). Work and culture: Approaching cultural and work psychology. Culture & Psychology, 23(3), 372-390.

[9] Cook, H. M., & Shibamoto-Smith, J. S. (n.d). Japanese at work : politeness, power, and personae in Japanese workplace discourse. Cham : Palgrave Macmillan, [2018].

[10] Cook, E. E. (2016). Adulthood as Action Changing Meanings of Adulthood for Male Part-Time Workers in Contemporary Japan. Asian Journal Of Social Science, 44(3), 317-337.

[11] Morioka, R. (2014). Gender difference in the health risk perception of radiation from Fukushima in Japan: The role of hegemonic masculinity. Social Science & Medicine, 107105-112. doi:10.1016/j.socscimed.2014.02.014

[12] Hamada, l. (2017). Men’s unpaid domestic work: A critique of (re)doing gender in contemporary Japan. In M. Tsai, W. Chen, M. Tsai, W. Chen (Eds.) , Family, work and wellbeing in Asia (pp. 177-191). New York, NY, US: Springer Science + Business Media. doi:10.1007/978-981-10-4313-0_9

[13] Piotrowski, M., Wolford, R., Kalleberg, A., & Bond, E. (2018). Non-standard work and fertility: a comparison of the US and Japan. Asian Population Studies, 14(2), 116-136.

[14] Suzuki, Y., Tamesue, D., Asahi, K., & Ishikawa, Y. (2015). Grit and Work Engagement: A Cross-Sectional Study. Plos ONE, 10(9), 1-11. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0137501

[15] Karyn A., L., & Arne L., K. (1988). Age and the Meaning of Work in the United States and Japan. Social Forces, (2), 337. doi:10.2307/2579185

[16] Duffy, R. D., Autin, K. L., & Bott, E. M. (2015). Work Volition and Job Satisfaction: Examining the Role of Work Meaning and Person-Environment Fit. Career Development Quarterly, 63(2), 126-140.

[17] Pugh, A. J. (2012). The Social Meanings of Dignity at Work. Hedgehog Review, 14(3), 30-38.

[18] Muto, S. (2016). [The hierarchical semantic structure of respect-related emotions in modern Japanese people]. Shinrigaku Kenkyu: The Japanese Journal Of Psychology, 87(1), 95-101.

[19] Leunissen, J. M., Sedikides, C., Wildschut, T., & Cohen, T. R. (2018). Organizational Nostalgia Lowers Turnover Intentions by Increasing Work Meaning: The Moderating Role of Burnout. Journal of occupational health psychology, (1). 44.

[20] Fourie, M., & Deacon, E. (2015). Meaning in work of secondary school teachers: A qualitative study. South African Journal Of Education, 35(3), 1-8.

[21] Clausen, T., Burr, H., & Borg, V. (2014). Does Affective Organizational Commitment and Experience of Meaning at Work Predict Long-Term Sickness Absence?. Journal Of Occupational & Environmental Medicine, 56(2), 129-135. doi:10.1097/JOM.0000000000000078

[22] Tei, S., Becker, C., Sugihara, G., Kawada, R., Fujino, J., Sozu, T., & … Takahashi, H. (2015). Sense of meaning in work and risk of burnout among medical professionals. Psychiatry And Clinical Neurosciences, 69(2), 123-124. doi:10.1111/pcn.12217

[23] Cake, M. A., Bell, M. A., & Bickley, N. (2015). The Life of Meaning: A Model of the Positive Contributions to Well-Being from Veterinary Work. Journal Of Veterinary Medical Education, 42(3), 184-193.

[24] Kinjerski, V., & Skrypnek, B. J. (2008). Four Paths to Spirit at Work: Journeys of Personal Meaning, Fulfillment, Well-Being, and Transcendence through Work. Career Development Quarterly, 56(4), 319-329.

[25] THE PATTERNING OF WORK MEANINGS WHICH ARE COTERMINOUS WITH WORK OUTCOME LEVELS FOR INDIVIDUALS IN JAPAN, GERMANY AND THE USA. (n.d). APPLIED PSYCHOLOGY-AN INTERNATIONAL REVIEW-PSYCHOLOGIE APPLIQUEE-REVUE INTERNATIONALE, 39(1), 29-45.

[26] Rothausen, T. J., & Henderson, K. E. (2018). Meaning-based job-related well-being: Exploring a meaningful work conceptualization of job satisfaction. Journal Of Business And Psychology, doi:10.1007/s10869-018-9545-x

[27] Kitayama, S., Akutsu, S., Uchida, Y., & Cole, S. W. (2016). Work, meaning, and gene regulation: Findings from a Japanese information technology firm. Psychoneuroendocrinology, 72175-181. doi:10.1016/j.psyneuen.2016.07.004

[28] Walter, T. (1993). Karoushi: Stress-Death and the Meaning of Work. Journal Of Business Ethics, (11), 869.

[29] Kucinskas, J., Wright, B. E., & Riepl, S. (2018). The Interplay Between Meaning and Sacred Awareness in Everyday Life: Evidence From a Daily Smartphone Study. International Journal For The Psychology Of Religion, 28(2), 71-88.

[30] Reed, K., Goolsby, J. R., & Johnston, M. K. (2016). Extracting Meaning and Relevance from Work: The Potential Connection Between the Listening Environment and Employee’s Organizational Identification and Commitment. International Journal Of Business Communication, 53(3), 326-342. doi:10.1177/2329488414525465

[31] Kennett, P., & Lomas, T. (2015). Making meaning through mentoring: Mentors finding fulfilment at work through self-determination and self-reflection. International Journal Of Evidence Based Coaching And Mentoring, (2), 29.

[32] Malloy, D. C., Fahey-McCarthy, E., Murakami, M., Lee, Y., Choi, E., Hirose, E., & Hadjistavropoulos, T. (2015). Finding Meaning in the Work of Nursing: An International Study. Online Journal Of Issues In Nursing, 20(3), 7.

[33] Gagne, N. O. (2018). “Correcting Capitalism”: Changing Metrics and Meanings of Work among Japanese Employees. Journal Of Contemporary Asia, 48(1), 67-87. doi:10.1080/00472336.2017.1381984

Global Talent Gender Gap

mathias-sasger-gender-talent-gap

Content

  • The case for gender egalitarianism
  • Prestige economies and cultural tightness
  • Functional literacy and inclusiveness
  • Strength-based approaches to fostering “female” leadership styles
  • Humanitarian principles and global egalitarian mindset

 


The case for gender equality

Although women represent half of the population in education and global workforce at career start and mid-level management, men outnumber women in all sectors’ leadership positions. The role of female talents in future leadership is a critical challenge [1] for the growth of economies [2]. A study among a big sample across 26 countries found that work-life balance, commitment, and turnover thoughts are related to perceived job autonomy that is, for women, mediated by present gender egalitarianism [3].

Prestige economies and cultural tightness

Prestige governs economies, causing countries with high expenditure in research and development to have comparatively fewer female members (e.g., Japan with 11.6% female researchers, and only 9.7% professors), while low-expenditure nations (e.g., the Philippines and Thailand employ female researchers beyond 45%) [4]. To stay with the example of Japan, nations with similar challenges related to vocational stereotypes, job availability constraints, traditional bias and a collective mindset, even when not having as much government promotion of female employment as Japan, tend to have fewer women in corporate executive positions. Roibu and Roibu (2017) ascribe this to the strictness of how social and work rules are enforced [2]. Indeed, cultural tightness, i.e., the fierceness of norms, contributes to explaining why some organizations in some countries are less successful in advocating women leadership than others [5]. However, the finding of male domination in higher leadership positions seems to be more generally a phenomenon somewhat independent of nationality, culture, and even legislation for gender equality [4].

Functional literacy and inclusiveness

Fast technological change can negatively pronounce skill deterioration during work interruption, such as caused by maternity leave [6]. Also, education needs to be carefully analyzed regarding whether it is suited to improve social inclusion or whether, in contrast, aggravates competitive exclusivity [7]. For example, functional literacy programs shouldn’t be designed as a reading and writing capability only, but as emancipatory enablers that integrate reading, writing, and socio-economic and political understanding for democratic participation and the self-efficient creation of social networks and wealth [8].

Strength-based approaches to fostering “female” leadership styles

Some woman may be more sold on power-promising, rewarding, and recognizing careers [4] and learn how to play the neo-liberal corporate game. Many, on the other hand, do also keep a philanthropic attitude that might not be come to success in an economy that rewards competition [9]. Leadership styles are evolving though, and the value of emotional intelligence is bringing female leaders, albeit slowly, into pole positions [10]. Strength-based approaches to talent development can help also preserving gender-specific genuineness throughout personal careers [11].

Humanitarian principles and global “female” mindset

The human species can change its mindset, and a female leadership style based on humanitarian principles might be precisely the fit for an increasingly globalized and cooperating world [12]. Millennial women are expected to have a high interest to play a global role [13]. Already existing transnational women’s movements [10] may additionally help to boost self-esteem to create more egalitarian local and global environments.

 

References

[1] Andrews, S. (2017). Leadership, EQ, and Gender: Global Strategies for Talent Development. TD: Talent Development, 71(2), 7.

[2] Roibu, I., & Roibu, P. A. (. (2017). The Differences between Women Executives in Japan and Romania. Oradea Journal Of Business And Economics, Vol 2, Iss 1, Pp 81-90 (2017), (1), 81.

[3] Halliday, C. S., Paustian-Underdahl, S. C., Ordonez, Z., Rogelberg, S. G., & Zhang, H. (2017). Autonomy as a key resource for women in low gender egalitarian countries: A cross-cultural examination. Human Resource Management, 57(2), 601-615.

[4] Morley, L. (2014). Lost Leaders: Women in the Global Academy. Higher Education Research And Development, 33(1), 114-128.

[5] Toh, S. M., & Leonardelli, G. J. (2013). Cultural constraints on the emergence of women leaders: How global leaders can promote women in different cultures. Organizational Dynamics, 42(3), 191-197. doi:10.1016/j.orgdyn.2013.06.004

[6] Jung, J. H., & Choi, K. (2009). Technological Change and Returns to Education: The Implications for the S&E Labor Market. Global Economic Review, 38(2), 161-184. doi:10.1080/12265080902891461

[7] Appleby, Y., & Bathmaker, A. M. (2006). The new skills agenda: increased lifelong learning or new sites of inequality?. British Educational Research Journal, 32(5), 703-717.

[8] Kagitcibasi, C., Goksen, F., & Gulgoz, S. (2005). Functional adult literacy and empowerment of women: Impact of a functional literacy program in Turkey. Journal Of Adolescent & Adult Literacy, 48(6), 472-489.

[9] Morley, L. (2016). Troubling intra-actions: gender, neo-liberalism and research in the global academy. Journal Of Education Policy, 31(1), 28-45.

[10] David, E. (2010). Aspiring to leadership …… a woman’s world? An example of developments in France. Cross Cultural Management: An International Journal, (4), 347. doi:10.1108/13527601011086577

[11] Garcea, N., Linley, A., Mazurkiewicz, K., & Bailey, T. (2012). Future female talent development. Strategic HR Review, (4), 199. doi:10.1108/14754391211234913

[12] Werhane, P. H. (2007). Women Leaders in a Globalized World. Journal Of Business Ethics, (4), 425. doi:10.1007/s10551-007-9516-z

[13] Stefanco, C. J. (2017). Beyond Boundaries: Millennial Women and the Opportunities for Global Leadership. Journal Of Leadership Studies, 10(4), 57-62. doi:10.1002/jls.21505

Compassionate leadership: If we all ‘lead,’ we don’t need ‘managers’ anymore

There are significant differences between leadership and management

In our contemporary world both leadership and management may be required and co-exist in different situations, but the identification and understanding of their distinguishing features is important if we want to use both of them effectively and eventually think about shifting the emphasis towards managers who are real leaders too.

Having been in diverse leadership and/or management positions in educational institutions and schools, business and consulting firms, military/public service organizations, media and communication practices, as well as leisure/sports clubs and civic movements over the last 20 years, I’ve reflected on the difference between leadership and management from many different angles. I’m always coming back to the conclusion that the concepts of leadership and management are not as related as the popular interchangeable use of the terms might suggest.

The ultimate market-participating organizational SMART goals versus dreams and visions

Like a path is leading to a different place, or a sheep can be led into a stable, human leadership can be defined as leading something or somebody towards a certain direction. It is said that leadership requires meaning; meaning that is represented and communicated through goals. Although managerial and leadership goals should always be believed to be achievable, the type of goal formation process and quality of goals themselves involved in leadership and management differs significantly [1].

A leader typically is self-guided by intuition and his intimate moral understanding, while a manager is hired by the board of directors pursuing shareholders interest for securing maximized return on their investments. In case of doubt or conflict, the financial interests always have to succeed over other values in a for-profit organization. Manager’s success is measured by how accurately they achieve the business goals. The more long-term, the less predictable the attainment of goals becomes. Leadership tolerates not directly measurable long-term results [1]. Managers, in contrast, for above reasons preferably are to set short-term goals. To ensure that goals are as clear and realistic as possible, so-called SMART goals are commonly used in the corporate world, which ought to be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. Leaders may not only not have SMART goals, but even allow more vague dreams and visions that are often requiring significant imagination.

There is a difference between the concept of power based on formal authority and influence through inspiration

One broad approach is to define leadership as the interpersonal dimension of management that comprises the “ability to inspire confidence and support among the people who are needed to achieve organizational goals” ([2], p. 5). Frequently leadership gets confused with authority, seeing power as being based on formal roles. The formal assignments of a manager or officer let people notice legitimacy and comply with instructions because of fear of negative consequences in case of non-compliance [3]. When saying that leadership requires power, it is, however, not this authoritarian capability of incurring costs (for example in the form of punishment) for the people who refuse to obey [1]. Authoritarian regimes as examples of tight leadership in the form of control and prescription are generating poor results for the people. Instead, it is the ability to inspire for a voluntary fellowship by unforceful means that is resulting in individual prosperity, well-being, and peace through personal self-determination and fulfillment. Real leadership allows people self-leadership.

Leadership goes beyond the leadership aspects practiced in business administration

When the sum of the leadership structures followed by society is called culture [1], then the sum of management structures of market-participating organizations can be seen as the economy. Leaders create culture through the leadership structures they leave behind ([1], p. 11), while managers build administrations through the organizational patterns they establish. This thinking is in line with the terminology used in managerial education, where the top courses for aspiring or acting executive officers award for the title of the Master of Business Administration. Increasing parts of businesses consist of technology and digital resources, whereas human aspects tend to be further pushed into the background. Emotional and organic elements are taken out from the management of resources in favor of optimal planning accuracy. Again, although there may (but doesn’t have to) be some deal of leadership involved as well in steering a business, a real leader would never be reduced to be an administrator in that sense.

The irrelevance of leadership in the management of expectations

As Rudy Giuliani once put it, leaders first figure out what’s right, and then explain it to people, as opposed to first having people explain it and then just saying what they want to hear ([2], p.3). Indeed, managers tend to behave in a manner more or less in line with the management style endorsed within their country, industry or organization [4]. Firms choose new executives whose values are consistent with their own. If an executive is not filling the role as expected, he will be replaced with somebody who adheres more closely to expectations. From that perspective it is essential to have a rider, to use this metaphor, who holds the reins of a horse put before a cart, but any other rider who follows the relatively simple rules how to guide a horse and carriage can carry them as well. You can even let a child play the carter. It can be observed that the horse’s, respectively the organization’s personality, to come back to the organizational context, is actually more important than the “leader” himself [2].

Leaders emerge when there is an urge for change or the need to resolve a crisis or conflict

Leadership creates change, often of dramatic dimensions, such as when completely new market dynamics are developed, societal perceptions are shifted, or more diverse cultures emerge. Management on the other hand often is concerned about maintaining predictability and order [2]. Let’s think about why and how changes are managed in organizations. A big part of organizational administration deals with tracking changes to protect the status quo of power balances and interests of stakeholders and resources that contribute most to the profitable business. Such times of contentedness and stability are not calling for leaders whose strength is to move towards widening the range of beneficiaries. It is the time of crisis, in which leaders emerge. Managers monitor operational excellence of their subordinates typically in periods of economic strain. Charisma arises when there are heightened levels of distress among an increasing number of people that can be of not only financial but also psychological nature, constituting an individual and collective crisis of meaning that demands answers. If the problem is sought to be solved by somebody else, the ground is fertile for people to follow a leader who convincingly directs toward a comforting solution [3]. It has to be carefully evaluated whether these promises are meaningful and serving the common good, or whether there is an overemphasis on leader-reliance for whatever reason. Leaders are also required in situations of conflict. Conflict as the opposite of leadership is characterized by the absence of a functioning leader-follower relationship, typically because of disagreements related to a common course of action [1].

There is little leadership required and even possible in corporations

Following the argumentation so far, it is conceivable to suggest, assuming a bit a black and white perspective, that in organizations, at ordinary times there is little leadership required and even possible. Instead, what is required is a disciplined management that administers an organization to stay on track without visioning any significant change that would require leadership. Abraham Maslow regarded leaders as self-actualizing individuals who are self-determined, independent of culture, and following their inner guidance to help their fellow humans. For a leader of such qualities a narrow corporate environment likely would be unsatisfying at least and possibly over longer or sooner and would also be ethically conflicting. Executives of big corporations have contributed to the mistrust in corporate ethics due to their perceived focus on self-promotion and excessive greed. What seems to be required is more compassionate leadership in the service of others respectively in the view of the broader society and humanity beyond an institutional context [5].

The difference between moral, ethics, and professionalism

Ninety-nine percent of the global wealth is controlled by the top one percent of richest people. The issue is that this causes, for example, the daily death of tens of thousands of innocent children who are left without the necessary means to survive, such as food or health care. Unfortunately, as long as it is a tolerated practice that the already highly concentrated wealth is invested almost exclusively in opportunities that further accentuate this income and wealth inequality, there is little hope that compassionate (moral) and ethical leadership will prevail. Corporate social responsibility struggles to demonstrate a positive impact on the single measure bottom-line of financial profit generation, why it remains not much more than an afterthought. On the one hand, public relations and marketing communications of organizations increasingly use language that includes terms like ‘sharing,’ ‘love,’ ‘community,’ and ‘better world for all,’ to brand themselves socially towards consumers who are willing to pay a premium for such labels. This is true even for industries such as tobacco and arms. On the other hand, corporate ethics training is poised to be mere professional instruction on how to operate within legal constraints without jeopardizing business performance. This may be diligent management to serve capital, but not leadership to improve the human condition.

Shaping the role of genuinely great managerial leadership

Again, in all kinds of organizational settings, there may be a necessary mix of administrative and leadership qualities at work, suggesting a combined role of a ‘managerial leader’ [2].

Maybe the understanding of managerial leadership as based on self-actualization could further evolve to increasingly focus the help of other people in the organizational context while also not losing sight of the fairness towards and the well-being of people in the broader national societal and even global humanitarian context. Importantly, we should not forget that such a broadening of the benefits of leadership requires courageous first-/early-moving followers, who lead others not to remain passive bystanders but to support change towards growth and development of all actively. Asking managerial questions for organizational survival is foundational, but without further questioning on what basis, to what extent, and at whose cost, it is difficult to see real leadership added to management. The more inclusive and compassionate questions get expanded to the scope of all humanity, the greater the leadership involved.

In the current economic and competitive context, cooperation may indeed risk losing some battles in the field of short-term inter-organizational rivalry. However, already today more than ever, genuinely great managerial leadership also can become a competitive advantage and an opportunity for priceless emotional rewards for our all well-being. I think we are on the way to return to a more overall life-relevant philosophical understanding of leadership in which everyone’s full human potential is embraced. In that sense, leadership beyond management is relevant and possible for all of us. If we all assume a managerial leadership role, we don’t need managers anymore. Let’s take the chance.

References

[1] Paschen, M., & Dihsmaier, E. (2013). The psychology of human leadership: How to develop charisma and authority. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.

[2] DuBrin, A. J. (2015). Leadership: Research Findings, Practice, and Skills (8th ed.). Cengage Learning.

[3] Doyle, M. E., & Smith, M. K. (2001). Classical models of managerial leadership: Trait, behavioural, contingency and transformational theory. Retrieved from http://www.infed.org/leadership/traditional_leadership.htm

[4] Dorfman, P., Javidan, M., Hanges, P., Dastmalchian, A., & House, R. (2012). GLOBE: A twenty year journey into the intriguing world of culture and leadership. Journal of World Business, 47(4), 504–518.

[5] Soni, B., & Soni, R. (2016). Enhancing Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs for Effective Leadership. Competition Forum, 14(2), 259-263.

Leadership Philosophy Illustrated by the Example of Robert Owen, Pioneer of the Cooperative Movement

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What are your beliefs and perspectives regarding leadership? What do you think makes an effective leader? Illustrated by the example of Robert Owen, the acknowledged pioneer of the cooperative movement, a leader’s goal, effectiveness, and fellowship is assessed. The brief analysis bases on evidence from research in relevant leadership theories.

General Definition of Leadership

Many of the greatest villains in history were, in some way, successful leaders when the definition of leadership is considered independent of good or evil intentions [1]. In that sense, leadership is generally defined as the “ability to inspire confidence and support among the people who are needed to achieve organizational goals” ([2], p.2). In a capitalist economy, the most basic organizational goal is to compete for profits. Socially responsible and socially irresponsible behavior both are equally present in corporate environments as either of them is exerted only as long as they are underrepresented and therefore providing for a competitive advantage [3].

Robert Owen: Father of the Cooperative Movement & Transformational Leadership

I have chosen British man Robert Owen, who acknowledgedly spurred the cooperative movement as a visionary of cooperative values to address societal issues [4], such as improving labor conditions, reforming education, and banning child labor in factories [5]. Rather than relying on authoritarian power to keep people complying with leadership [1], Owen emphasized benevolence and the desire to promote the welfare of others [5]. Owen’s leadership style was, rather than transactional, much more transformational, i.e., visionary and appealing to people’s good nature [6]. Owen may be even an example of an authentic leader. Authentic leadership is one of the latest theories in the field and focuses leaders authenticity of values, trustfulness, and open communication [7].

Leadership as a Context-sensitive Process

While earlier leadership theories studied individual traits and behavior of leaders without appropriate attention to context [6], modern leadership research integrates bidirectional processes between leaders and followers that are context and time sensitive. [8]. As a reformer and pioneer of socialism in Britain, Robert Owen non-violently led change [9] that may have informed later human resource development (HRD) approaches towards fair and nurturing workplaces [10].  Owen’s communitarian society experiments like ‘New Harmony’ in the US became, albeit not directly achieving its aspirations, valuable for progress in scientific research and the co-operative movement. Owens inconsistency between his optimism to radically change society on the one hand, and his sense for the need of gradual change on the other hand, helped him to inspire a broad variety of different people over time [11]. Because of his persisting beliefs despite failure [11], his courage to lead, his rhetorical skills, and his progressive view on the determining impact of the environment on character contributed positively to Owen’s persuasiveness [12].

Leadership Grandiosity and Followers’ Motives

Some researchers put leadership facets like grandiosity into the context of a narcissistic personality type that is characterized by the belief of superiority in achieving social needs through the self-motive of helping others [13]. The propagation of the advent of a new moral world by the second coming of Christ as a common transatlantic aspect of Owenism [5] may have resonated with followers desire for psychological safety [14]. Other motives to follow the Owenite movement were community creation, self-employment, and exclusive and profitable business opportunities [15]. Figures like Ernestine Rose, an American representative of the women’s rights movement of the 19th century, became followers of Robert Owen because he helped them to reinforce their belief in the possible change towards a more just society [16].

Photo credit: Eliens (pixabay.com)

References

[1] Paschen, M., & Dihsmaier, E. (2013). The psychology of human leadership: How to develop charisma and authority. Berlin: Springer-Verlag.

[2] DuBrin, A. J. (2015). Leadership: Research Findings, Practice, and Skills (8th ed.). Cengage Learning.

[3] DeMaCarty, P. (2009). Financial Returns of Corporate Social Responsibility, and the Moral Freedom and Responsibility of Business Leaders. Business And Society Review: Journal Of The Center For Business Ethics At Bentley College, 114(3), 393-433.

[4] María Fernanda, L. G. (2013). La teoría sobre la naturaleza del hombre y la sociedad en el pensamiento de Robert Owen como base del socialismo británico (1813-1816) / Robert Owen’s Theory on the Nature of Man and Society as a Base for British Socialism (1813-1816) / A teoria sobre a natureza do homem e da sociedade no pensamento de Robert Owen como base do socialismo britânico (1813-1816). Historia Crítica, (50), 213.

[5] Harrison, J. C. (1968). THE OWENITE SOCIALIST MOVEMENT IN BRITAIN AND THE UNITED STATES. Labor History, 9(3), 323.

[6] Doyle, M. E., & Smith, M. K. (2001). Classical models of managerial leadership: Trait, behavioural, contingency and transformational theory. Retrieved from http://www.infed.org/leadership/traditional_leadership.htm

[7] Billsberry, J., & North-Samardzic, A. (2016). Surfacing Authentic Leadership: Inspiration from “After Life”. Journal Of Leadership Education, 15(2), 1-13.

[8] Dinh, J. E., Lord, R. G., Gardner, W. L., Meuser, J. D., Liden, R. C., & Hu, J. (2014). Leadership theory and research in the new millennium: Current theoretical trends and changing perspectives. Leadership Quarterly, 25(1), 36-62.

[9] Sirucek, P. (2015). Polozapomenute postavy ekonomickeho mysleni–Robert Owen. (Half-Forgotten Personalities of Economic Thought–Robert Owen. With English summary.). Acta Oeconomica Pragensia, 23(4), 78-85.

[10] Hatcher, T. (2013). Robert Owen: A historiographic study of a pioneer of human resource development. European Journal Of Training And Development, 37(4), 414-431. doi:10.1108/03090591311319799

[11] Mclaren, D. J. (1996). Robert Owen, William Maclure and New Harmony. History Of Education, 25(3), 223-33.

[12] Lambert, P. (1966). A New Light on Owen and Co-operatives of the Pre-Rochdale Type. Annals Of Public & Co-Operative Economy, 37(3), 305.

[13] Humphreys, J. )., Hayek, M. )., Pane Haden, S. )., Williams, J. )., Novicevic, M. )., & Gibson, J. ). (2016). Disharmony in New Harmony: insights from the narcissistic leadership of Robert Owen. Journal Of Management History, 22(2), 146-170. doi:10.1108/JMH-05-2015-0167

[14] Raes, E., Decuyper, S., Lismont, B., Van den Bossche, P., Kyndt, E., Demeyere, S., & Dochy, F. (2013). Facilitating Team Learning through Transformational Leadership. Instructional Science: An International Journal Of The Learning Sciences, 41(2), 287-305.

[15] Thornes, R. (1981). Co-operation and the English Working-class movement 1816-44. Bulletin — Society For The Study Of Labour History, (43), 4-5.

[16] Anderson, B. S. (2017). The New Moral World. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199756247.003.0003

Save Net Neutrality

Your internet connection might slow down after December 14th.

On that day, the FCC will vote on Ajit Pai’s proposal to reverse Title II in the Communication Act.  Title II ensures that the government monitors all ISPs, so they cannot throttle your connection or charge you more money. If Ajit Pai’s plan passes, then internet providers will be able to block or slow down whatever websites they choose.

This could potentially cause a lot of websites to lose traffic and revenue, and it changes the freedom of the internet.

Since only five people on the FCC can vote (and there’s a good chance that the three Republicans will vote for Pai’s plan), it’s up to the public to stop it.

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Platform Cooperativism: Democratically Run Digital Organizations

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Cooperatives in Japan (Article Series): Part 4/4 – Overview of the Japanese Cooperative sector

Overview and Conclusion article for Part 1 – Part 4, please see here.

In this article, several Japanese co-operatives of different types and from various sectors are briefly introduced. The goal is not to create a directory in the sense of a comprehensive list, but rather to distill essential characteristics of the co-operative sector and the solidarity economy in Japan. The facts presented in this article need to be understood in the context of the specific Japanese conditions and challenges as documented in Part 1, cooperative advantages as shown in Part 2, and the laws and customs applicable to the social economy in Japan as depicted in Part 3 of this article series.

Overview of Cooperatives in Japan 

japan coops infograph 1.pngInfographic 1. Overview of Cooperatives in Japan (1/2) [1]

japan coops infograph 2.pngInfographic 1. Overview of Cooperatives in Japan (2/2) [1]

Examples of Japanese Cooperatives

The examples chosen for the second part of this article do not represent a complete picture of the cooperatives in Japan. The selection, however, provides the opportunity to illustrate important characteristics of the cooperative economy in Japan across different types and various industry sectors in which co-operatives are operating. A focus is put on worker cooperatives as particularly relevant for digital businesses in the sharing economy (for further details, please see LINK Platform Cooperativism)

Table 1. Co-op examples by type

GeneralJapan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)
ConsumerJapan Consumer’s Cooperatives Union (Nisseikyo)
Seikatsu Club Consumers’ Co-operative Union
WorkerWomen’s Worker Cooperative (WWC)
Japan Worker’s Cooperative Union (JWCU)
Japanese Institute of Co-operative Research (JICR)
Seikatsu Club Consumers’ Co-operative Union’s Depot’s run by workers’ collective
Fukushi Club
Independent worker cooperatives
NPOs managed by workers’ collectivesAtsugi Human Support Network

Table 2. Co-op examples by industry sector

AgricultureNational Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations (ZEN-NOH)
Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives (Nokyo)
Japan Agricultural Cooperatives (JAC, JAs)
FinanceAgricultural Cooperatives Credit Division (incl. the Central Agriculture Bank)
Mutual aid co-ops
The women and citizens’ community bank
Eitai Credit Union
Green Coop Fukuoka
Health, CareJWCU Home Helper Training Centers
Cooperative hospitals
Senior Co-operative (Koreikyo)
Ayumi Care Service
Fukuoka Elderly Person’s Co-op (EPC)
Enjoy Sports Club Uonuma
FoodChisan-Shisho movement
EcologyEcoTech
TransportWorkers cooperative taxi cab business in Fukuoka
Electronics R&DAssociation of Super-advanced Electronic Technology (ASET)
HousingCondominiums

In general, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) is an overarching organization that is collaborating with the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in Japan, for example for research related to cooperation and co-operatives [2].

Co-op Examples by Type

Consumer Co-operatives

Japan Consumer’s Cooperatives Union (Nisseikyo)

The figures of the largest consumer cooperative in Japan are impressive with its 60 million members (of which the majority are women), it’s JPY 1 trillion (USD 10 billion) capital and annual sales of JPY 3 trillion (USD 30 billion) in 2,668 shops across all prefectures in the country. Because of lower prices, the organization is even importing vegetables and processed food. Because Nisseikyo’s members do not have a voice in the leadership of the company, it can’t be counted as being part of the real solidarity economy organization [3]. One of the exceptions among Japanese co-ops that can be seen to genuinely belonging to the solidarity economy is the Seikatsu Club Consumer’s Co-operative Union as presented next [3].

Seikatsu Club Consumers’ Co-operative Union 

The Seikatsu Club Consumers’ Co-operative Union is only a small part of Nisseikyo but has still 310,000 members in 29 co-ops across 19 prefectures. The Seikatsu Co-op won the Right Livelihood Award in 1989 [3].

Worker Co-operatives

Although worker-owned businesses have increased in number and size, only 30,000 workers are working cooperatively in whole Japan, with a concentration in the urban centers Kanto and Kansai. The growth since the 1970s is prolonged and small, compared to the overall working population [4] that is today around 76 million people. One problem that needs to be addressed is that there is no proper legislation for worker co-operatives in Japan [5] as detailed in Part 3 of this article series. Furthermore, the social movement may be not very well unified and orchestrated as some worker-owned organizations prefer the term ‘collective’ over ‘cooperative’ to emphasize the sovereignty of the individual [5]. It is though not only Japan struggling to grow the worker co-op movement. It is estimated that in the US around 350 worker cooperatives employ just 5,000 people [6].

If the cooperative worker movement doesn’t gain traction soon, it will, despite its proven potential, always stay marginal and irrelevant. Respectively it will be too late to solve the economic, social, and environmental issues resulting from cheap labor, inequality, and undemocratic practices by shareholder profit maximization that are aggravating from a global perspective.

Women’s Worker Cooperative (WWC)

The Women’s Worker Cooperatives with its 12,000 worker members accounts for the largest single group of organizations in the Japanese worker cooperative landscape. These WWC cooperatives allow the housewives to work part-time and therefore solve existing labor market constraints, tax issues, and equal employment opportunities, although they mostly don’t need the additional salary for a sufficient overall household income, albeit they are contributing significantly to the new middle-class lifestyle. The success of the WWC and the target women it helps to find suitable work indicates a huge potential of hundreds of thousands of Japanese women who might welcome such opportunities as well [4].

Japan Worker’s Cooperative Union (JWCU) 

After the WWC, the Japan Worker’s Cooperative Union (JWCU) represents with 9,000 members in 2005 the second largest account of worker cooperatives. The union innovatively remodeled itself into a business owned and democratically run by its workers who are provided with work contracts with an array of other organizations. “What had once been a labor union of the unemployed had been gradually transformed into a business owned and managed by its members as a worker’s cooperative [4, p. 7]”. The JWCU provides work crews into consumer co-op distribution centers, hospitals, and park cleaning and maintenance businesses. It has also expanded into more capital and knowledge-intensive industries such as home helper training centers and construction cooperatives [4]. Further examples are a high-school cooperative, a shoemaking collective, a bakery, and a theatrical company, etc. [5].

The JWCU publishes a newspaper ‘Rokyo Shimbun’ (Workers’ Co-op Newspaper) that is issued three times a month, and a bi-monthly magazine ‘Shigoto no Hakken’ (Discovery of Work), both of wich are promoting the worker co-ops activities in Japan and abroad [4]. The JWCU is pushing since years the agenda for adding a distinct worker-owned legal form to the currently available forms of personal ownership, partnership, and limited liability joint stock corporation. Hopefully, joint effort together with the WWC will make a new law possible. What would still be missing then is the mobilization of the young people who are currently underrepresented in the JWCU’s membership [4].

Japanese Institute of Co-operative Research (JICR) 

The Japanese Institute of Co-operative Research (JICR) was founded in 1991 by the JWCU. It serves as the central national and international research organization for its member activists and worker cooperatives. The Institute’s monthly journal ‘Kyodo no Hakken’ (The Discovery of Cooperation’ promotes worker cooperatives and their benefits for workers’ rights and communities’ thriving, including news from around the globe, with a traditional focus also on the European worker cooperative movement [4].

Seikatsu Club Consumers’ Co-operative Union’s Depot’s run by workers’ collective

The Seikatsu Club Consumers’ Cooperative contains various smaller groups like the ‘depots,’ which are run by members who organize as workers’ collectives built on democratic decision-making processes. The depots, therefore, constitute worker cooperatives within the broader Seikatsu consumer co-op. Such workers’ collectives’ membership basis is increasing fast [3].

Fukushi Club

The Fukushi Club is another group of workers under the umbrella of the Seikatsu Club Consumers’ Cooperative. In the Fukushi Club’s case, women who provide care organize as cooperative organizations to institutionalize the ‘shadow work’ and empower both the care receivers and providers [7].

Independent worker cooperatives

There are also some independently established Japanese worker cooperatives, such as the Paramount Shoe Company that was rebuilt through its union after a business failure. EcoTech that span off from the Toshiba conglomerate is another example of employee union initiated democratic worker cooperative [4].

NPOs managed by workers’ collectives

Atsugi Human Support Network

Only after 1998 citizens’ organizations could become legal entities through the NPO Promotion Law that started to encourage volunteering work for vulnerable people without tangible support though. Member housewives of the Seikatsu Club Consumer’s Cooperative in Atsugi city (Kanagawa prefecture) wanted to initiate a ‘local party’ to organize for local elections. The Atsugi Human Support Network became an alliance of 22 NPOs that are managed by workers’ collectives [3].

Co-op Examples by Industry Sector

Agricultural Co-operatives

National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations (JAC Zennoh) 

The National Federation of Agricultural Cooperative Associations (JAC ZEN-NOH) with its 3 million national farm household members and the 12,500 employees is the world’s largest co-op organization [8]. It represents the top of the pyramid of the agricultural cooperatives organized on local, prefectural, and national level [9]. The JAC Zennoh is in charge of sales activities on the national level for its farmer’s co-operatives (JAC) members [10].

Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives (JAC Zenchu, Nokyo) 

The farmer’s co-operatives (JAC) are organized under the Central Union of Agricultural Cooperatives (JAC Zenchu, Nokyo). The central union, as well as the farming co-operatives, don’t give voting rights to their individual members to participate in the leadership of the organization, which is organized like a corporation [3]. The JAC Zenchu is in charge of planning on national level for its JAC members [10].

Japan Agricultural Cooperatives (JAC, in short, the JAs)

It has to be differentiated between traditional village farming cooperatives, farmers’ groups organized as “cooperative farming groups,” and the members of the national entities JAC Zennoh and JAC Zenchu, which are the Japan Agricultural Cooperatives (JAs).

Financial Co-operatives

Agricultural Cooperatives Credit Division (incl. the Central Agriculture Bank)

The Agricultural Cooperatives Credit Division including the Central Agriculture Bank with the related prefectural credit unions providing mutual credit and insurance services are one of the most profitable operations of the Japanese agricultural cooperatives. Their members are farming-related organizations and non-farming individuals residing in cooperative communities [11].

Mutual aid cooperatives

The mutual aid cooperatives are organized into the national ‘Zenrosai’ federation and count 46,340 units. Although they use the terms mutual aid and cooperatives, they are not adhering to member voting rights and therefore instead have to be affiliated with commercial banks than with the solidarity economy [3].

The women and citizens’ community bank

These organizations are operated by women providing services exclusively for women, i.e., providing loans to according NPOs. In Japan, there is no legal status for non-profit citizen banks as this was so far not supported by governments, why the women and citizens’ community bank operates under a normal moneylender license [3]. However, problems in the commercial banking sector have increased the interest in the possibility to establish non-profit banks. There are now Shinkin (small and big loans) and Shinkumi (small loans) banks who provide services to citizens and SMEs [12], able to revitalize deprived communities [14], and which are of considerable importance in the Japanese financial market [13].

Eitai Credit Union

It is necessary to facilitate inter-cooperative mutual financial aid for developing the social economy. The Etai Credit Union in Tokyo is such an institution providing loans to cooperatives and collectives in consultation with NPOs [5].

Green Coop Fukuoka

Green Coop Fukuoka lends money to both member and non-member indigent people by using assets from members. The government of the prefecture Fukuoka is considering the initiative as crucial to develop financing of an inclusive society [15].

Health, Care

The government has encouraged co-operatives to provide welfare services as a business because they saw the rural and urban potential that could be unlocked from female care workers in the co-op memberships. Today, co-operatives make for about 1% of elderly care services provided under the Act for Long-term Care Insurance LTCI [16].

JWCU Home Helper Training Centers

Care for the elderly involves help at home. For the training of home helpers, the JWCU offers licensing programs that allow the certified home helpers afterward to reimburse their services through the national homecare insurance program [4].

Co-operative hospitals

In association with the Japan Communist Party, there exist member physician-run hospitals. These are the hospitals that were mentioned before as where JWCU worker co-operatives provide their hospital services such as cleaning, shop management, and office staffing [4].

Senior Co-operative (Koreikyo)

As of 2006 each of the Japanese prefectures had opened a Senior Co-operative (Koreikyo) chapter totaling in over 100,000 members nationwide with high growth expectations. The co-operative is, as the name is telling, by and for the elderly, supporting them to stay at home as long as possible and wished through education and home care [4].

Ayumi Care Service

In response to a shrinking and aging population, a 40-year-old woman set up a care business in her town in 2000. Ayumi Care Service today has 35 full-time workers, most of them member-owners who invested the equivalent of USD 500 as share capital and earn a monthly salary of around USD 1,700. Ayumi Care Services accepts any service requests, therefore being often caring about lonely elderly with no relatives and even taking care of difficult death situations [16].

Fukuoka Elderly Person’s Co-op (EPC)

Grown out of the JWCU workers’ co-operative movement, the Elderly Person’s Co-op (EPC), today there is a national federation of 22 EPCs with 45,000 members, of which 32,000 are workers. All the care workers are members, albeit the legal status of the co-op is a consumer cooperative. The services rendered include in-home and community-based care and vocational education for elderly and handicapped. The EPCs entered the LTCI scheme in 2000, and its members are rapidly increasing. Also, as many members did not have co-operative experience, the organization is investing a lot in cooperative education.

Enjoy Sports Club Uonuma

Although the Enjoy Sports Club Uonuma is instead a loosely defined interest group than a real co-operative, it is an excellent example of how citizens can organize to address social issues. In this case, the club achieved significant health prevention effects such as reduction of depression with children and elderly, addressing inactivity (especially in winter) with sports programs [17].

BioBank Japan (BBJ) Project

The BioBank Japan (BBJ) Project represents a cooperative research project implementing a patient-based biobank, having collected the medical data over a 5-year period from over 200,000 patients. The registry allowed the analysis of diseases for improved personalized medicine [18]. Although not a co-operative owned by the patients, it shows the potential of user cross-institutional collaboration and user registration for sharing health data for research purposes, as Midata.ch in Switzerland is a parade example of letting the data providers own and decide on the use of their data as co-op members.

Food

Chisan-Shisho movement

The chisan-chisho movement promotes local food consumption since the 1990s as a response to the concern of disappearing local farms and scandals in the food sector. The initial grass-roots movement is today organized by government and farmers’ cooperatives. Despite its success, the chisan-chisho still needs to find additional ways on how to better capitalize on the local appeal of agrifood to become a more powerful political force [10].

Ecology

EcoTech 

EcoTech is an interdisciplinary co-operative that unites scientists, engineers, technicians, business people, and advocates for co-operatives and community activists. They create energy-efficient products that help clean the environment. An example of EcoTech’s international products is the bio-active home composter that decomposes organic waste into water and CO2. EcoTech has the aspiration to become the center of a social business movement including all industry sectors and types of players, including worker, consumer, and producer cooperatives [4].

Transport

Workers cooperative taxi cab business in Fukuoka

Similar to counterparts in different cities around the world, a taxi cab business emerged as a worker cooperative in Fukuoka, as also the Research Institute’s journal was reporting already in 2005 [4].

Electronics R&D

Association of Super-advanced Electronic Technology (ASET)

The Association of Super-advanced Electronic Technology (ASET), a Japanese electronics R&D co-op headquartered in Tokyo, got USD 300 million in Japanese government funding for research on semiconductors, magnetic storage, and display devices.

Housing

After the economy bubble from the late 1980s when it became difficult to purchase land, housing “rental-type” co-operatives in the form of condominiums became popular. The system is favorable for letting elderly living in their apartments although they do not own it [19].

Conclusion

After the study of cooperative examples in Japan in the context of identifying success factors for promoting the co-operative organizational form for a fairer future of work, the following points seem important to keep in mind for future efforts to advance the cooperative and social economy overall:

  • Worker co-operatives need to get a clear and supportive legal basis in Japan, and themselves need to develop strategies to gain influence on the social agenda [5].
  • I think it should be more clearly distinguished when using the term co-operative, as in cases of so-called big Japanese co-ops that do not grant member’s a voice in the leadership of the organization. One member one vote is, however, the most vital element of cooperative governance as only ownership and decision rights are effectively empowering the contributing citizen members.
  • Although the young people are primarily affected by the challenging labor market, they don’t seem to be connected to the worker cooperative movement. Some few examples constitute JWCU worker groups consisting of primarily young people [4]. For co-operatives to be successful, they need to be able to speak to the youth not only as volunteering organization but as a competitive better alternative to the neo-liberal capitalist economy.
  • Increasing the awareness about co-operatives should be a priority as often the young people just don’t know about its possibilities [4].
  • Millennials may appreciate opportunities for work-life balance. Co-operatives might be able to provide such a balance in addition to purpose and identification. Furthermore, co-operative governance can be designed to reward performance, therefore supporting personal growth in any ways.
  • Solidarity between older and younger generation should also enable financing of co-operative start-ups of young people by the member funding of older more affluent people. Social impact investment should account for such opportunities.
  • While grass-roots efforts are essential, the co-operative way should also be supported top-down as a political priority. A co-operative economy can not only be profitable but by not passing excess profits to just a few it is also able to provide for welfare benefits and community development where often tax paid government efforts failed in demonstrating sufficiently sustainable effects.
  • All the co-operative seeds should be honored, but it has to be stated that the co-operative economy is negligible and toothless compared to the overall economy. There is no reason for the co-operative movement to rest on its laurels.
  • Implementing democracy in organizations by giving the member-owners (and employees) a voice and a share are just natural. Therefore, the co-operative way, rather than being an extreme alternative movement, has the potential to be common sense across many political directions.
  • Inter-cooperative cooperation is crucial to bundle the efforts for maximum effect on the growth of the movement. While modest scale for NPOs in welfare services and the solidarity economy is a positive feature, big-scale commercial markets have to be given back from shareholder exploitation to the citizens. Any business can be organized co-operatively.

 

References

[1] International Cooperative Year Commemorative Cooperative National Council (n.d.). Welcome to the Cooperatives Japan Website. Retrieved from http://www.iyc2012japan.coop/whatsnew/101217_01.html

[2] Mizuta, D. D., & Vlachopoulou, E. I. (2017). Satoumi concept illustrated by sustainable bottom-up initiatives of Japanese Fisheries Cooperative Associations. Marine Policy, 78143-149. doi:10.1016/j.marpol.2017.01.020

[3] Kitazawa, Y. (2010). Japan’s lost decades and a women-led socio-solidarity economy. Development, 53(3), 416-420. doi:10.1057/dev.2010.46

[4] Marshall, B. (2006). Japan’s worker co-operative movement into the 21st century. Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, (23),

[5] Ishizuka, H. (2002). The Social Economy Sector in Japan. Annals Of Public & Cooperative Economics, 73(2), 241.

[6] Abello, O.P. (2016, January). NYC Set to Triple Number of Worker Cooperatives. Retrieved from https://nextcity.org/daily/entry/nyc-worker-cooperatives-jobs-increase

[7] Lord, A., & Mellor, M. (1996). Women and the cooperative provision of care: the example of the ‘Fukushi Club’ in Japan. Economic And Industrial Democracy, 17(2), 199-220.

[8] Chesnick, D. S., & Liebrand, C. B. (2007). Global 300 list reveals world’s largest cooperatives. Rural Cooperatives, 74(1), 28-31.

[9] Gherman, R., Dincu, A., Milin, A., & Brad, I. (2016). Agriculture and Agricultural Cooperatives in Japan – A Model for Cooperativization of Agriculture from Romania. Scientific Papers: Animal Science & Biotechnologies / Lucrari Stiintifice: Zootehnie Si Biotehnologii, 49(2), 212-216.

[10] Kimura, A. H., & Nishiyama, M. (2008). The Chisan-Chisho Movement: Japanese Local Food Movement and Its Challenges. Agriculture And Human Values, 25(1), 49-64. doi:http://dx.doi.org.liverpool.idm.oclc.org/10.1007/s10460-007-9077-x

[11] Klinedinst, M., & Sato, H. (1994). The Japanese Cooperative Sector. Journal Of Economic Issues (Association For Evolutionary Economics), 28(2), 509.

[12] Glass, J. C., McKillop, D. G., Quinn, B., & Wilson, J. S. (2014). Cooperative Bank Efficiency in Japan: A Parametric Distance Function Analysis. European Journal Of Finance, 20(1-3), 291-317.

[13] Yamori, N., Harimaya, K., & Tomimura, K. (2011). The Roles of Outside Directors in Cooperative Financial Institutions: The Case of Japan. Banks And Bank Systems, 6(4), 11-14.

[14] Chris, M., & Sachiko, N. (2010). How can co-operative banks spread the spirit of co-operation in deprived communities?. Social Enterprise Journal, (2), 162. doi:10.1108/17508611011069284

[15] Sachiko, N. (2015). A ROLE OF SOCIAL FINANCE BY A COOPERATIVE: A CASE STUDY OF GREEN COOP FUKUOKA, JAPAN. ACRN Oxford Journal Of Finance & Risk Perspectives, 4(3), 1-18.

[16] Kurimoto, A. )., & Kumakura, Y. ). (2016). Emergence and evolution of co-operatives for elderly care in Japan. International Review Of Sociology, 26(1), 48-68. doi:10.1080/03906701.2016.1148341

[17] Iguchi, S., Niwayama, M., & Takahashi, H. E. (2015). A conference report of the interprofessional satellite symposium in Uonuma, Japan: an international exchange on the future of community care. Journal Of Interprofessional Care, 29(3), 284-287. doi:10.3109/13561820.2014.966541

[18] Nagai, A., Hirata, M., Kamatani, Y., Muto, K., Matsuda, K., Kiyohara, Y., & … Kubo, M. (2017). Overview of the BioBank Japan Project: Study design and profile. Journal Of Epidemiology, 27(3S), S2-S8. doi:10.1016/j.je.2016.12.005

[19] Ekuni, T., & Jung, J. (2015). 日本初の賃貸型コーポラティブハウスの居住者主体による賃貸システム 改変の変遷に関する研究. 都市住宅学, 2015(91), 124-129. doi:10.11531/uhs.2015.91_124

Cooperatives in Japan (Article Series): Part 3/4 – The Japanese Social Economy, Policymaking, and Co-operative Governance

The “Third Sector” (Social Economy)

Overview and Conclusion article for Part 1 – Part 4, please see here.

The “third sector,” or social economy, is the space of social issues that are left by government and private sector (corporate) failures. It is the arena in which the two actors after-negotiate how to share the burden to resolve the problems they feel could fire back if not addressed.

 mathias-sager-social-economu.jpg

Japanese governmental statistics (SNA, System of National Account) defined ‘industry’ as for-profit businesses only until 1998, why there was no clear concept for a non-profit organization (NPO) [1]. Since then the NPO Law allows civil society organizations to easily acquire nonprofit corporation status [10]. The social sector represented by non-governmental organizations (NGOs), NPOs, and cooperatives is thought to cover social problems like community development, environmental protection, and social movements. Unlike informal associations, NGOs, and NPOs, cooperatives are the only organizational form that represents the ‘Institutionalized’ Social Economy. Therefore, the cooperatives should be assigned a leadership role in the social economy sector. In Japan, the caption NPO is more prominent than social economy [1].

Cooperatives are by definition only a resource for their members; they cannot take the place of the state as a universal provider, without having the responsibilities and resources of the state [14].

In East Asian countries state influence on social enterprises including cooperatives has been stronger than in other regions. This bears the risk for social organizations to lose independence from public agencies. Another threat is that businesses focusing on financial independence and market performance can lose sight of their social responsibility [2]. This might be less the case for cooperatives that are consequently governed of, by, and for their active members.

Positioning of social enterprise for three regions

Figure 1: Positioning of social enterprise for three regions [2]

The “ideal-type” social enterprise underlines a participatory dynamic in the governance structure [2].

As the social enterprise concept is starting to further develop in Eastern Asia, it is essential to answer the question about the most suitable governance model. It was found that in Eastern Asia, even more than in the US, a participatory governance model, and cooperative principles inspired organizational forms could represent the ideal-type of autonomous social organizations. More innovative and flexible types such as, for example, multi-stakeholder cooperative models require more research and experience [2].

Cooperatives are always “collectives” as they involve member participation in the governance structure. But “collectives” don’t necessarily provide for member ownership structures as inherent in the co-operative. The same is true for so-called buying (or other) clubs whose members carry out an activity together, whether organized as an NPO social club or as a cooperative.

There is simply no easy, legal way to organize worker co-operation in Japan yet, and this must surely be a barrier to their spread [3, p. 16].

Co-ops in Japan are traditionally regulated by sectors, e.g., the Consumer Co-operative Act (1948), The Agricultural Co-operative Act (1947), and the Fishery Co-operative Act (1948). Worker cooperatives are particularly promising to address inequality of income and opportunity, as well as for employee motivation, performance, and in-house innovation. However, in Japan, they lack legal recognition, why worker members often organize in organizations incorporated under the Small and Medium-sized Enterprise (SME) Co-operative Act (1949) or the NPO Act [4]. In other words, it is not forbidden anymore for workers to cooperate for consumption, credit and marketing purposes, but there is also no law positively supporting such aspirations. That’s the reason why the Japan Institute for Cooperative Research (JICR) does promote a new worker law [3].

As discussed in the article “Japanese Cooperatives: Part 1 – Challenges” too, Stock Ownership Plans are not available in Japan to restructure ownership, and the requirements for establishing a joint stock corporation are difficult in Japan as elsewhere. An unusual but clever way went the Senior Cooperative “Koreikyo” that is a consumer co-operative assuming features of a worker co-operative. A currency-like ticketing system achieves the hybrid type of cooperative operation. Members buy books of tickets and use the tickets for paying for co-op services. The services providers redeem later the collected tickets to cover their compensation [3].

Policy Making in Japan

The labor market in Japan has become more challenging. Besides vocational education, career coaching, and traditional start-ups, a new system to incorporate NPOs and worker cooperatives should be prioritized by policy makers [5]. Other countries are also starting to invest more than ever into the development of worker cooperatives that foster dignity and wealth for all as the example of New York initiative for tripling the number of worker cooperatives shows [6]. Also, the conflict between fiscal policy constraints and social policy development can be best resolved by developing the social economy sector and mobilizing its resources and communities [1].

Contracted employees today in Japan don’t enjoy a legal basis that is protecting them as employees; the Civic Code needs still to be adjusted for protective provisions going beyond a service contract and including social welfare for contractors who in fact are engaged in work as employees [5].

The “iron triangle” of Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) politicians, bureaucratic ministries, and vested interest groups—still represents a formidable and functioning element of Japan’s central governing process [7].

Regarding policy making it was found to be challenging to get access to locked circles of party-bureaucracy-interest-group policymaking in economic and social sectors. This situation stemmed mainly from the example of closed-door decision making in the agricultural policy triangle. The Japan Agricultural Cooperatives (JA) reform intended to no longer view the JA as the sole voice of the farming sector and to reduce JA’s most dominant position as a pressure group. The reform is considered to be radical, but ultimately also quite limited in its effect [8]. The differing interests of large international corporations and the local small-scale businesses (farmers) have slowed down (agricultural) policy reforms. Therefore, the JA-Zenchu will likely remain the most powerful and influential interest group in Japanese politics [9]. However, the autonomy of JA is limited too because of its traditional receipt of state donations [1].

Co-operative Governance

Cooperatives are guided by their identity, values, and principles.

Co-operative Identity: A co-operative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically-controlled enterprise [10].

Co-operative Values: Co-operatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.

Co-operative principles: 1. Voluntary and Open Membership, 2. Democratic Member Control, 3. Member Economic Participation, 4. Autonomy and Independence, 5. Education, Training and Information, 6. Co-operation among Co-operatives, 7. Concern for Community

In general, cooperative governance can be clarified with a model of four pillars.

TeamingSuccessfully working together to achieve common purpose
Accountable EmpowermentSuccessfully empowering people while at the same time holding them accountable for the power granted.
Strategic LeadershipSuccessfully articulating the cooperative’s direction/purpose and setting the organization up for movement in this direction.
DemocracySuccessfully sustaining a culture in which people choose meaningful ways to participate for both individual and common good.

Table 1. The four pillars of cooperative governance [11]

When a co-operative bank acts as “community organizer”, undertaking tasks which are outside its usual sphere of activities as financier, and its board includes members of the social enterprise sector, its positive impact on community development is more effective [13, p. 162].

Capable management is important. Some literature from Japan reports on the need in different sectors for cooperatives to upgrade their management methods [1]. According to research in 2006, 63% of past co-operative bankruptcies were due to management problems. It was also found that the presence of outside director on the board of directors had a positive influence on management performance. However, there is usually no pressure from the membership to require outside directors. Therefore, some suggest that authorities such as the Financial Services Agency (FSA) shall stress this need [12].

To make raising equity for cooperatives easier, it appears to be important to understand the nature of the transferable membership capital method [15].

In general, it is known that cooperatives have it harder to get funding as compared to traditional capitalist businesses [15], although there are signs that social impact capital, or purpose capital, is on the rise. Indeed, co-op member’s favorite survey response to work at a co-operative was the one of seeking “ikigai”, i.e., “a purpose in life” [3]. It might be, as a general pattern, that where the money can come from, capitalist monetary values predominate social considerations. Therefore, due to limited profit maximization for single individuals, limited financing is a significant growth limitation for the cooperative economy, although a membership market could provide for the same economic potential. To solve this problem, some cooperatives have resorted to the method of issuing transferable membership capital, e.g., a housing cooperative raising equity capital by issuing shares and investing it in the construction projects, and after that trading the shares on the open market [15]. It is also necessary to create financial mutual aid systems in the social economy such as initiatives started by the Eitai Credit Union in Tokio [1].

How independent are SME’s in Japan?

Japanese SME’s for their survival need to form alliances with major firms that are dominating the markets. Subcontracting is so extensive in Japan that SME’s independence needs to be questioned. Such domestic loyalty networks often served as de facto trade barriers [16] and also need to be taken into account by any new co-operative businesses.

What is needed for the solidarity economy in Japan is to form loose networks, like the Atsugi Human Support Network, at the regional, national and global levels, and to engage in political action to fight against neo-liberalism [17].

Often genuinely collaborative loose networks do, tragically, not evolve without exceptional circumstances. For example, The Emergency Job Creation (EJC) program as a response to the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake disaster achieved the collaboration among stakeholders as diverse as NPOs, NGOs, social welfare corporations, and other companies [18]. It is to hope that the solidarity economy can be more successfully promoted in the future on local, regional, and global level [17]. Ways must be found how to convince also private corporations who currently value monetary profit instead of social orientation to contribute to solidarity more consequently [1].

As per the co-operative governance principle of cooperation among cooperatives, it is critical to act on this aspect more intensively. Shared interests and synergies can be used better to intensify inter-cooperative cooperation. For example, all forestry, agriculture, consumer, and fisheries have been concerned about improved water environments. Similarly, any cooperative as connected to the member-community can facilitate access to and provision of in-home services such as healthcare together with other cooperatives [1].

the extension of the coop movement.png

The Japanese Cooperative Council (JCC) links to the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA), a similar systematic national connector is missing [1]. For the cooperatives and related organizations in the broader digital economy, the Platform Cooperativism Japan (PCJ) Consortium has started to assume such a role. There is the risk that cooperatives appear old-fashioned in the eyes of the younger generations. Increased openness, exciting and influential networks of co-operatives might be a means to rejuvenate and strengthen the movement. Academia and national innovation networks that dare to learn from and promote to an also international dimension [19] may play a vital role in that journey too.

 

References

[1] Ishizuka, H. (2002). The Social Economy Sector in Japan. Annals Of Public & Cooperative Economics, 73(2), 241.

[2] Defourny, J., & Kim, S. (2011). Emerging models of social enterprise in Eastern Asia: a cross-country analysis. Social Enterprise Journal, 7(1), 86. doi:10.1108/17508611111130176

[3] Marshall, B. (2006). Japan’s worker co-operative movement into the 21st century. Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, (23),

[4] Kurimoto, A. )., & Kumakura, Y. ). (2016). Emergence and evolution of co-operatives for elderly care in Japan. International Review Of Sociology, 26(1), 48-68. doi:10.1080/03906701.2016.1148341

[5] Nogawa, S. (2012). The Great East Japan Earthquake and a Future Vision for Labor Law in Japan. Japan Labor Review, 9(4), 105-123.

[6] Abello, O.P. (2016, January). NYC Set to Triple Number of Worker Cooperatives. Retrieved from https://nextcity.org/daily/entry/nyc-worker-cooperatives-jobs-increase

[7] Mulgan, A. G. (2016). Loosening the ties that bind: Japan’s agricultural policy triangle and reform of cooperatives (JA). Journal Of Japanese Studies, 42(2), 221-246.

[8] Mulgan, A. G. (2016). Much ado about something? The Abe government’s reform of Japan’s agricultural cooperatives (JA). Japanese Studies, 36(1), 83-103.

[9] Jamitzky, U. (2015). The TPP Debate in Japan: Reasons for a Failed Protest Campaign. Asia Pacific Perspectives, 13(1), 79.

[10] International Co-operative Alliance (n.d.). Co-operative identity, values & principles. Retrieved from https://ica.coop/en/whats-co-op/co-operative-identity-values-principles

[11] CDS Consulting Co-op (n.d.). Four Pillars of Cooperative Governance. Retrieved from http://www.cdsconsulting.coop/cooperative_governance/4pcg/

[12] Yamori, N., Harimaya, K., & Tomimura, K. (2011). The Roles of Outside Directors in Cooperative Financial Institutions: The Case of Japan. Banks And Bank Systems, 6(4), 11-14.

[13] Chris, M., & Sachiko, N. (2010). How can co-operative banks spread the spirit of co-operation in deprived communities?. Social Enterprise Journal, (2), 162. doi:10.1108/17508611011069284

[14] Lord, A., & Mellor, M. (1996). Women and the cooperative provision of care: the example of the ‘Fukushi Club’ in Japan. Economic And Industrial Democracy, 17(2), 199-220.

[15] Mikami, K. (2015). Raising Capital by Issuing Transferable Membership in a Consumer Cooperative. International Journal Of Social Economics, 42(2), 132-142.

[16] Dana, L. P. (1998). Small but Not Independent: SMEs in Japan. Journal Of Small Business Management, 36(4), 73-76.

[17] Kitazawa, Y. (2010). Japan’s lost decades and a women-led socio-solidarity economy. Development, 53(3), 416-420. doi:10.1057/dev.2010.46

[18] Nagamatsu, S., & Ono, A. (2017). Job Creation after Catastrophic Events: Lessons from the Emergency Job Creation Program after the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. Japan Labor Review, 14(1), 112-131.

[19] Miotti, L., & Sachwald, F. (2003). Co-operative R&D: Why and with Whom? An Integrated Framework of Analysis. Research Policy, 32(8), 1481-1499. doi:http://dx.doi.org.liverpool.idm.oclc.org/10.1016/S0048-7333(02)00159-2

[20] About NPO Law (n.d.). How the NPO Law came about and why it is important. Retrieved from http://www.jnpoc.ne.jp/en/nonprofits-in-japan/about-npo-law/

Cooperatives in Japan (Article Series): Part 2/4 – Cooperative Advantages

Overview and Conclusion article for Part 1 – Part 4, please see here.

To make it clear right up front: cooperation isn’t just an idea; it is instead a universal need and natural law for human thriving, be it in one’s spiritual connections, interpersonal relations, or business matters. Member-owned cooperative organizations as they are institutionalized are not only an alternative to shareholder directed corporations; they are necessary for a fairer working world. The cooperative values and principles have the potential to let the pendulum switch from the pure capitalist to the cooperative inclusive side. Just, the few powerful and wealthy who are profiting so immensely from the current system won’t give up their privileges for the benefit of more people. However, there are so many reasons why co-operatives are the better way for all to organize any endeavor and business. Once the movement gained traction, people will wonder how it was at all possible to accept undemocratic, inequitable and unsustainable practices around the world that caused so much injustice and destruction for such a long time. Therefore, the shift will mark a real evolutionary step. Now that the digital age is at a cross-road how to be organized in the future (see Platform Cooperativism), we have an opportunity to decide on the overall direction of society, not only in the virtual world. The following article outlines some main points that make the fairer co-operative way preferable to the extractive capitalist system from both economic, social, and environmental perspectives.

Socio-ecological integration enhances not only the long-term sustainability of businesses but also supports environmentally conscious consumption. [1]

“Sato” in Japanese means the area where people live, and “umi” means the sea. ‘Sato-umi’ describes a holistic approach that fosters sustainable and competitive human-ecosystem interaction with the result, as demonstrated by the Fisheries Cooperative Associations (FCAs), of increased biodiversity and productivity and consequently a healthier environment and economic ecosystem. Sato-umi may be unique in how established the practices are: therefore, ready to be further spread in Japan and promoted globally [1]. Many of the advantages of the cooperative way presented in this article may be linked or linkable to Sato-umi. It seems most important to further seek a best of all approach by building on existing (Japan specific) strengths and mitigating weaknesses to elevate the cooperative movement to the next level.

sato-umi.jpg

Source: satoumi.net

Satoumi-related activities promote lifelong learning opportunities, social and economic inclusion, and equality within communities and countries. Long-term involvement nourishes the desire to protect and promote through innovation, and harmony between human and ecosystem factors foster collaboration [1].

Acting as a rural development agency, the government makes loans to the farmers at a low interest rate through the cooperatives, which is called a ‘system loan’ [2, p. 512].

One of the primary services of agricultural co-ops in Japan is mutual credit and insurance that helps develop agrarian projects and the industry overall. Cooperatives can stimulate the cooperative sector by providing low-interest rate system loans [2]. Such investments may bear lower profits in the short term, but cooperatives have proven that, by benefitting their members instead of their investors, they are fitter for the long-term survival of the business [3].

Cooperatives continued to extend their successful operations even 30 years in business in highly competitive service industries through times of stagnation in Japan’s national economy [5].

Locally anchored participatory businesses demonstrate sustainable productivity through a combination of traditional knowledge and innovation [1]. The instability that is all too often a tendency of new and small businesses can be mitigated by a cooperative working style. For example, the Seikatsu Club Consumer Co-operative grew their services sustainably from the 1980s to over a quarter of a million members already in 2006. Among the members mostly women who otherwise have difficulties to find suitable work (see article “Japanese Cooperatives Part 1 – Challenges“), against all the adverse economic conditions that caused other businesses to stagnate or even collapse in the same competitive sectors [4]. Evidence shows that firms which combine employee ownership and participatory governance outperform other companies [5].

mathias-sager about seikatsu club japan.png

How to build the necessary new extensive welfare services while keeping corporations unaccountable and taxations low? 

Where the government nor the private sector want to compensate for welfare services, cooperatives (besides various private firms and NPOs) fill gaps by establishing flexible strategies such as ‘registered helpers’ who are rendering services as paid volunteers, ‘mutual assistance schemes,’ and ‘welfare clubs’ [6].

To stay competitive against increased globalization, e.g., cheap import of rice, policies to professionalize and scale agricultural businesses were implemented by the government through the promotion of cooperatives. While the co-ops fulfill the government’s New Institutional Economics requirements of relevance, appropriateness, durability, and fairness, cooperative farming did not meet the normed expectations of efficiency, profitability, and competitiveness, which led to some drawbacks in the plan [7].

Market power and asymmetric information appear less influential in the formation of food processing cooperatives [8].

It might be the right direction to start with fairness and then make the business a profitable one too. Agricultural cooperatives operate food processing businesses that are more transparent to the consumer, also regarding the use of chemical fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides. People have become more sensitive to food security and request symmetric information distribution between the farmers and the buyers. This is best possible if the food producer (farm) and the food processing businesses controlled by the same owners, respectively cooperatives [8]. Organic farming and food processing have become a business model allowing for attractive premiums. The 2011 Fukushima nuclear power plant disaster was very harmful to organic farmers in the region though. Teikei consumer groups (consumers buying directly from farmers) and small cooperatives practicing “teikei” found a way to inspect radiation contamination independently to restore trust in food security [9].

Finally, it is all about solidarity between the people, which is contrary to neo-liberalism as the most extreme form of capitalism that is seeking to maximize profits through large corporations and financial institutions instead of protecting also the environment, human rights, and discriminated workers [10] (see article “Japanese Cooperatives Part 1 – Challenges“).

 

References

[1] Mizuta, D. D., & Vlachopoulou, E. I. (2017). Satoumi concept illustrated by sustainable bottom-up initiatives of Japanese Fisheries Cooperative Associations. Marine Policy, 78143-149. doi:10.1016/j.marpol.2017.01.020

[2] Klinedinst, M., & Sato, H. (1994). The Japanese Cooperative Sector. Journal Of Economic Issues (Association For Evolutionary Economics), 28(2), 509.

[3] Chesnick, D. S., & Liebrand, C. B. (2007). Global 300 list reveals world’s largest cooperatives. Rural Cooperatives, 74(1), 28-31.

[4] Marshall, B. (2006). Japan’s worker co-operative movement into the 21st century. Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, (23),

[5] Marshall, R. C. (2003). The culture of cooperation in three Japanese worker cooperatives. Economic And Industrial Democracy, 24(4), 543-572.

[6] Lord, A., & Mellor, M. (1996). Women and the cooperative provision of care: the example of the ‘Fukushi Club’ in Japan. Economic And Industrial Democracy, 17(2), 199-220.

[7] Yoshitaka, M. (2016). The Failure of Cooperative Farming Development Policies in Tōhoku, Japan. Journal Of Resources & Ecology, 7(2), 137-143. doi:10.5814/j.issn.1674-764x.2016.02.009

[8] Mikami, K., & Tanaka, S. (2008). Food processing business and agriculture cooperatives in Japan: market power and asymmetric information. Asian Economic Journal, 22(1), 83-107.

[9] Kondoh, K. (2015). The Alternative Food Movement in Japan: Challenges, Limits, and Resilience of the Teikei System. c(1), 143-153.

[10] Kitazawa, Y. (2010). Japan’s lost decades and a women-led socio-solidarity economy. Development, 53(3), 416-420. doi:10.1057/dev.2010.46

Cooperatives in Japan (Article Series): Part 1/4 – Challenges and the Necessity for Cooperatives

Overview and Conclusion article for Part 1 – Part 4, please see here.

The article presents Japan-specific details related to economic, demographic, and cultural challenges that can potentially be addressed by a more cooperative economy. Despite national peculiarities and unique cultural phenomena, the background against which the issues have to be seen should not be forgotten. When analyzing why social and environmental problems cannot be improved, one will always be led back to the observation of excesses that are caused by the capitalist economy’s ultimate fight for maximum profits. Where is the limit between acting responsible and exploiting natural resources and workers? Unfortunately, the answer is that there will never be a healthy balance resulting from a system that seeks maximization of monetary profits for a small elite above anything else.

“Japan has experienced ‘two lost decades,’ with zero or minus growth (Gross Domestic Product (GDP)) and price deflation (Consumer Price Index (CPI)).” [1, p. 416] 

minus growth and price deflation.jpg

Figure 1. Minus growth and price deflation [10]

After the burst of the economic bubble in 1991, many of the small and medium-sized enterprises have gone bankrupt, and consumers’ buying power declined. The big corporations haven’t maintained the diverse vitality and innovation of the SME’s [1], despite the continuous pressure to innovate and create new markets in Japan, especially in information and communication technology sectors [2].

The real winner of the 2014 reform package (deregulation of farmland) could be land-hungry companies with little or no interest in the future of Japanese agriculture [5]. 

land-hungry companies Japan.jpg

The political system is considered to be in need of further procedural and methodological upgrades, especially on local levels [3]. For example, there exist unresolved conflicting goals related to the aspired consolidation of farmland (respectively enlargement of farms for increased productivity) by the local actors and regarding the deregulation of farmland, which makes it accessible to corporations [4]. The essential Japanese cooperative sector for agriculture is threatened by recession, deregulation, and ease of trade barriers [5].

Japan is one of the largest importers of farm products, and its record-low food self-sufficiency contradicts the many agricultural fields that lay idle [13]. More local sourcing through cooperatives would be beneficial.

“The most important and useful alternative to resolve a deadlock of fiscal policy and social policy by the governments is to develop the social economy sector” [3, p.263]

 social economy.jpeg

“The humanization of labor also is considered as the way toward the self-realization of individuals.” [3, p. 262]

Japanese culture includes a strong sense of mutual obligation and loyalty and a collectivist way of relating to others. Even for small and usually, in Westerner contexts, independent small businesses, there exist most often some business alliances (Dana, 1998). These cultural specifics may speak for a naturalness of cooperation to Japanese individuals and organizations. On the other side, also in Japan, there are tendencies towards more individual lifestyles and the desire for improved work-life balance (Ishizuka, 2002). The former possibly a negative aspect for community building, the latter speaking for more co-operatively organized work.

“It is ironic that the countries who have fared best in industrial and economic development are now facing a crisis in personal care, particularly for the elderly.” [7, p. 199]

 elderly care

Japan’s care situation is worse than in comparably wealthy nations, for example in Europe. Governments’ positions are still referring to welfare to be provided by the family, private employers, and today increasingly also by voluntary organizations. However, the daughters who used to care for their parents are entering the corporate workforce too, and only one-third of the corporate workforce is having access to the system. Japan faces the challenge of a high need for welfare services while keeping low taxation rates. The relegation of welfare services to non-profit organizations (NPO) and cooperatives is one strategy taken [7].

The capitalist economy is increasingly using women in its drive for profits but chooses to ignore the burden of reproductive work which they carry. [7] 

pregnant-woman-work.jpg

In fact, the super-aging Japanese society has an aging rate of more than 25% (i.e., every fourth person is 65 years or older, with most extreme situations in rural farming communities [13]). Japan lacks enough doctors [8] while the hidden asset of family welfare is not available anymore as women are absorbed by their work life and corporate careers [9].

“It is deeply worrying that youth are unable to find regular jobs for decades after graduating from school. They are called the lost generation, and many call themselves freeters (‘free part-timers’), as they look for miscellaneous part-time jobs.” [1]

youth unemployment

Although criticized by neo-liberal voices, the Japanese lifetime employment has led to comparatively low unemployment rates: while for heads of households it was 3%, for the rest of the family it was more than 8%, and unemployed people are increasingly becoming more extended term cases. Long-term employment offers are decreasing while non-standard jobs are on the rise [11]. More than half of all female workers of any age were already in 2009 non-regular workers, usually cheap part-timers, which is a peculiar characteristic of the Japanese labor market [1].

Women call for more “independence” and “self-reliance” and therefore decry the discriminating Million Yen Wall that is incentivizing women staying at home. [12]

Care cooperatives such as the Fukushi Club are often the only possibility for women with elderly parents to find some work [7]. Another reason for women being forced to work part-time is the fact that few jobs are paying more than $20,000 to woman over 35. And, a tax wall set at $10,000 means that it financially doesn’t pay off to earn $20,000 because all earnings above $10,000 are going to taxes of some form. There seems to be nothing on the Equal Employment Opportunity legal horizon that is likely to change the wide salary differentials between men and women of the same age and education level [12].

“Japanese company-ism has been destroying gradually the relations among persons in the family and the community by obliging adult males to spend most of their waking hours at work.” [3]

company-ism.jpg

Company-ism on the one hand side and contract work on the other have led to decreased job satisfaction [11]. Employee participation program intended to address that problem were far from enabling more democratic working environments and are already outdated again [3]. Worker cooperatives can be an excellent answer to the call for a system that makes it easier to establish businesses responsive to the needs of citizens.

Acting on symbols like ‘help’ without their being explicitly differentiated from the work itself is a condition of smooth cooperative operation. [14]

Leadership issues have harmed cooperatives and their reputation overall. For example, there were legitimate accusations of management incompetence [3]. It is vital to manage cooperatives well and to foster full democracy in the organization [5]. If the democratic decision and economic participation right is seen as a common good that cannot be taken away, for example, even not in case of fluctuating performance, there the behavioral problem of free-riding arises. Therefore, proper management of cooperatives includes leadership using symbols such as ‘help’ instead of monitoring methods that are often rejected by the employees, and which is building the moral community with perpetuating pro-social values enabling cooperation [14].

 

References

[1] Kitazawa, Y. (2010). Japan’s lost decades and a women-led socio-solidarity economy. Development, 53(3), 416-420. doi:10.1057/dev.2010.46

[2] Knowledge-based view of corporate strategy. (2007). Strategic Direction, (5), doi:10.1108/sd.2007.05623ead.003

[3] Ishizuka, H. (2002). The Social Economy Sector in Japan. Annals Of Public & Cooperative Economics, 73(2), 241.

[4] Jentzsch, H. (2017). Abandoned land, corporate farming, and farmland banks: a local perspective on the process of deregulating and redistributing farmland in Japan. Contemporary Japan – Journal Of The German Institute For Japanese Studies, Tokyo, 29(1), 31-46. doi:10.1080/18692729.2017.1256977

[5] Klinedinst, M., & Sato, H. (1994). The Japanese Cooperative Sector. Journal Of Economic Issues (Association For Evolutionary Economics), 28(2), 509.

[6] Dana, L. P. (1998). Small but Not Independent: SMEs in Japan. Journal Of Small Business Management, 36(4), 73-76.

[7] Lord, A., & Mellor, M. (1996). Women and the cooperative provision of care: the example of the ‘Fukushi Club’ in Japan. Economic And Industrial Democracy, 17(2), 199-220.

[8] Iguchi, S., Niwayama, M., & Takahashi, H. E. (2015). A conference report of the interprofessional satellite symposium in Uonuma, Japan: an international exchange on the future of community care. Journal Of Interprofessional Care, 29(3), 284-287. doi:10.3109/13561820.2014.966541

[9] Kurimoto, A. )., & Kumakura, Y. ). (2016). Emergence and evolution of co-operatives for elderly care in Japan. International Review Of Sociology, 26(1), 48-68. doi:10.1080/03906701.2016.1148341

[10] Market Monetarist. (2017). The scary difference between the GDP deflator and CPI – the case of Japan. Retrieved from https://marketmonetarist.com/2012/11/06/the-scary-difference-between-the-gdp-deflator-and-cpi-the-case-of-japan/

[11] Nogawa, S. (2012). The Great East Japan Earthquake and a Future Vision for Labor Law in Japan. Japan Labor Review, 9(4), 105-123.

[12] Marshall, B. (2006). Japan’s worker co-operative movement into the 21st century. Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, (23),

[13] Kimura, A. H., & Nishiyama, M. (2008). The Chisan-Chisho Movement: Japanese Local Food Movement and Its Challenges. Agriculture And Human Values, 25(1), 49-64. doi:http://dx.doi.org.liverpool.idm.oclc.org/10.1007/s10460-007-9077-x

[14] Marshall, R. C. (2003). The culture of cooperation in three Japanese worker cooperatives. Economic And Industrial Democracy, 24(4), 543-572.

Cooperatives in Japan (Article Series): Overview

coop.jpg

English articles about different types and industry sectors of cooperative organizations in Japan remain somewhat limited and represent scattered knowledge that would benefit from interlinkage. The series of articles in hand that I have published to the Platform Cooperativism Japan (PCJ) Consortium builds on a literature review that has proven useful in contributing to the creation of a holistic contemporary picture of the cooperative landscape in Japan.

Japan is known for its cooperative tradition. Indeed, roughly one-third of Japanese households belong to co-op’s [1]. The articles in this series aim to distill the lessons learned from this success, but also to identify further potential to grow the historically relatively very small market share of cooperative enterprises. The article series comprises of 4 parts that are logically sequenced, and each is covering one of the following topics:

The articles always put the situation of the Japanese co-ops back into the broader context. Cooperatives are part of the social economy (if that should be a meaningful definition at all) and overall market and society in large. Especially worker cooperatives provide for a fairer system through democratic values at the workplace, and it is essential to look for ways how to increase the influence on not only the social agenda but also on the progress of a State and economic future that cares for all [2].

Conclusions

After the study of cooperative examples in Japan in the context of identifying success factors for promoting the co-operative organizational form for a fairer future of work, the following points seem important to keep in mind for future efforts to advance the cooperative and social economy overall:

  • Worker co-operatives need to get a clear and supportive legal basis in Japan, and themselves need to develop strategies to gain influence on the social agenda [5].
  • I think it should be more clearly distinguished when using the term co-operative, as in cases of so-called big Japanese co-ops that do not grant member’s a voice in the leadership of the organization. One member one vote is, however, the most vital element of cooperative governance as only ownership and decision rights are effectively empowering the contributing citizen members.
  • Although the young people are primarily affected by the challenging labor market, they don’t seem to be connected to the worker cooperative movement. Some few examples constitute JWCU worker groups consisting of primarily young people [4]. For co-operatives to be successful, they need to be able to speak to the youth not only as volunteering organization but as a competitive better alternative to the neo-liberal capitalist economy.
  • Increasing the awareness about co-operatives should be a priority as often the young people just don’t know about its possibilities [4].
  • Millennials may appreciate opportunities for work-life balance. Co-operatives might be able to provide such a balance in addition to purpose and identification. Furthermore, co-operative governance can be designed to reward performance, therefore supporting personal growth in any ways.
  • Solidarity between older and younger generation should also enable financing of co-operative start-ups of young people by the member funding of older more affluent people. Social impact investment should account for such opportunities.
  • While grass-roots efforts are essential, the co-operative way should also be supported top-down as a political priority. A co-operative economy can not only be profitable but by not passing excess profits to just a few it is also able to provide for welfare benefits and community development where often tax paid government efforts failed in demonstrating sufficiently sustainable effects.
  • All the co-operative seeds should be honored, but it has to be stated that the co-operative economy is negligible and toothless compared to the overall economy. There is no reason for the co-operative movement to rest on its laurels.
  • Implementing democracy in organizations by giving the member-owners (and employees) a voice and a share are just natural. Therefore, the co-operative way, rather than being an extreme alternative movement, has the potential to be common sense across many political directions.
  • Inter-cooperative cooperation is crucial to bundle the efforts for maximum effect on the growth of the movement. While modest scale for NPOs in welfare services and the solidarity economy is a positive feature, big-scale commercial markets have to be given back from shareholder exploitation to the citizens. Any business can be organized co-operatively.

 

References

[1] David, D. (2012). Toward Contemporary Co-operative Studies: Perspectives from Japan’s Consumer Co-ops. Canadian Journal Of Nonprofit And Social Economy Research, Vol 3, Iss 2, Pp 104-105 (2012), (2), 104.

[2] Ishizuka, H. (2002). The Social Economy Sector in Japan. Annals Of Public & Cooperative Economics, 73(2), 241.

The People’s Disruption: Platform Co-ops for Global Challenges (November 10-11, 2017 / The New School, New York City)

 

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The People’s Disruption: Platform Co-ops for Global Challenges

November 10-11, 2017 / The New School, New York City

The first platform cooperativism event in 2015 popularized the #platformcoop concept, and the conference a year later brought together co-op and union leaders to push the model forward. This third event will zero in on ways that platform cooperatives can help to address some of the future’s most urgent challenges. The fairer digital economy we need is already emerging, but it won’t happen on its own. That’s where you come in.

  • Learn about new platform co-op projects that are shaping this emerging ecosystem, from blockchain-based financing to user-owned clouds
  • Reflect on research about platform co-op experiments in recent years
  • Confront growing challenges from artificial intelligence to global governance
  • Join leaders from co-ops, industry, labor, and social movements—from Associated Press to Black Lives Matter—to raise the scale of our ambition

Platform cooperatives are poised to be a dynamic, transformative force in building a more equitable economy for people across various income, race and class strata, starting with the most vulnerable populations. This is a political and economic movement that can disrupt Silicon Valley’s disruptors by shifting the focus toward fundamentally fairer forms of ownership and governance. Over the past few years, the burgeoning of platform co-ops, community currencies, worker’s tech, the solidarity economy, and B Corps have shown us that alternative economies are not only necessary but possible. Come help us make platform cooperativism part of the new normal.

Convened by

Trebor Scholz, Camille Kerr, Nathan Schneider, Palak Shah
Featuring

Alicia Garza / Felicia Wong / Brad Burnham / danah boyd / Joseph Blasi / Pia Mancini / Yochai Benkler / Juliet Schor

And many more: platform.coop/2017/participants

Sponsored by

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Also, don’t miss:
Platform Coop 2017: Technology Afterparty

(November 12, New York, NY)

An after-party for #platformcoop-obsessed tech developers and platform designers to come together and learn from one-another, connect, and co-create.
Register here —it’s free.
DazzleCon ’17

(November 15-17, Portland, OR)

Still accepting applications! If you’re a post-revenue founder interested in learning more about creating a more inclusive and ethical type of funding, be sure to visit www.zebrasunite.com.

More Information and Apply
Tenerife Colaborativa 2017

(November 23-27, Tenerife, Spain)

An opportunity to discover the keys that encourage economic paradigm shift and to explore initiatives that lead to practice.

More information and Registration

Culture Blindness and Academic Capitalism

mathias-sager-culture-blindness-academic-capitalism

Summary. The advancement of a genuinely global science beyond Euro-American mainstream, the reduction of international research inequalities, and the mitigation of adverse effects of academic capitalism are important to make progress in understanding and helping humanity worldwide. 

Continue reading Culture Blindness and Academic Capitalism

A Reply to the Article “Obedience” (ashiftinconsciousness.wordpress.com)

A Reply to the Article “Obedience” (ashiftinconsciousness.wordpress.com). PLEASE VISIT.

mathias-sager-billionaires-poor

Comment:

Impressive (depressing) figures. Thanks for sharing as this is of uttermost importance.

I’m practicing here for drafting letters to Gates and co.

Why do these rich/powerful not change the world for the better? Because they just habitually might not change their convictions that made them multi-billionaires? Because they don’t see the chain of causes leading to inequality?

Regarding Bill Gates, for example, of course, one can argue that the development of the Personal Computer did a lot of great things for some people (not the majority of the world population though). I believe, however, that likely somebody else in a similar environment would have come up with a similar advancement. We probably wouldn’t have missed out on computers without Bill Gates. And although Gates and Buffet are from an absolute number perspective praised to be the most generous donators to (their own) foundations, they obviously care before anything else to remain the richest people in the world. Is that really so adorable? They don’t change the game; they only fight some symptoms of the sick system they are profiting from. And maybe they fight also their guilty conscience and feel good about being applauded to be generous?

The rich and powerful who still could buy and influence everything with only a fraction of their current fortune could invest into social impact businesses, empower awareness and education, and enable cooperative governance models to foster democracy and equality to eradicate hunger. There are obvious (or not for them?) ways to let benefit more people from the earthly resources that are extracted primarily for the enrichment of very few. Even if the money is not inherited and if one justifies his/her wealth compared to others’ poverty with a superiority in smartness or industriousness, does that justify amassing, holding back money that could help children from dying of hunger? How hypocritical is it to revel in grief about natural disasters or accidents, while forgetting systematically human-made, constant, and long-term poverty that is the cause for more than 20,000 children dying every single day?!

Even when they have lived their life and could survive with a couple of billion dollars, why do they still not change for making an systematic positive impact? Whose slaves are they? Slaves of their fear? Fear of not being obedient to the capitalist system? They ARE the system of capital as they control a significant part of it. Fear of themselves? Fear of looking into the mirror?! I already hear the reasoning that I don’t have the right to speak that way as I also enjoy privileges. This is not entirely accurate, because when all the volunteering and level of modesty (avoidance of unnecessary luxury/waste) put into proportional perspective, it is definitively in better support of a sustainable world. And let’s not forget the impact of promoting systematic change for all (e.g., by fostering democratically, cooperatively (instead of capitalistically) owned companies), instead of one’s own elitist circles only.

These are the strikingly game-changing questions I’d like to ask them and other fearful obedient directly. Let’s help our children to become courageous and strong leaders, happy in modesty but ambitious in their positive social impact for all. 

7 WRONG Reasons/Excuses for Why We Cannot Change for a Better Cooperative Economic System

1 – We shouldn’t complain about capitalism, if we use it

I heard this mean argument recently. Did we choose to be born into that system? That’s like telling the unfortunate living in smog; they shouldn’t complain about the polluted air if they breathe it.

breathing capitalism

2 – Communism isn’t better than capitalism

Did I say anything about communism? I’m talking about Cooperativism. Co-ops can be for profit. The same business models as today can be run democratically. The only difference would be that profits are not exclusively going to a handful of investors valuing short term profits over long-term employment, but would be re-invested into the company and its people who create the value of the organizations with their daily work. Aren’t many of today’s corporations branding themselves as being cooperating, socially responsible, caring for the community? Why then don’t we get a share and vote then? Because that would be the true meaning of community.

cooperatiism as alternative

3 – We cannot treat people equal

Yes, and no. Again, I am not talking about a system without performance-based incentives. We all learn in sports how to be fair losers.

Value creation has to be re-defined. Today, helping rich people avoid taxes is rewarded generously while cleaning up a the dirty environment, caring about weak and sick people, and helping a hungry child has to be done largely as unpaid volunteering.

Humans are relatively equal; there is no reason to make racial differences. The differences that matter are made by external circumstances, such as education, support, and fair treatment. Different talents and ambitions are fine though. Co-op members can democratically determine what efforts are incentivized in what way.

similar and different

4 – Governance by the people ends in chaos

Like in a state democracy with millions of citizens too, a cooperative membership for efficiency reasons can vote for major decisions only, and elects a representation for managing the enterprise. The good thing is, the management would act on behalf of the members (workers, consumers, producers, etc. who are actively involved and interested in the organization in the long-term) rather than on behalf of profit-maximizing outside shareholders.

your vote is your voice

5 – Cooperative decisions are too slow

Of course, a dictatorship may provide for faster decisions. Have you already campaigned dictatorship? Who would you currently choose? Ah, sorry, we don’t have a saying in that.

Feasibly administering elections and voting is possible. As a Swiss, I know what I’m talking about.

democracy or dictatorship

6 – People don’t want to engage

With a balance between responsibilities, accountabilities, and competencies (!) people are willing to assume all of these. Also, a cooperative would educate for active citizenship rather than investing into advertising and luring people into passive consumerism. Cooperative values motivate to engage for individual and collective well-being.

consumerism

7 – We cannot change it

A couple of dozens of people own the wealth of half of the world population. 1% percent own the same wealth as the rest 99%. The net worth of the world’s billionaires increased from less than $1 trillion in 2000 to over $7 trillion in 2015, so the gap between rich and poor is growing up dramatically.

The rich are worried more and more as their oligarchic power increase becomes more obvious to more people. It looks like they think only a global war will hinder the awakening of the masses and defend their illegitimate privileges.

The current world order is keeping the majority of people poor and uninformed enough, or happy enough so that they don’t take action. War will serve the same end.

We can change it, if we spread the word for workplace democracy and support the cooperative movement. The five firms worth most and extracting most value/profit are all IT/Internet businesses (Google, Amazon, Apple, Facebook, Microsoft). Maybe it’s not too late to claim back in minimum the virtual world with its increasing real effects on our daily life and the future of our children. (Please see https://www.mathias-sager.com/category/growth-enablement/initiatives/products/)

keep out