Saturday, September 30

Open letter to Carmen Artigas, Secretary of State for Digitalization and Artificial Intelligence

Mrs. Artigas, allow me the audacity to contradict you: startups are almost the opposite of a cooperative company. I summarize it this way, in response to the statements you made in the interview you gave to this medium a few days ago, in which you described startups as “the cooperatives of the 21st century”, probably in a positive wink towards cooperativism.

If we stick to the definition of the Spanish Chamber of Commerce, a startup is “a newly created or young company that presents great growth possibilities and markets products and services through the use of information and communication technologies. “. Until then, we accept boat as an aquatic animal, that new company could even be a cooperative. However, the discrepancy is profound; the spirit of a cooperative, if not the opposite, is light years away from that of a startup.

Let’s go by parts. The starting point of a startup is to keep production costs low, to grow quickly. It was born with the aim of evolving into an SME or large company or, directly, selling the idea to an already consolidated company. On the contrary, an associated work cooperative is a collective management company with a vocation for durability, to provide a stable and quality work project to the people who constitute it, to generate decent and sustainable work, to establish roots in the territory and generate wealth. . It is not a stepping stone company in the sheer dynamics of the market economy.

I continue to refer to the Chamber, which explains on its website that the main attribute of a startup is the speed and capacity with which it can grow and generate income quickly, which is capable of increasing its production and sales without the need to increase their expenses. They are businesses that are based on innovative ideas to satisfy a new need in the market. Once again, we are facing an essence far removed from that of cooperative companies that, although they must be profitable and, of course, competitive, the axis on which their reason for being pivots are the people who make it up, they do not pursue the early profit economic: the work cooperative is at the service of people, who have found in cooperativism a way to undertake and develop a dignified professional life, compatible with their personal, conciliatory life, where equality between women and men is greater and aspiration to make it total. Ultimately, the cooperative is part of the vital project of the cooperative members, it is an end, not a means to “make money” or “hit a ball.”

It moves me to write this article, more than the content of the interview itself, the headline, which leads to confusion regarding the model of companies represented by the organization that I preside, COCETA, which are work cooperatives, and which are They are framed in the so-called social economy (not to confuse social with charitable). An owner who, as a cooperative member, has removed me, still trying to understand that he has meant that startups are a simpler and more affordable form of entrepreneurship, and that they are usually youth initiatives, coinciding with some cooperatives. I disagree that startups are the most democratic companies that exist, since that is a flag that cannot be taken away from cooperativism, democratic in its conception and practice, where one person represents one vote.

In short, and only with a pedagogical desire, not to replicate everything that has to do with startups, of which you know much more than I do, Mrs. Artigas, as a convinced cooperative member I consider it important that people understand that an associated work cooperative can be an SME that is digitizing, but also a technology-based company. The comparison between business models has been, I am sure, well-intentioned, but unfortunate. What differentiates the cooperative from a startup and from all commercial companies is found in the answer to the questions of how and why: a work cooperative is an ethical business formula, of the social economy, made up of people who are at the same time, owners and workers, where collective and democratic management, participation and flexibility prevail. They are companies committed to people and the environment, which generate trust and stability. They have more than proven to be the most resilient companies because their purpose is not economic enrichment (which could even occur), it is the maintenance of employment and the essence of the cooperative project, due to their ability to build a more equitable and just society.

One more daring to finish: if the work cooperatives accounted for 80% of the national GDP, we would be talking about another economic model, based on another productive model, much less speculative, and a labor model with many more virtues than the current one.