Social Cooperatives on the Rise in Turkey

At the focus of the Cooperatives, Social Solidarity Economy in Turkey expands in recent years.

A steady increase in the number of social cooperatives has been observed in Turkey in recent years. According to data compiled by TOBB, it can be seen that the number of cooperatives established in 2019 and 2020 has risen in comparison to the number that have been closed.

Solidarity and collaboration models between local governments and cooperatives are evolving, with residential, business, and agricultural development sectors coming to the fore as the most commonly established cooperatives over the last three years. Additionally, the creation of social cooperatives, which have a different model than traditional organizational and business cooperatives, has also seen an upward trend.

It is clear that these cooperatives are making an impact both economically and socially. Enabling consumers to have fair access to natural, nutritious and clean food, cooperative products have become more popular and widespread on e-commerce platforms. As more and more women are coming together in cooperatives, the positive effects on women’s participation can be clearly observed.

Report Launch Event was held on January 14th

ActHuman Social Inclusion Initiative, a joint venture of İNGEV (Human Development Foundation) and Sabancı University Istanbul Policy Center (IPC), prepared a report to define “Resilient Corporativism for Social Solidarity Economy” and to offer social policy recommendations. The initiative, which established an advisory board consisting of cooperatives, public and international organizations representatives, subsequently identified the social solidarity economy’s needs within a particular focus on cooperatives with a workshop. This report’s highlights were shared with the press members at the launch meeting held online on 14 January.

Speaking at the ActHuman III Report Launch event, where both information about the rapid transformation in socio-economic life, as well as current and historical comparative data, in terms of cooperatives were shared, İNGEV President Vural Çakır said:

Cooperative is one of the essential types of organizations that will enable economic activities – which are weak individually – to become healthier and more sustainable. The pandemic showed us the importance of economic activities based on solidarity. We need to shine these cooperatives by paying more attention. We should improve public legislation and structure in line with simplification and focus. Besides, cooperatives should strengthen their collaborations. İNGEV wants to lay the groundwork for these collaborations and expand its activities via Entrepreneurship Support Center.

Sabancı University Vice-Rector and Director of Istanbul Policy Center Prof. Dr. Fuat Keyman also mentioned that “Neoliberalism increasingly destroys the organizations coming from below. In addition to this, a central management understanding and increasing urbanization are the main reasons for doing this study. “The important thing is to make cooperatives more productive actors. Cooperatives today have three-dimensional importance; solidarity, not only in the field of agriculture, but in the field of all societal issues that go all the way up to theater and art, working on a new form of organization different from the past and a new localization,” said Keyman.

The presentation was made by Orkun Doğan, Research Assistant at the Department of Economics of Istanbul Bilgi University, who also prepared the report. Doğan also drew attention to the necessity of supervision as well as trust in establishing cooperatives.

 

The following nine social policy recommendations emerged as a result of the resilient cooperative study:

  1. The Impact of COVID-19 and Cooperatives: A sectoral study should be conducted to measure the social and economic impacts of the crises caused by the pandemic on the cooperatives and evaluate the measures to be taken.
  2. New Cooperatives Legislation: Cooperative legislation should be addressed, simplified, and developed in a participatory method in which all stakeholders are represented, within the framework of international principles and current needs, to ensure contemporary governance principles.
  3. Financial Support Tools: A mechanism to increase cooperatives’ access to financial markets should be established where cooperatives are represented within cooperative banks and credit unions. Alternative means to traditional financing channels should be designed according to Turkey’s unique conditions and the cooperatives’ needs.
  4. More Effective Cooperatives in Value Chains: Incentives should be provided to develop the Cooperative Product Certificate, increasing the cooperative products’ visibility at retail sales points. In order to increase cooperatives’ marketing capacity, training programs should be organized for stakeholders, especially on product and brand development, e-commerce, and export-related issues.
  5. Cooperative Statistics and Cooperatives Research and Training Center: Cooperative data should be compiled regularly, and indicators such as total number, number of partnerships, employment, and annual turnover should be prepared in international statistical standards and presented to the public in different formats.
  6. Training and Capacity Building Programs for Cooperatives: Relevant ministries, development agencies, international organizations, non-governmental organizations, universities, and education cooperatives that organize cooperative training should come together and determine a comprehensive “Cooperative Training Strategy” in coordination.
  7. Increasing the Awareness Level of Cooperatives in the Society: An image study should be carried out with all stakeholders to increase the awareness of cooperatives in the eyes of the public and spread the concept of cooperatives.
  8. Partnerships Between Cooperative Supreme Organizations and Social Solidarity Economy Components: For more resilient cooperatives, the top of the cooperative organization should be restructured, and supporting mechanisms should be activated.
  9. Collaboration between Cooperatives and Local Governments: Ethical and principled cooperation between local governments and cooperatives can provide significant opportunities to strengthen the social solidarity economy and support cooperatives, as long as the cooperatives’ autonomy is observed.

To Read the Executive Summary of ActHuman Report