7-9 July 2021 - On line

“Cooperatives in transition facing crisis”
The International Cooperative Alliance Committee on Cooperative Research (ICA CCR) EUROPE Research Conference has been held online on 7-8-9 July 2021.


ICA CCR Europe 2021, A rich Conference opening up new perspectives!

ICA CCR Europe 2021 (The International Cooperative Alliance Committee on Cooperative Research), the annual research conference of the European section of the International Cooperative Alliance, was held in distance-mode on July 7-9 under the auspices of AgroParisTech, Inrae and CoopFR. Dedicated to "Cooperatives in transition facing crises", it brought together more than 160 participants, with 80 contributions from 26 countries.

The Recma, as well as movements and young researchers, shared in the spotlight

This 2021 edition celebrated the centenary of the Recma (International Review of Social Economy). A round table brought together several international SSE journals to discuss the links between teaching and research, and the roles of those journals with SSE movement actors. This round table around Jean-François Draperi, editor-in-chief of the Recma, Rafael Chavez for IUDESCOOP and Ciriec (Spain), Hagen Henry for the International Journal of Cooperative Law and Roger Spear for the Ciriec scientific committee and the EMES research network on social enterprise, presented the characteristics and challenges of their editorial projects. This meant that each of them discussed about cooperatives’ capacity for "regeneration" of cooperatives confronted with new challenges in order to ensure the "construction of a scientific social imaginary", as R. Chavez put it, and the role played by researchers but also by journals in this endeavor. RECMA has published a special issue in English for this occasion.

The second contribution of this 2021 edition was to have stressed the need to strengthen the links between researchers on the one hand and movement actors and public institutions on the other hand, in order to implement cooperative solutions more effectively. This was the common thread not only in the academic sessions, but also in the round table organized by Cooperatives Europe. The latter debated on the theme of the "cooperative solution" with Jean Louis Bancel, President of Cooperatives Europe and Coop FR, Susanne Westhausen, Director of Kooperationen, Mathias Fiedler, President of Eurocoop, Umberto Di Pasquo, Cogeca Policy Advisor, Louis Cousin and Agnès Mathis, Director of Cooperatives Europe. The richness of the debates thus brought out the diversity of European cooperative initiatives in the field of transitions. All this culminated in the closing session with Gilles Trystam, Director of AgroParisTech and Jérôme Saddier, President of ESS France and Vice-President of Social Economy Europe. Their messages converged to emphasize the responsibility of researchers and practitioners alike in working together to create more inclusive and supportive solutions.

Thanks to the remote organization of the conference on a dedicated digital platform, the sessions consecrated to young researchers were also a highlight of the conference. An initial session with Jos Bijman (Wageningen) dedicated to publication assistance was followed up by the opportunity to experiment with the latest advances in participatory research methods around Theory U, allowing for the co-creation of solutions within stakeholder collectives, with Constantine Iliopoulos and Irini Theodorakopoulou (Greece). The enthusiasm of the participants led to an extremely stimulating dialogue.

The 2021 edition also honored two members of the European cooperative research community. First, an award was given to Professor Carlo Borzaga for his work as head of EURISCE, and his essential contribution to the characterization and statistical coverage of social enterprises at international level. Secondly, a moving tribute was paid to Professor Jonston Brischall, who passed away in June 2021, for his career and his significant work in the English section of the ICA.

Scientific advances to better understand cooperatives’ contribution

Finally, just like all research conferences, the fruit of the exchanges remained the scientific advances and debates. The 2021 edition has shed light on the way cooperatives have responded and are responding to crises, market failures or public authority failures, especially in a time of pandemic. The actions taken by cooperatives to confront increasing inequalities remain crucial. Proposing new solidarity-based responses requires them to reinvent themselves with a new form of ‘cooperativism’. On the one hand, they have made contributions in new areas: digital (e.g. reflections on collaborative platforms), health (new personal services), taking sustainability into consideration or inclusion (e.g. worker cooperatives, in particular). On the other hand, they have adapted their structures by developing organizational and social innovations, diversifying their forms (e.g. production cooperatives, CUMA, etc.). Finally, they have evolved their governance to take into account the new aspirations of their members.

Hybridization’, ‘collective action’, and ‘new cooperativism’ were constantly invoked in the debates. Prof. Tine de Moore remarkably developed her lecture around the foundation of the resilience of cooperatives, the positive effects of the cooperative model and its opportunities in times of pandemic, before underlining the potential contribution of the model linked to the foundation of cooperative democracy. She insisted on the need to open up to the whole community, to adapt to societal transformations and to the changes at work in "cooperative homo" which corresponds to new forms of collective action. These perspectives, thus brilliantly addressed, offer food for thought in both organizational and legislative changes in order to reinvent cooperatives in their responses to new needs and international challenges.

Likewise, Prof. André Torre developed in a very pedagogical way his intervention on the theme of sustainable territorial development: a matter of cooperation. He emphasized, in particular, the need to rethink development processes at the level of territories as a basis for action and for taking into account societal aspirations in terms of employment and income, but also as regards food, preservation of the environment and inclusive action. In this perspective, cooperatives, with their democratic and human model, have a major role to play.

In sum, ICA CCR EU 2021 attests to the evolutions made by cooperative enterprises and research work. Researchers and actors from movements and public institutions need to carry on strengthening their collaborations. Thus, as Roger Spear, the keynote speaker of the event, perfectly underlined, one of the main challenges for the research community is to reconcile the issues involving practitioners and institutions. This means consolidating the scientific community by promoting links between generations.

The success of this 2021 edition was due not only to its partners but especially to the effective mobilization of researchers and practitioners who were able, despite all the obstacles, thanks to distance working, to debate. A big thank-you to all and, in particular, to Coop.FR. And, thanks to ERSA, all the presentations were recorded (http://www.ica-ccr2021.eu/).

Looking forward to seeing you in Athens for ICA CCR EU 2022!

Maryline Filippi

Bordeaux Sciences Agro, INRAE AgroParisTech, France
The Host Institution Conference Chair



The ICA CCR Europe 2021 Conference has deepen the understanding of the resilience of cooperatives facing crisis.

How does the cooperative movement contribute to sustainable and solidarity societies? How do cooperatives anticipate and respond to new business opportunities and develop innovative solutions for a sustainable and solidarity future? How do we  characterize the democratic work of cooperatives and their impact, from the point of view of organizations, territories, and emancipation? The Conference will explore how cooperatives address current global issues and challenges, such as improving sustainable development, reducing income and wealth inequality, enhancing gender equality and offering a future with decent work. The competitive advantage of cooperative democracy, business performance, market share, best governance and digital capabilities will also be explored.
Moreover, the ICA CCR Europe 2021 Conference offered a unique opportunity to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the International Review of Social Economy or Recma (http://recma.org). Founded in 1921 by Charles Gide and Bernard Lavergne, the Recma is today one of the oldest peer-reviewed journals dedicated to works on cooperation and social economy.

The ICA CCR Europe 2021 Conference will explore and address specific themes intrinsically linked to the overarching theme of the Congress: “Cooperatives in transitions facing crisis”.

We were delighted to meet you, even by video, for a time of rich and fruitful scientific exchanges
that we tried to make as friendly as possible.