Community cooperatives: when need becomes enterprise, turning marginality into a strength and enhancing territorial resources.
“An outpost for development, capable of revitalizing an area on the verge of depopulation, which is throbbing again thanks to services rendered by citizen-formed cooperatives that meet essential needs. Because when in a marginal area the state withdraws and they close the post office and the bar–you really think it’s over. But instead we have people who turn a need into a business.” This is how Maurizio Gardini, president of Confcooperative, tells us about the phenomenon of community cooperatives. Which number just under 200 but are growing, transforming marginality into a strength and enhancing territorial resources.
What do these co-ops do? Everything. Enhancement, recovery and preservation of artistic, cultural and environmental heritage, local traditions and agri-food excellence, sustainable tourism and local promotion, social agriculture, renewable energy, management of parks or forests or common or cultural heritage, active maintenance of the territory but also- marketing of typical products, local transport, welfare, social and social-health services dedicated to the community. Who helps them? As part of its multi-year strategy to promote and develop community cooperation, Confcooperative, through FondoSviluppo, which is the mutual fund fed by contributions from its member cooperatives, has made available resources of 1.5 million euros over the past three years, supporting 91 community cooperatives, including 67 start-ups. What tools are used to help them? Fondosviluppo uses one of an economic nature: start-up premium of 5,000 euros, total interest abatement of the loan provided by the local Bcc (bank loan up to 30,000 euros), or, alternatively, loan directly provided by Fondosviluppo for 30,000 euros on favorable terms. But also assistance with planning and entrepreneurial accompaniment.
Community cooperatives are characterized more than by the type of activities carried out or the type of mutuality chosen (labor or user or mixed, or socia-li), by a particular purpose: that of keeping alive and enhancing local communities at risk of decay, when not extinction. Are there any regulations? A national law on community cooperatives still does not exist, while there are regional laws, “among them also very different,” explains Massimiliano Monetti, architect, president of Confcooperative Abruzzo and national delegate for community cooperatives, “if we consider that some provide for a minimum quota of inhabitants of the served territory who must be associated, and others do not. We are working toward national legislation and there is a law proposal that would allow them to be considered social enterprises.
Associazione NET – Italy
The ComEnter&RC Project is funded with the support of the European Union’s ERASMUS+ Programme. All views expressed are those of the authors and not of the European Commission.