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Special Issue "Cooperative Longevity: Why are So Many Cooperatives So Successful?"

A special issue of Sustainability (ISSN 2071-1050).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (30 April 2018)

Special Issue Editors

Guest Editor
Prof. Dr. Constantine Iliopoulos

Agricultural Economics Research Institute, Terma Alkmanos Street, GR-115 28, Athens, Greece
Website | E-Mail
Interests: agribusiness economics; collective action; systems theory; organization theory; institutional economics; rural development
Guest Editor
Dr. Vladislav Valentinov

Leibniz Institute of Agricultural Development in Transition Economies (IAMO), Theodor-Lieser-Str. 2, 06120 Halle (Saale), Germany
Website | E-Mail
Interests: institutional economics; nonprofit organizations; rural development; systems theory

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Despite popular misconceptions, cooperatives present a very successful organizational form worldwide. A recent study found that, in the U.S., for example, among the companies that have survived for over 100 years, more than 80 firms are cooperatives. This observation on cooperative longevity is not matched by a corresponding research effort on what makes cooperatives so successful. Most of the extant research seems to focus on intra-cooperative problems that posit significant challenges to cooperatives. This Special Issue of Sustainability aims at bridging the considerable gap between scholarly work and reality. By focusing on what makes cooperatives so successful for such a long period of time, this issue will shed light on key aspects of cooperative longevity. The insights thereby gained will be useful to students of cooperatives, practitioners, and policy makers.

We are primarily interested in the social science approaches to the study of cooperatives. The unit of analysis can be either the cooperative or the member. Theoretical, conceptual, and empirical papers are welcome as long as they do not make heroic assumptions. In terms of methodology, we do not discriminate against any scholarly approach.

Prof. Dr. Constantine Iliopoulos
Dr. Vladislav Valentinov
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

Manuscripts should be submitted online at www.mdpi.com by registering and logging in to this website. Once you are registered, click here to go to the submission form. Manuscripts can be submitted until the deadline. All papers will be peer-reviewed. Accepted papers will be published continuously in the journal (as soon as accepted) and will be listed together on the special issue website. Research articles, review articles as well as short communications are invited. For planned papers, a title and short abstract (about 100 words) can be sent to the Editorial Office for announcement on this website.

Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a single-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Sustainability is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1400 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • Cooperatives
  • Life Cycle
  • Longevity
  • Ownership
  • Organization

Published Papers (7 papers)

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Research

Open AccessArticle Size of Membership and Survival Patterns of Producers’ Organizations in Agriculture—Social Aspects Based on Evidence from Poland
Sustainability 2018, 10(7), 2293; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10072293
Received: 18 April 2018 / Revised: 23 June 2018 / Accepted: 28 June 2018 / Published: 3 July 2018
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Abstract
Agricultural producer organizations are considered to be an efficient way for farmers to build up bargaining power, thereby increasing farmers’ incomes. While making a contribution to the research on the longevity of cooperatives, we tried to identify some regularities concerning the survival of
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Agricultural producer organizations are considered to be an efficient way for farmers to build up bargaining power, thereby increasing farmers’ incomes. While making a contribution to the research on the longevity of cooperatives, we tried to identify some regularities concerning the survival of these entities in the specific context of transition economies. In this paper, we look more closely at potential relationships between the development of producers’ organizations (POs) and the size of their membership. Then, we link the size of the membership with the concept of social capital. For our purposes, it is necessary to depart from using a general concept of social capital and to differentiate between bonding and bridging social capital. Our results, based on two unique datasets from Poland, clearly showed that relatively larger POs have higher rates of survival. This, in turn, is correlated with the stock and the type of social capital. The main contribution of the study is in identifying the relevance of the size of the membership of newly-established POs to their survival. The findings are followed by policy recommendations that may be useful in the context of promoting farmers’ cooperation in recognizing the low stock of social capital, specifically bridging social capital. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Cooperative Longevity: Why are So Many Cooperatives So Successful?)
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Open AccessArticle Cooperative Longevity and Sustainable Development in a Family Farming System
Sustainability 2018, 10(7), 2198; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10072198
Received: 4 June 2018 / Revised: 23 June 2018 / Accepted: 25 June 2018 / Published: 27 June 2018
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Abstract
This paper focuses on small holding, family farming in Southeast Spain where agricultural economic activity is predominantly organized around cooperative business models. A variety of diverse studies on the Almería agricultural and credit cooperative sector and the exploration of social-economic and eco-social indicators,
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This paper focuses on small holding, family farming in Southeast Spain where agricultural economic activity is predominantly organized around cooperative business models. A variety of diverse studies on the Almería agricultural and credit cooperative sector and the exploration of social-economic and eco-social indicators, in addition to economic-market indicators are presented. Each correspond to a cooperative “logic” that spans theoretical perspectives from the dominant economic-market model, new institutionalism, and an eco-social approach, echoing theories on collective coordination governance, and the avoidance of the “tragedy of the commons”. The latter is of particular importance given environmental challenges and scarce resources for agricultural activity. The cooperatives in Almería have increasingly relied on collective collaboration and coordination in order to meet social-economic and social-ecological challenges, transforming their role from that founded on a market dominant logic to that of cooperation as a coordination mechanism based on the mutual benefit of the community and environment. In turn, their ability to meet a wide range of needs and challenges of members and the community leads to their longevity. Cooperatives are able to act as both a market and non-market coordination mechanism, balancing the economic, social, and environmental dimensions, such that neither market nor non-market logics are dominant or exclusive. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Cooperative Longevity: Why are So Many Cooperatives So Successful?)
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Open AccessArticle A Predictive Analytics Understanding of Cooperative Membership Heterogeneity and Sustainability
Sustainability 2018, 10(6), 2048; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10062048
Received: 1 April 2018 / Revised: 7 June 2018 / Accepted: 12 June 2018 / Published: 16 June 2018
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Abstract
Recent advances in cooperative theory have focused on membership heterogeneity as being a significant challenge for cooperative sustainability. We use predictive analytics to forecast U.S. farmer cooperative sustainability at an aggregate level and include multiple dimensions of membership heterogeneity. We report the importance
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Recent advances in cooperative theory have focused on membership heterogeneity as being a significant challenge for cooperative sustainability. We use predictive analytics to forecast U.S. farmer cooperative sustainability at an aggregate level and include multiple dimensions of membership heterogeneity. We report the importance and shape of the effect of membership heterogeneity when predicting and forecasting cooperative sustainability in the near-term. We also report forecasts of cooperative sustainability given expected changes to membership heterogeneity. The data this study used are from the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA)-Economic Research Service (ERS) Agricultural Resource Management Survey (ARMS) joined with USDA-Rural Development cooperative financial data at the state level. Membership heterogeneity was found to be less relevant than other variables included in the model for predicting cooperative business volume and number of cooperatives headquartered per state, and an estimate of cooperative sustainability. Membership heterogeneity effects were mostly offsetting given expected changes to member heterogeneity, and/or were offset due to changes to other macro factors. Consequently, we conclude membership heterogeneity may affect the number of cooperatives and extent consistent with theoretical literature at a micro level; however, we also expect a similar level of sustainability of cooperatives at an aggregate level in the near-term despite changes to membership heterogeneity. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Cooperative Longevity: Why are So Many Cooperatives So Successful?)
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Open AccessArticle A Life Cycle Explanation of Cooperative Longevity
Sustainability 2018, 10(5), 1586; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10051586
Received: 12 April 2018 / Revised: 11 May 2018 / Accepted: 13 May 2018 / Published: 16 May 2018
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Abstract
A micro analytical, interdisciplinary informed framework is presented to postulate why and how some cooperatives endure for long periods of time. This five-phase framework was developed through an extended research process employing inductive and deductive approaches. The paper concludes that cooperative longevity is
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A micro analytical, interdisciplinary informed framework is presented to postulate why and how some cooperatives endure for long periods of time. This five-phase framework was developed through an extended research process employing inductive and deductive approaches. The paper concludes that cooperative longevity is associated with multiple factors, primarily among them, ability to adapt and ameliorate frictions and subgroup factions. This adaptability leads to multi “life cycles”. Cooperative multi life cycle regeneration is facilitated by a learned and embedded process called “cooperative genius”. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Cooperative Longevity: Why are So Many Cooperatives So Successful?)
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Open AccessArticle Member Heterogeneity in Agricultural Cooperatives: A Systems-Theoretic Perspective
Sustainability 2018, 10(4), 1271; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10041271
Received: 23 February 2018 / Revised: 17 April 2018 / Accepted: 18 April 2018 / Published: 20 April 2018
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Abstract
All over the globe, cooperatives are plagued by pervasive member heterogeneity problems that are induced by the radical and dynamic changes in the business environment. Most current solutions to these problems emphasize strengthening member loyalty and commitment. Yet, many of these solutions are
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All over the globe, cooperatives are plagued by pervasive member heterogeneity problems that are induced by the radical and dynamic changes in the business environment. Most current solutions to these problems emphasize strengthening member loyalty and commitment. Yet, many of these solutions are symptomatic rather than fundamental. Searching for fundamental solutions, this paper draws on the Luhmannian system-environment paradigm. Bringing this paradigm to bear on the cooperative scholarship, the paper views cooperatives as operationally closed systems maintaining a precarious relationship to their outer environment, which includes cooperative members. In view of their operational closure, cooperatives tend to overstrain the carrying capacity of their environment by being active in the areas marked by a limited extent of the true commonness of member interests. This overstraining results in a host of problems associated with member heterogeneity. The fundamental solutions following from the system-environment paradigm require the adjustment of cooperative boundaries and goals in light of the evolving range of the true common interests of members. In terms of methodology, we review the extant literature, synthesize the main elements of the system-environment approach and conduct a meta-analysis of case studies and other empirical research to highlight our theoretical arguments. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Cooperative Longevity: Why are So Many Cooperatives So Successful?)
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Open AccessArticle The Firm as a Common. Non-Divided Ownership, Patrimonial Stability and Longevity of Co-Operative Enterprises
Sustainability 2018, 10(4), 1023; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10041023
Received: 4 March 2018 / Revised: 22 March 2018 / Accepted: 27 March 2018 / Published: 30 March 2018
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Abstract
Contemporary literature dealing with the governance and exploitation of common-pool natural resources was initiated by Elinor Ostrom in 1990, and has been growing fast ever since. On the contrary, within the same research stream, the study of the presence and economic role of
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Contemporary literature dealing with the governance and exploitation of common-pool natural resources was initiated by Elinor Ostrom in 1990, and has been growing fast ever since. On the contrary, within the same research stream, the study of the presence and economic role of common resources in entrepreneurial organizations is, to date, under-researched. This work endeavors to fill some theoretical gaps in this research perspective by: (i) spelling out a new-institutionalist framework for the analysis of the accumulation and governance of common capital resources within organizational boundaries; (ii) considering co-operative enterprises as the organizational form that, on the basis of historical record, and of behavioral and institutional characteristics, demonstrated to be most compatible with a substantial role for common and non-divided asset-ownership and with its governance thereof; and (iii) evidencing and explaining the theoretical connection between cooperative longevity and the presence of non-divided asset ownership. The economic forces influencing the optimal level of self-financed common capital resources in co-operatives are enquired. Conclusions to the paper evidence the main reasons why the new approach can better explain than preceding ones the economic sustainability and longevity of cooperative enterprises. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Cooperative Longevity: Why are So Many Cooperatives So Successful?)
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Open AccessArticle An Exploratory Study of Cooperative Survival: Strategic Adaptation to External Developments
Sustainability 2018, 10(3), 652; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10030652
Received: 15 January 2018 / Revised: 16 February 2018 / Accepted: 26 February 2018 / Published: 28 February 2018
Cited by 2 | PDF Full-text (245 KB) | HTML Full-text | XML Full-text
Abstract
Farmer cooperatives have been portrayed in the literature as flawed and complex organizations with ambiguous objectives. However, research on the observed survival of farmer cooperatives in spite of their weaknesses and limitations is scarce, in part because academic attention to cooperative performance has
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Farmer cooperatives have been portrayed in the literature as flawed and complex organizations with ambiguous objectives. However, research on the observed survival of farmer cooperatives in spite of their weaknesses and limitations is scarce, in part because academic attention to cooperative performance has been static and introspective. Using evidence collected from case studies and print media publications, this paper contributes to the literature with a qualitative study of farmer cooperatives which spurred survival and longevity by means of strategic adaptation in response to four current developments in the external environment: industry consolidation, consumer segmentation, price volatility, and policy change. The qualitative study concludes farmer cooperatives in general respond to such developments by means of organizational growth. Common strategies are vertical integration, geographic expansion, and portfolio diversification. While survival and longevity are promoted in theory, strategic adaptation also often facilitates the pursuit of investor-oriented as opposed to user-oriented objectives. In some scenarios, member ownership and control may become burdensome to the business and prompt conversion to another structure if further adaptation to internal and external developments is unsuccessful. More research is therefore needed to explore the dynamic and variable impact of strategy on cooperative survival. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Cooperative Longevity: Why are So Many Cooperatives So Successful?)
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