Citizens found cooperatives again

Joint economy – rebirth of an old idea. Villages build wind parks. Discover one’s own potential – Published on Current Concerns, by Hannes Koch, February 13, 2012. (Source: Die Korrespondenten – Translation Current Concerns).

Imagine, ten wind wheels are built behind the fence of your garden of your one-family house and you are not upset about it. What could be the reason for this composure? District chief executive of the Rhoen farmers association, Michael Diestel knows one possible answer to that:

  • “When citizens make their own decisions they will not protest.”
  • “Only your own pigs do not stink”, he cites a saying from farming.   

Diestel is working on a small economic revolution around Neustadt, Saale in the north-eastern corner of Bavaria. On his and others’ initiative, 23 cooperatives were founded in the past 3 years. In the meantime, around 2,300 citizens of the surrounding towns are concerned with producing environment-friendly energy.

  • Jointly, they run already solar and bio-gas nuclear power plants. A wind farm with up to 16 rotors is planned now. Orders shall be commissioned soon.
  • The project is the following: Who lives in the towns and wants to participte has to pay a minimum of a 2000 euro loan to one of the newly established energy cooperatives. Thus, he receives a share of the joint cooperative based on the principle “one vote per one head”, as it is customary with cooperatives.

Regardless of whether it is 2,000 or 20,000 euro, every one has an equal say. If all goes well, the financial contributions shall bear interests of 5.5 per cent in the years to come, to be followed by the paying off and finally a devidend which is financed by the feed-in compensation for the green energy.

As Diestel, born in 1964 describes the principal idea, “people protect their own potential”. There are three apparently attractive motives for cooperative members to invest their money in the own cooperative. On the one hand they want to make money through climate protection. On the other, they want to invest into their own region and thereby in their individual quality of living. In the pertaining article of their statutes, the people of the cooperative put down their plan. The cooperatives shall generate surpluses which e.g. may be donated to sporting clubs or the volunteer fire department which is in need of a new fire engine. Thirdly, this joint economizing is relatively self-determined. People are constructing their own windmills and do not have to be annoyed with projects which are placed in front of their nose by Munich, Frankfurt, or Shanghei investors.

Just now, energy cooperatives experience a minor boom in Germany. Michael Stappel, economist at the DZ Bank, the central institute of the cooperative banks, made out 273 such companies that were founded in recent years in the country.

This development is quite interesting since cooperatives by their nature do function differently from other economic enterprises. As put down in the law, cooperatives “shall promote the economy of their members through common business operations”. Hence, by definition it is not only money, but two further objectives are concerned, viz. enhancing of members’ interests and the pursuit of this common goal … //

… In this respect, an old idea enjoys a certain new popularity. In the 19th century, social reformers Hermann Schulze-Delitzsch and Friedrich-Wilhelm Raiffeisen founded the cooperative movement. Craftsmen and farmers began to jointly economize in order to protect one another against hunger and misery. In the past decades, however, this method of economization seemed to die a creeping death. Whereas in 1993 11,500 cooperatives still existed, the figure shrank ever more thereafter. The reason for this was also to be found in the fact that many old cooperatives more or less threw the concept of economic self helpover board and hence, were hardly to be distinguished from normal market-orientated companies any longer. Only in 2009, the turning point came when, for the first time, more cooperatives were founded than resolved.

This, too, is an demonstration of the revival of the cooperative idea. “Each bank has to be able to see the church tower”, energy-inspired Michael Diestel remarks in reference to mentor Raiffeisen. To be competitive, coopertives have to take care of their regional and decentralized roots. It’s only then when concrete interests of the members are put into the center. For the energy transition, this means wind power without resistance. (full text).

Links:

Die Neugründung Griechenlands, vom 19. Februar 2012;

Simulation für Manager: Flüchtling in Davos … Beim Weltwirtschaftsforum hat Sally Begbie ihren Parcours Refugee Run aufgebaut … Die private Wohltätigkeitsorganisation Crossroads aus Hongkong hat ihren Parcour Refugee Run aufgebaut. Man kann sich anmelden und kommt in Berührung mit ziemlich vielem, was im mitteleuropäischen Leben keine Rolle spielt: Stacheldraht, zugeschissene Latrinen, räuberische Helfer, die einem als Gegenleistung für eine Schale Reis die Schuhe klauen …

Refugee Run (simulation for Managers in Davos):

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