CETS was delighted to play host to a one-day event held in Scottish Enterprise’s HQ in Haymarket, Edinburgh on the 8 May 2012. A small group of co-operators discussed emerging research linking co-operatives, in particular those that are employee-owned, with wider public benefits, especially in relation to health. The aim of the event, besides being a useful networking opportunity for individuals geographically distant, was to produce a consensus on the role co-ops can play in providing public benefit.

Firstly, employee ownership expert David Erdal discussed his pioneering research in the Emilia Romagna region of central Italy. Selecting three towns in the region – each with different levels of the population working in employee-owned businesses – David analysed a number of different social metrics, looking for an association between worker ownership and public benefit.

Next to present were two academics from Mondragón University, who are concluding a study based on David Erdal’s original research. Examining the link between worker ownership and public health benefits in the Basque region of Northern Spain, the researchers have found a positive correlation between worker ownership and public health.

Finally, Virginie Perotín from the University of Leeds presented the findings of her report into the size, benefits and sustainability of worker-owned businesses throughout the world. Virginie’s research provides the economic business base for worker ownership, giving it a robust platform in the public benefit discourse.

This summary does not do justice to the depth and breadth of each of the research findings presented at the event but the main point to highlight is enormous opportunity for co-ops to play a larger role in the achievement of public benefit, in particular the impact on public finances and health. The next stage of this initiative is to make policy-makers and politicians aware of the role of co-ops in delivering public benefit.

Some of the presentations from the event can be accessed at: http://s.coop/lknx

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