With its international Year of Cooperatives (IYC) in 2012, the United Nations acknowledged the worldwide impact of cooperatives on economic and social development. Thanks to their democratic organisational structure and their economic outlook, in many mountain regions cooperatives contribute significantly to the growth of social capital, social integration, worksite creation, and the reduction of poverty. This serves to help stabilizing economic cycles and strengthen local employment. Several mountain regions as for example in Italy and Austria have a historic tradition and also a relevant presence of cooperative systems. Furthermore one can register a growth of cooperatives in times of economic crises (EURICSE, 2010).
However, regional cooperative systems may be characterized by a lack of transparency and in some cases, they also may hinder innovation. As a cooperative is composed of several members, founding and running of a cooperative needs a common agreement and engagement. In many cases, this is the reason for failure.
Different economic and social contexts have fostered the development of different cooperative models, doing business in a wide range of sectors and territories. Habitually cooperatives are active in traditional sectors like agriculture, retail, social services and banking. Recently new fields of activity for cooperatives have emerged. Social cooperatives in particular increased distinctly covering a wide range of social, health, training, care taking and education services also for underprivileged people. In South Tyrol for example a cooperative of knowledge has been founded which enables research activities on the phenomena of cooperatives. Several cooperatives of communities (“cooperative di comunità”) run public services in remote areas where people and money are missing. In addition, cooperative societies foster regional value chains in the food sector and maintain structures of local supply. New sectors may become interesting fields for cooperatives as e.g. tourism, leisure (assistance of children, youth and elderly people) and renewable energy (civil energy cooperations).
Cooperatives can play an important role within alternative societal models (e.g. the common welfare and post growth economy approaches) aiming at a sustainable social transformation process as response to economic crises and globalization. Social transformations need new types of governance. Cooperatives could offer many experiences. They can play an important role in the design of new forms of cooperation in a double regard. Members can advance their common interests and goals independently. Furthermore they can shape their local environment, can develop principles of participation and values such as solidarity, democracy and sustainability in the neighborhood or municipality (Postwachstumsgesellschaft, 2013).
Based on the thematic focus of the Journal of Alpine Research | Revue de géographie alpine, this call proposes a detailed insight on the theme “Cooperative systems in mountain regions”. One central aim of this call for scientific papers is to reveal those factors, which support the founding of mainly innovative cooperatives supporting sustainable local development considering whether mountain regions or societies, and in particular urban centers, present specific favorable conditions or not; papers about failed experiences are also important to analyze the possible limits of cooperatives. Papers should also debate state‐of‐the art research in the field of cooperatives; their contribution to local and regional sustainable development of local economic circuits especially in peripheral areas with negative demographic trends and their role for promoting sustainable entrepreneurship with premises, possibilities and outlook. Finally yet importantly, papers should tackle the development of cooperatives from an historical perspective and present comparatives analyses of the development of cooperatives in different territorial contexts. Especially, the Journal of Alpine Reasearch | Revue de géographie alpine invites researches to present papers to the following topics:
Cooperatives role in maintaining entrepreneurial structures. Many sectors are suffering from lacking successors and low competetiveness. Cooperatives may represent a good solution to maintain enterprises, create competing entrepreneurial structures and reintegrate disoccupied people.
New sustainable cooperative models as cooperatives of communities and innovative sectors like e.g. tourism, leisure and renewable energies in which cooperatives are already active or may become active.
The role and contribution of cooperatives as stabilising factor and element for the resilience of regions in times of crises and, form an historical point of view, their social and economic impact within the development of locations and regions. The relevance of urban centres in this context may be considered particularly.
Comparatives studies analysing the development of cooperatives under different local and regional conditions.
The role of cooperative systems for the development of new alternative economic approaches.
Negative aspects and limits of cooperative systems like lacking transparency, low innovation rates, failure due to disagreement among members.
Please send abstracts in English (approximately 1000 words) before September 1st, 2014 to: Thomas.Streifeneder@eurac.edu , email@example.com and Emm@nuelleTricoire.eu.