Cooperatives and Civil Society: Potential for Local Cooperative Development in Croatia

In the post-2012 International Year of Cooperatives era for the global cooperative movement, the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) has drafted the Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade (ICA, 2012), envisaging fast growth of the cooperative enterprise form in coming years. With evidence pointing to the importance of cooperatives for local economic development, how can the vision of the Blueprint be realized on the ground, and what shape would cooperative growth take in a local economy? This paper addresses the issue of cooperative development and growth in the context of the Croatian post- socialist transition economy marked by an unstable economic and institutional environment and exposed to a host of international programs providing support and direction to its institutional change. In particular, we examine the impact on cooperative development of policies and frameworks supporting civil society organizations and social enterprises. Connecting the country’s cooperative development to the space of civil society organizations, we argue, may be the best chance Croatia’s cooperatives have to materialize the kind of growth envisioned by the Blueprint. However, even if the local cooperative movement capitalizes on the growing reach of civil society and support for social enterprises, this does not automatically imply that cooperatives will be able to make a real transformational difference on the ground. There is a trap lurking on this path—cooperatives and social enterprises may remain driven by other interests and dependent on external incentives, or ultimately give a new lease on life to the neoliberal institutional framework thriving on self-interest rather than enabling participatory community development.

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Sonja Novkovic, Tea Golja (2015). Cooperatives and Civil Society: Potential for Local Cooperative Development in Croatia, Journal of Entrepreneurial and Organizational Diversity, 4(1): 153-169. DOI: