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About this book

This book discusses social innovations by cooperatives from the Asia and Pacific region. Social innovations emerge when the state and market in developing countries find it difficult to solve problems such as poverty, hunger, ill health, poor education systems, inadequate drinking water and poor sanitation. These countries also face barriers to economic growth such as climate change, poor governance, unequal opportunities and social exclusion. This volume therefore addresses the following questions. What are the distinctive features of social innovations by cooperatives? How social innovations bring in changes in the process and outcome of development?

After presenting theories of social innovation and a critical review of cooperatives and social innovation, the book presents 15 chapters on social innovations by cooperatives in the Asia Pacific region. These social innovations are related to health insurance, community based tourism, disaster response, climate smart agriculture, use of social media for youth empowerment, training for the emergence of second-line leaders in cooperatives, social inclusion through innovative finance, profitable marketing of organic produce to strengthen economic status of small farmers, digital auction and value addition for income security of farmer members, collaboration between cooperative members and workers for the mutual benefit, worker cooperatives, women leadership and participation, building union-cooperative partnership in finance and rating of cooperatives to promote transparency and accountability. A chapter on innovative services of cooperatives during the time of Covid19 is also included.

This volume will be quite significant for co-operators, researchers, teachers, practitioners and policy-makers at the global level. The theme is relevant for international development community and national cooperatives with concern for their communities, which is the seventh cooperative principle of International Cooperative Alliance and the Sustainable Development Goal of the UN.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1. Cooperatives and Social Innovation: Experiences from the Asia Pacific Region

One in every six persons in the world has membership in (or a client of) a cooperative. Such is the presence of cooperatives in the world. Cooperatives strive to bring in social innovations (new and innovative products, services and processes) for the benefit of their members. This volume discusses social innovations initiated by cooperatives in the Asia Pacific region. Readers of this volume will find answers to the following questions. What social innovations are started by cooperatives? What motivated them to come up with social innovations? What benefits did cooperatives and their members get from social innovations?
D. Rajasekhar, R. Manjula, T. Paranjothi

Chapter 2. Concept and Theories of Social Innovation

Theories and concepts of social innovation are discussed in this chapter. After briefly discussing the evolution of the concept of social innovation, it is shown in the chapter that the concept, although in use since the eighteenth century, gained considerable importance in the academic literature and policymaking from the turn of the twenty-first century largely because of the financial crisis of 2008, and austerity agenda of countries in Europe. This is further corroborated by the review of research studies on social innovation. Important theories influencing social innovation are social action, social and solidarity economy, innovations, social entrepreneurship, social investment and social capital and new public management. An evolutionary perspective to the concept of social innovation is provided to show that the meaning of social innovation constantly expanded over a period of time in response to changing social needs and social relations.
D. Rajasekhar

Chapter 3. Cooperatives and Social Innovation

Social Innovation, the innovative activities/services that are aimed at meeting social goals, has been at the forefront of both academic and policy discussions. Among the institutions that engage in social innovation as a strategy to serve the community, cooperatives and social solidarity organizations are at the forefront. Cooperatives, themselves hailed as a great social institutional innovation of the nineteenth century, facilitate social innovation and deliver social good. Healthcare, alternative energy and environment are the key areas of social innovation by cooperatives in Asia and Pacific region, similar to their counterparts in Europe. The empirical evidences point to the presence of social innovation, as well as continued emphasis on increased social innovation on the part of cooperatives in the Asia Pacific region, both for serving the social purpose and for survival in the competitive setting.
Yashavantha Dongre, T. Paranjothi

Chapter 4. Health Insurance as Social Innovation for Farmers in Cooperatives: Lessons from Yeshasvini in Karnataka, India

Health insurance (called as Yeshasvini) was introduced for members of cooperative societies in Karnataka, India, to address the problem of high and mounting healthcare expenditure incurred by the poor, leading to poverty and vulnerability among them. Yeshasvini was a new idea introduced to meet unmet needs to reach social goals and promote members’ welfare. This chapter examines whether Yeshasvini was implemented as social innovation by addressing the following questions. What has been the process adopted in providing awareness on Yeshasvini? What is the level of awareness among farmer beneficiaries? What are the levels of enrolment across the socio-economic groups? What is the extent to which the health insurance benefits are utilised by farmers from cooperatives? How did the utilisation pattern influence the welfare of farmers? What lessons can be learnt from this social innovation by cooperatives? These questions are answered in this chapter with the help of primary data collected from 552 sample households from 60 villages in three Karnataka districts. It is argued that Yeshasvini as a social innovation met the member needs to some extent; but, its success would have been more if there are effective alliances with the other local institutions such as community-based organisations and local government in the implementation.
D. Rajasekhar

Chapter 5. Community-Based Tourism Through Cooperatives in Sabah, Malaysia

The tourism industry is one of the largest and most influential industries in the world. The National Cooperative Policy 2011–2020 identifies tourism as one of the sectors that can offer high- income to cooperatives. The tourism industry provides an opportunity for the cooperative sector to be involved in community activities, particularly in rural areas, which can have immeasurable positive benefits for the local environment, societies and cultures. The societies could create downstream tourism activities as part of community-based tourism (CBT) and provide a stimulus for entrepreneurs among the communities. Despite the remarkable potential that the tourism industry can offer, only 12 (0.98%) out of 1,223 Sabahan cooperatives have actively become involved in tourism businesses (Malaysia Cooperative Societies Commission, 2015). Therefore, this study attempts to investigate the potential of the CBT industry as operated by cooperatives in Sabah. The current study employed a case study approach. The data obtained from the three sample cooperatives are analyzed by using a combination of within-case analysis and cross-case analysis. The findings showed that the CBT started with one specific activity and rapidly expanded to include many tourism downstream activities. The expansion of activities directly contributes to an increase in income to the cooperatives. The success of the CBT is reinforced by a variety of factors, such as the commitment of the cooperative board members and support of the local community. These findings are essential for promoting the tourism industry as one of the most critical potential businesses in cooperatives and as an input to relevant parties to support the growth of the tourism industry in Sabah.
Najmah Binti Nawawi, Shamsiah Binti Syamsudin, Christina Andin

Chapter 6. Failed Market-Oriented Society and Working Co-ops’ Biodiesel-Based Food Systems After the Great East Japan Earthquake

The Great East Japan Earthquake disturbed all commodity markets for a month. Previous studies indicated that the government could not dispatch relief food due to a shortage of trucks and fuel. Many co-ops, engaged in biodiesel recycling as a part of co-ops’ social innovation to build a sustainable society, made biodiesel from used vegetable oil which was collected from local small food businesses and households. If biodiesel had the strength to face disasters, it would prove the advantage of the movement against a market-oriented society. This article discusses the status of biodiesel in the Tohoku region immediately after the 2011 earthquake and provides evidence that local biodiesel in consumers’ co-ops worked as a fail proof social system. The research, which was conducted immediately after the disaster, shows that it was almost impossible for regular customers to purchase gas and diesel during the first ten days. Iwate co-op’s biodiesel dispatched trucks with their relief food, which were estimated as being one-tenth of those sent by the government during the first ten days. It worked as a fail proof fuel supply; this fact indicates that biodiesel is an important element included in co-ops’ social innovation.
Akihisa Nonaka

Chapter 7. Role of Cooperatives in Climate Smart Agriculture

Climate change is an important challenge to secure food to the growing world population through improved agricultural production. Hence, ‘climate action’ is suggested at the global level by formulating Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) of taking urgent action to combat the climate change and reduce its adverse impact on agriculture. Primary Agricultural Credit Societies are currently making efforts to improve crop productivity by providing access to short-term credit. They also have the potential to address mitigation strategies. However, cooperatives do not have the mandate to directly participate in the adaptation activity of development and management of natural resources in rural areas. It is in this context that this chapter seeks to explore the role that cooperatives can play in the promotion of climate-smart agriculture. The chapter finds that farmers have been experiencing climate change and are making efforts to adapt to climate change in order to pursue climate-smart agriculture. However, the farmers adopted the strategies without full information on the pros and cons of them. Cooperatives are playing the traditional role of disbursing the loans for only crop production. In order to meet the unmet needs of farmers, cooperatives need to come up with social innovation of developing an interface with different departments and collaborate with local organisations in transferring the new information and bring economic and social transformation.
R. Manjula

Chapter 8. Social Media as an Effective Tool for Social Innovation in Indian Cooperatives

Fostering innovation is a big challenge of the competitive economy with the focus on digital technology. In the recent times, cooperatives have made impressive strides in various areas of social innovation. There is a strong realization that if cooperatives do not innovate they cannot compete in the market economy. Cooperatives and social media both work on the principle of empowering people in their own ways. However, despite the wide network and reach, cooperatives have not been able to utilize social media effectively. The literature on social media and cooperatives with the focus on social innovation in India, is almost non-existent, except for a few general articles on the subject. Delving into this unexplored field, the methodology of my chapter will be exploratory, based on secondary sources. The chapter will explore the potentialities of social media as an effective tool, and find out its scope in the field of social innovation. The chapter will point out that cooperatives with their wide network, reach and based on members’ strength can emerge as a lead player in social innovation.
Sanjay Kumar Verma

Chapter 9. A Phenomenological Study of the Lived Experiences of PHCCI Summer Youth Program Tutees Turned Lab Coop Officers

One of the pressing challenges of many cooperatives is ensuring second-liners and successors who will continue a movement in a genuinely cooperative way. The aim of this chapter is to highlight how PHCCI-MPC Tacloban has successfully run a youth arts program for 13 years, and, in the process, producing six of its tutees as incumbent officers of the PHCCI Laboratory Cooperative and potential future leaders of the guardian cooperative. This chapter specifically delves into the youth’s significant experience in the Summer Tutee-Friendly Program, and how this arts program has transformed the young lives of these tutees into Lab Coop officers. This phenomenological study gathered data using key informant interviews as source materials. The chapter concludes that PHCCI-MPC’s Tutee-Friendly Program has discovered and developed not only the talents and skills of the young but also subliminally developed their leadership potentials. Furthermore, this study encourages cooperatives to continually invest on and empower the youth, having much to give through their positive ideals and courage as they respond creatively and innovatively to the pressing challenges that they experience. This will, in turn, develop them as responsible second liners and the bloodline of the cooperative movement.
Ma. Jenny C. Advincula

Chapter 10. Cooperative and Social Innovation in Finance—A Case Study of Mann Deshi Mahila Sahkari Bank

Social innovation essentially means a novel solution to a social problem that is more cost-effective, efficient and sustainable. While several institutions, NGOs and charity organizations are found to have come out with innovative solutions to social problems, financial institutions are usually not found in this space. The study of the banking model of Mann Deshi Mahila Sahkari Bank provides an assessment on the feasibility of a bank-led model of social innovation in finance and ascertains the scope for its wider replicability. The cost structure of Mann Deshi Bank provides an insight into the fact that innovative and customized products may be costlier but they are socially sustainable. The chapter highlights the point that a wider replication of this model could be a game changer for the financially excluded population across the globe.
Ajit Kumar

Chapter 11. Cooperative Sector Grading—A Social Innovation in Finance

This chapter argues that a social innovation of rating is a necessary condition for cooperatives to access credit from the banks. The cooperatives serve a larger goal of the distribution of wealth among members and thereby have a positive impact on society. However, in the absence of access to credit from financial agencies, they are unable to compete with profit-oriented enterprises. Based on a review of secondary sources, this paper proposes criteria for and measurement of a rating framework for cooperatives as a social innovation to obtain loans from commercial banks. The proposed rating method contributes to the existing literature on social innovation and helps cooperatives to obtain credit from financial institutions and also promote accountability.
Arunima Guha

Chapter 12. Social Innovations in Organic Foods in Rainfed India: The Case of Dharani FaM Coop Ltd.

Reversing the deleterious effects of natural degradation in drought-prone regions requires collective action at different levels. While lessons on conservation of resources are aplenty there are few cases of collective enterprises that are both ecologically sound and economically viable at the same time. Managing the triple bottom lines often involves significant social innovations. This case on the Dharani Farming and Marketing (FaM) Coop Ltd. in Anantapur district of India demonstrates the potential of collective entrepreneurship for sustainable development while outlining the social innovations that are required by promoting organizations to deal with the whole value chain in agricultural commodities like millets. The case shows that cooperatives need to constantly innovate to create better value for its members across the value chain. The declining and vicious cycle of poor agricultural productivity, lack of social capital and their inability to make a dent in existing marketing chains by poor producers cannot be reversed by the conventional logic of aggregation of produce alone. Cooperatives today need to co-create newer value chains that can ensure better returns for its members. Investing in enhancing the collective experimentation capacity of producers is often a neglected element in creating sustainable futures that are good for members and the planet alike. Cooperatives are better positioned to simultaneously address many of the sustainable development goals and need to be seen as social enterprises that combine the dual logic of purpose and profit.
C. A. V. Sathish Kumar, C. Shambu Prasad

Chapter 13. Social Innovative Enterprises: Ubiquitous Cooperatives in the State of Tamil Nadu, India

Literature shows that social innovation initiatives primarily begin in reaction to inequalities and social exclusion. Two different types of cooperatives were selected with an objective to study the innovative practices adopted by the cooperatives to infuse the entrepreneurial skills among the members so as to uplift them socially and economically. Data from one hundred members were collected and were tabulated and interpreted. The innovative entrepreneurial activities initiated by these cooperatives in the form of skill development have really helped the members to adopt a modern and appropriate method for improving activities carried out over a period of time.
C. Pitchai, S. V. Akilandeeswari

Chapter 14. The Commitment of Cooperative Workers to the Movement: The Case of Japanese Consumers Co-op

Japanese consumers’ cooperative movement is famous for its “Han” system. The essence of that unique business model is the collaboration between cooperative members and workers. Japanese Co-op workers are not defined as mere employees but “partners” or “linkers” of the member-oriented movement. Both members and workers have been cooperatively engaged in business and social activities. Whereas previous researches on the consumer co-op movements in Europe are mainly focused on the consumer members, we will stress the active role of the cooperative workers in the movement from Japanese experience. Japanese Co-op workers fill the key role for the business and social activities of consumers’ cooperatives. The members enhance the motivation of the workers in cooperative societies. Conversely, the workers increase the commitment of members to the cooperative business. Workers’ active contribution to the cooperative movement is another source of the vital co-op as well as the members’ participatory democracy in Japan. It shows that member-owned business leads to social innovation beyond their personal interests with the collaboration with the workers on the cooperative idea.
Misa Aoki, Taiki Kagami, Takashi Sugimoto

Chapter 15. Worker Cooperatives: A Social Innovation to the Issue of Contractualization in the Philippines

The theoretical underpinnings of the worker cooperative model indicate its strong links with the notion of social innovation. Specifically, worker cooperatives are a social innovation in so far as it responds to a social need that has not been effectively addressed either by the market or by the government. This chapter provides the evidence to this linkage by exploring how the worker co-operative model is a viable solution to the highly contested issue of contractualization in the Philippines. By employing the methodological approach of case study and collecting data through focused group discussions and interviews with the stakeholders of four worker cooperatives in the country, the chapter shows that despite several challenges in the organization of worker cooperatives, stakeholders within a contractual arrangement are much better off through a worker cooperative arrangement. Nonetheless, inconsistencies within the Philippine legal framework and the overlapping functions among regulatory agencies inhibit worker cooperatives’ capacity to be a viable solution to contractualization. The chapter, therefore, recommends that government agencies to revisit the international framework on cooperatives to be enlightened and be able to set a standard notion of worker cooperatives vis-à-vis other types of cooperatives and consequently facilitate necessary regulations or ways of cooperative development.
Leo G. Parma, Maria Antonette D. Pasquin, Bienvenido P. Nito

Chapter 16. Creating Space for Women Leadership and Participation Through Innovative Strategies: A Case of Tribal women’s Dairy Cooperatives in Gujarat

The role of collective enterprises in fostering social innovations that enhance society’s capacity to act and reconfigure social goals has been insufficiently studied in the Indian context. The idea of social innovation consists of an in-depth analysis of social relations and practices at micro and macro levels of the institutions that can lead to positive political empowerment. Vasudhara milk cooperative is an excellent example of social innovation for mainstreaming gender in dairy cooperatives in South Gujarat. The collective action practices of the cooperatives have not only economically empowered tribal women but also created opportunities and space for their sustainable social and psychological development. Historically, dairy cooperatives had a poor representation of women in leadership roles. In the case of Gujarat, the numbers of women leaders at the higher positions of 20 milk cooperative unions are very limited. Vasudhara dairy cooperative, on the other hand, is a unique example of the successful cooperative having women in leadership roles. The milk cooperative has the highest number of women milk cooperatives in Gujarat state with 1238 and 8 women board of directors including the vice-chairman. This case study follows a qualitative research approach for data collection through in-depth interviews and focus group discussions. The theoretical perspectives are based on the theory of gender planning and development. The chapter aims to highlight the innovative women-sensitive strategies of the dairy cooperative to bring socioeconomic and political empowerment of tribal women.
Neha Christie, Shambu Prasad Chebrolu

Chapter 17. Democratizing Capital: Building Union Coop Partnerships Through Economically Targeted Investing and Crowdfunding Innovations

In many nations, workers possess a promising tool to catalyze social innovation by advancing cooperative business models and mutualistic business practices. This tool is the power of worker’s capital itself, pooled in massive pension funds, deployed in targeted private equity funds, and distributed in the pocketbooks and individual investments of workers themselves. The challenge is how to coordinate and deploy the potential power of this “workers’ capital” in a way that can humanize the broader economic system. This chapter explores how recent policy innovations in equity crowdfunding laws across the world, together with technological innovations (e.g., the expansion of social media and the rise of internet investment portals), have opened new paths for social innovation through a democratized deployment of investment capital by worker cooperative advocates. If strategically pursued, equity crowdfunding offers a pragmatic tool to democratize capital in labor-friendly ways. Through equity crowdfunding, large numbers of average investors can pursue socially conscious goals by coming together to support cooperative enterprises, built around socially innovative goals of democratic worker control, concern for the community, mutualism and equity among members. Labor unions can play an important role in strategically pursuing these socially innovative possibilities by promoting crowdfunding opportunities to their members.
Minsun Ji, Tony Robinson

Chapter 18. Asia Pacific Cooperatives Responding to Covid-19 Crisis

Cooperatives were hailed as resilient to crisis and seen as a model to pursue with greater vigour, after the economic crisis of 2008. Currently, they are passing through another crisis, which is of much larger dimension, in terms of its impact and uncertainty. It is therefore of interest to examine how they are responding to the crisis created by the pandemic of Covid-19. Cooperatives all over the world are responding and trying to do their best to protect their members and workers from the adverse impact of Covid-19. While the reporting on their activities seems to be not up to the desired level, based on the information from the reporting cooperatives, we can say that cooperatives are certainly responding keeping in mind the values and principles they are structured upon. In the Asia Pacific region, cooperatives are primarily trying to focus on relief measures and providing social and economic protection to their members and workers. They are partnering with state and/or responding to state mandates to an appreciative extent. Some cooperatives are exhibiting a much longer term and futuristic response trying to insulate their businesses from continued economic uncertainties and adjust their approach to business as well as meeting the needs of the members, to the ‘new normal’, that of living with the virus. The case example of IFFCO and ULCCS clearly demonstrates that cooperatives have a highly forward-looking approach and are functioning very much in tune with the principle and values cooperatives stand for.
Yashavantha Dongre, T. Paranjothi

Chapter 19. Cooperatives and Social Innovation: Conclusions and the Way Forward

This final chapter is devoted to present conclusions emerging from the volume. In doing so, the following elements embedded in the concept of social innovation are kept in mind. The first element is that innovations are initiated by institutions or organizations whose primary goal is social. Second, the purpose of innovative activities and services is to meet the unmet needs of members. Third, social innovations emerge when the market fails.
R. Manjula, D. Rajasekhar
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