Analysis of the impact of cooperative and social enterprises on work quality: wellbeing, perceptions, assessment

Research Area: Measurement and Impact
Scientific coordinator: Sara Depedri
Project Manager: Sara Depedri

Project status: on-going


Human resource management policies are more and more often focusing on worker well-being in terms of family-work reconciliation, stress reduction, support through corporate welfare, and the creation of heterogeneous working groups – considered as a place for sharing knowledge and development of ideas, flexibility – to respond to evolutions both in products and in the labor market.

If companies have all attempted to assume responsibility under these profiles, the analysis of employment relationships and the control of job quality is of primary importance for those organizations where the worker is at the center of the activity: worker cooperatives and social cooperatives, and, more generally, high-intensity human capital firms. Moreover, the analysis of employment relationships emerges as crucial when considering that cooperatives and social enterprises are often accused of of providing low quality jobs .

The research project renews a theme on which Euricse had already worked since its inception with the aim of understanding the determinants of satisfaction at work and investigating the intrinsic and extrinsic motivations of workers. Specifically, the research project aims to analyze job relationships through direct assessment by workers and analysis of organizational policies.


The research aim is to evaluate the quality of work in high-value human capital firms by using appropriate assessment and collection tools (questionnaires following the mixed method) to verify the impact of work on individual well-being and on the interactions with third parties. Specific objectives are : (i) to investigate contractual dimensions (stability, economic impact), psychological and subjective perceptions (welfare, commitment, equity), use and evaluation of organizational tools (family and work reconciliation, flexibility), dynamics in the work environment (relationships, social support, etc.); (ii) to propose indicators of the quality of work by drawing from both internationally validated dimensions and psychological and economic literature; (iii) to verify the correlation between work size and individual characteristics; (iv) investigate policies and dynamics of cooperative and social enterprises, also with the aim of carrying out comparative analyzes between them.

From a practical point of view, researchers aim to collaborate with cooperative and social enterprises at the national level to provide them with tools for a proper and complete monitoring of the well-being of their workers and to suggest improvements in human resource practices.

Main results

In the past years the research has come to theoretically identify the levers of good work and quality of work in cooperative and social enterprises. Furthermore, the empirical investigation has been strengthenedby the collaboration with some cooperatives and credit cooperatives, and data were collected regarding about 900 workers. Analyses allowed to highlight high levels of satisfaction, intrinsic motivation, perceived equity and workers’ loyalty to these organizational forms .

The achieved results, presented in the reports on the individual cooperatives that participated in the study, have also allowed the cooperatives to meet the regulatory requirements for stress monitoring and to consider the strengths and weaknesses of their human resource management policies. For example, they have highlighted how the activity sector and the policies for promoting active participation by the workers are fundamental elements for a better perception of work quality and well-being. They have also shown that, at the same time, it is important for cooperatives to ensure that their workers feel involved in an organization whose history and objectives are different from an ordinary business.

Empirical analyses on job quality and employment relationships continue to be proposed in those organizational contexts that want to investigate workers wellbeing, particularly as part of their analysis of social impact – in this case with respect to one of their primary stakeholders.


Depedri, S., Ma quale stress? Rapporto sulla qualità del lavoro e sullo stress lavoro-correlato percepito dai dipendenti – report di ricerca individuali per banche di credito cooperative, singole cooperative sociali, Risto3,  Consorzio InConcerto.

Depedri S. (2014) “Determinants and consequences of on-the-job relationships: an empirical analysis of Italian social cooperatives”, Journal Of Organizational Diversity, Volume 3, Issue 2, pp. 49-74

Becchetti, L., Castriota, S., Depedri S. (2014), “Working in the For-Profit versus Not-For-Profit Sector: What Difference Does It Make? An Inquiry on Preferences of Voluntary and Involuntary Movers”, Industrial and Corporate Change, Vol. 23, No. 4, pp. 1087-1120 – H index in RePEc 21, IF 1,235, Fascia di merito (JRSIE): B, Fascia di merito (JR-AIDEA12): A.

Tortia, E.,C., Albanese, M.,  Navarra, C., (2014), “Employer moral hazard and wage rigidity. The case of worker owned and investor owned firms”, in International review of  Law  and Economics, Impact factor 0.476.

Borzaga C e Depedri S. (2013) “When social enterprises do it better: efficiency and efficacy of work integration in Italian social cooperatives”, in Denny S and Simmon F. (edited by) Social Enterpsies – Accountability and evaluation around the world, Routledge, pp.85-101


The concept of “impact” and particularly of “social impact” is assuming increasing relevance at both a scientific level and among policy-makers. Interest is growing particularly in the development of a system of evaluation aimed at identifying the social effects in general and in particular the impact on work quality and the supply of welfare services by social enterprises, and more generally cooperatives.

The research wants to make an original contribution to this debate and has the objective both of developing specific methodological proposals for impact evaluation for cooperatives and social enterprises, and concretely measuring certain types of impact of particular significance.

The other projects that fall within this line of research are:

Analysis of the impact of social cooperatives and enterprises on work integration;

Analysis of the role played by social enterprise in modern welfare systems in a comparative perspective.


University of Trento,

Single interested credit cooperatives, worker cooperatives, social cooperatives and social enterprises

Last publications

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