Social participation and active volunteers: Analysis of motivation among Ancc-COOP members

Research Area: Economic theory
Scientific coordinator: Sara Depedri

Project status: Concluded

The aim of this research project was to evaluate the ability of a large consumer cooperative (COOP) to promote internal participation by members and to attract volunteer members, involving and satisfying them and inspiring loyalty through the policy of making members active by introducing the figure of the “elected volunteer member”. The research therefore involved studying a specific governance model, in which an intermediary representative body for members was established.

The model and the figure of the active or elected member were conceived as a way to rekindle members’ social motivation and be closer to the community. The research initially involved interviews with the people in charge of social policies for the big Coops at a national level. Subsequently questionnaires were distributed to the elected volunteer members. The data was then analysed in order to understand the types of active members and their motivations.

Objectives

The research had the following objectives:

  • to analyse the phenomenon of social participation in Coop from a quantitative perspective, producing an economic estimate of its relevance through some basic data, such as the hours of voluntary work carried out by volunteer members, the activities they conducted and the roles they held.
  • to investigate the effects of social participation, in terms of the relationship between volunteering in Coop and the local area, with the aim of examining participation as a cultural phenomenon.
  • to investigate the motivation behind the social participation and the commitment of the volunteer members, in association with participation levels, socio-demographic characteristics, the capacity to be critical and make suggestions in regards to sales points and the production and consumption of goods and services at Coop.

Main Results

The research included interviews with 12 of those responsible for social policies and the questionnaire was completed by 633 elected volunteer members, representing all of the major Coops at a national level. In regards to the analysis of the data collected from the volunteers, the core of the research, one of the first things to be verified was the high level of participation and the good motivations of the elected volunteer members. The data confirmed the capacity of Coop and the proposed model to motivate and satisfy the elected volunteer members and inspire their commitment. However, risks do exist, linked to the difficulty of some structures to attract young people and their greater sense of isolation within the cooperative. The analyses made it possible to come up with some policy advice that can help improve the functioning of this unusual system.

Recommendations

So that the volunteers feel valued within the organization, it seems necessary that Coop provides them in advance with the tools for carrying out activities and, afterwards, lets them share in the obtained results. A fundamental consideration for a possible future increase in the participation of active members is therefore training for volunteers, which when the research was conducted seemed to still be little used, not very effective, at times fragmented and requiring innovation in its formulation and content.

Publications

Depedri S., (2012),  COOP e la partecipazione sociale nell’anno europeo del volontariato: una realtà, una motivazione, Euricse Report

Depedri S., (2012), COOP and volunteer participation in the European year of volunteering: reality and motivation, Euricse Report.

This research project is part of a general scientific reflection on the role of cooperatives and social enterprises and empirical analyses aimed at testing them. The overall project aims to come up with innovative interpretations of the role of cooperative and social enterprises, based in particular on an analysis of organizations as a mix in which the cooperation coordination mechanism represents a central and establishing element for possible comparative advantages in relations with members and to generate cooperative behaviour among them. This research was therefore one of the elements of in-depth analysis within the following research project:

Towards an economic theory of cooperative and social enterprises and an understanding of their role and potential

Other studies are connected to the same research project, with the common objective of verifying the characteristics and rationale of cooperative and social enterprises and the relationship with their members:

Aspects of participation and social relations in consumer cooperatives in Trentino;

I’m a member of a cooperative bank: Between economic, ownership-related and ideological participation.

Partners

Associazione Nazionale Cooperative di Consumatori, COOP