In 2009, a network of local activists in Spain put forward a proposal through a newspaper to establish a cooperative. In May 2010, they came together and founded the Catalan Integral Cooperative (CIC). This has turned out to be a major new development in the world cooperative movement.
According to its website, the CIC aims at widespread self-management to rebuild society from the bottom-up. It is ‘integral’ in that it aims to bring together all the basic elements of an economy, such as production, consumption, funding, and a local currency. It wants to integrate all the activity sectors necessary to survive: food, housing, health, education, energy, transport, etc.
The CIC works through a collection of autonomous committees, each with its own field of responsibility. For example, the Economic Management Committee and the Legal Committee. To coordinate their activities, the cooperative holds assemblies, at which committee members make decisions collectively based on consensus.
Of special interest is a committee called the Network of Science, Technique & Technology. It is responsible for the development of tools and machines adapted to the needs of productive projects in the cooperative network. It develops solutions, which exemplify the principles of open design and appropriate technology, geared to the needs of small cooperative projects.
The CIC has no rigid boundaries. For example, there are self-employed members outside its ‘core’, who use the legal and economic ‘tools’ of the cooperative. These are mainly professionals and small producers.
Local exchange networks form the ‘kernel’ of the economic model of the CIC. These are similar to the LETS schemes that exist in many Australian communities. Each exchange network constitutes a self-organised marketplace for the local community, where members can buy and sell locally-available products and services. Payment can be through barter exchange, or by means of a local currency. The forty or so local exchange networks generally use an alternative currency called the ‘eco’.
The Cooperative of Social & Network Self-financing is a savings, donations, and project funding cooperative, set up to provide funding for projects aligned with the principles of the CIC. It functions like a bank, but deposits earn no interest.
The Catalan Supply Centre was formed in 2012. It has set up a logistics network to transport and deliver the products of small producers. The network involves twenty ‘pantries’. Each is run autonomously by a local consumer group which wishes to access local products, especially food, as well as products made in other parts of Catalonia.
The form of government adopted by the CIC is a direct, deliberative, participatory democracy. Each cooperative project, eco-network, or local group makes its own decisions. Issues are handled at the lowest level possible level, according to the principle of subsidiarity.
- George Dafermos, The Catalan Integral Cooperative: an organizational study of a postcapitalist cooperative, A joint publication between the P2P Foundation and Robin Hood Coop, October 2017.
- Ted Trainer, The Catalan Integral Cooperative: The Simpler Way revolution is well under way! January 2018.
Dr Geoff Lacey is an honorary fellow in the School of Geography, University of Melbourne, and author of Sufficient for the day (Yarra Institute Press, 2011).