Coop Leaders’ Dialogue on Cooperative Identity organised by
MASS-SPECC, an ICA Member in Philippines

On June 24, 2021, MASS-SPECC, an ICA member from the Philippines, held the Coop Leaders’ Dialogue on Cooperative Identity. A series of Cluster and Regional Steering Committee meetings were also conducted from August to October 2021 to continue the on-ground conversations to identify action points for cooperatives to strengthen cooperative their identity. The outcomes of the dialogue were:

I. Deepening the Cooperative Identity

In Philippines, not all the cooperative principles are consistently practiced by cooperatives. The cooperative leaders focus mostly on the business side of the enterprise and coop principles have not been given their due importance in operations. To ensure that cooperatives put into practice the values and principles, a comprehensive review and monitoring of the policies and business practices was suggested. The leaders recommended integrating SCI in work plans, programs, policies, and business operations and facilitating continuous education for coop members, officers, and staff. Some of the actions identified for MASS-SPEC include –

II. Differentiating cooperatives from other businesses

The leaders discussed that cooperatives must see the difference from other businesses and should focus on member services and engagement. They need to prove themselves as socially responsible enterprises by putting premium on people, the planet, and prosperity. For this, their products and services should integrate SCI and translate into improving the lives of members and the community. The dialogue fleshed out several actions such as –.

III.Increasing the competitiveness of cooperatives

Cooperatives in the Philippines are slowly losing out to competition mainly because of complacency. Uncompetitive lending rates and lack of integrated operations made the business processes less efficient. To ensure competitiveness in the market, coops must embrace innovation (e.g., use of technology, digitalization, the efficiency of operations, and delivery of quality service to members), involve youth, cooperate with other coops, improve member relations, add value to members, and enhance the competencies of leaders, staff, and members. The coop leaders recommended coops should invest and participate in shared services within the cluster or inter-cluster activities and institutions (e.g., hospital, processing facility, etc.)

IV. Cooperation among cooperatives

There is competition and no cooperation among cooperatives due to a lack of government regulations, policy guidance, and self-regulation structure. The prevalence of individual interests over common interests also aggravates the competition. To tackle this challenge, the leaders recommended that all cooperatives should agree on and develop a system of self-regulation by creating standards, internal guidelines, harmonized policies, mechanisms for dialogue, collaboration, knowledge building, and regular enforcement and monitoring by the federation. The Cooperative Development Authority (CDA) was advised to create clear regulations and guidelines on coop branching and multi-membership, among other concerns.

Standards for savings and loan interest, education, and other practices can be developed at the cluster level and initiated by the Mindanao Cooperative Manager Club (MCMC) and MASS-SPECC was also suggested among other things.

Mr. Balasubramanian Iyer, Regional Director, ICA-AP at the Coop Leaders’ Dialogue

V. Environmental and social responsibility

Environmental programs of cooperatives have a limited impact because resources are not pooled for greater impact. Environmental programs are only seasonal, not sustainable. The leaders advised to implement programs where there is pooling of resources and partnering with environmental groups and local government units (LGUs). MASS-SPECC was recommended to coordinate and monitor the implementation of these programs, inform cooperatives of the results, and recommend future actions. It was also recommended to implement SCOOPS and lead in the institutionalization of 3Rs (Re-use, Recycle, Reduce) as a coop policy.

VI. New initiatives: Agriculture, Health services, etc.

In addition to the existing initiatives on agriculture and health services, cooperatives were encouraged to support Yaman ang Kalusugan Program (YAKAP) and Agri-Based Enterprise System (Agri-BEST) programs, emphasize the value of healthcare for members, and promote the wholistic program for farmers, involving cooperatives in the value chain in collaboration with government agencies and CSOs. Some of the actions recommended were: