Idea and practice of organizing shared interests in cooperatives
Inscribed in 2016 (11.COM) on the Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity
A cooperative is an association of volunteers that provides services of a social, cultural or economic nature to members of the community to help improve living standards, overcome shared challenges and promote positive change. Based on the subsidiarity principle that puts personal responsibility above state action, cooperatives allow for community building through shared interests and values creating innovative solutions to societal problems, from generating employment and assisting seniors to urban revitalization and renewable energy projects. Anyone can participate, with members also able to acquire shares in the association and have a say in its future direction. The system makes available low-interest loans to farmers, craftspeople and entrepreneurs. Today, about a quarter of Germany’s population are members of a cooperative, which besides farmers and craftspeople, includes 90 per cent of its bakers and butchers and
75 per cent of its retailers. Some cooperatives have also been set up specifically for students to gain experience. Associated knowledge and skills are transmitted by cooperatives, universities, the German Cooperative and Raiffeisen Confederation, The Akademie Deutscher Genossenschaften, the German Hermann-Schulze-Delitzsch Society and the German Friedrich-Wilhelm-Raiffeisen Society.