The International organisation of industrial and service cooperatives (CICOPA) has been a sector organisation of the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) since 1947. Its full members are representative organisations of cooperatives from different sectors: graphic design, construction, social services, renewable energy production, industrial production, education, transport, health, intellectual services, artisanal activities, etc. Its associated members are support organisations promoting cooperatives in those sectors.
Many of those cooperatives are worker cooperatives, namely cooperatives where the members are the staff of the enterprise, i.e., worker-members, being the owners of the company. Because of this, those enterprises are characterized by a distinctive type of labour relations, called “worker ownership”, different from the one experienced by conventional employees or by the self-employed. CICOPA also represents social cooperatives which are specialised in the provision of services of general interest or in the reintegration, through work, of disadvantaged or marginalised workers and cooperatives of self-employed producers established in order to cooperativize common inputs or services.
With the recent transformation of the world economy, industrial and service cooperatives are no longer a marginal phenomenon. Numbers have increased in both industrialised and developing countries over recent years. CICOPA currently has a total of 52 members in 36 countries which in turn affiliate 65,000 enterprises employing 4 million persons. However, there is evidence that this world phenomenon is quantitatively much wider: worker cooperatives, social cooperatives and cooperatives of self-employed producers in industry and services together employ almost 20 million people worldwide: 11.5 million worker-members and 6 million self-employed producer-members active in industry and services.