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News article13 June 20236 min read

Cooperatives in Slovenia: Collaborative and Participatory Socio-Economic Practices – Why Cooperatives?

CAAP Slovenia
CAAP Slovenia

The combination of various social and economic factors influence and shape the overall well-being, development and functioning of a society as a whole. We shall recognize the interdependence and interaction between social and economic dimensions and emphasize the importance of considering both aspects in understanding and addressing societal issues.


Collaborative and participatory socio-economic practices

Collaborative and participatory socio-economic practices refer to approaches and models that involve active involvement, cooperation, and shared decision-making among various stakeholders within an economic system. These practices aim to create a more inclusive, equitable and sustainable society by promoting collaboration, participation and shared benefits. There are different forms in which we can recognise these practices, such as participatory budgeting, community-based and bottom-up development, open-source knowledge and technologies, cooperatives. These few examples are just a different ways in which collaborative and participatory socio-economic practices are implemented. By emphasizing active participation, shared decision-making, and equitable distribution of benefits, these practices strive to create a more just and sustainable society, empowering individuals and communities to shape their own economic destinies.


Cooperatives and community

In a cooperative, the business is owned and controlled by its members, who are typically the individuals directly involved in the enterprise, such as workers, producers or consumers. This democratic ownership structure ensures that decision-making power is distributed equally among members, giving everyone a say in shaping the direction and policies of the cooperative. This participatory approach fosters a sense of ownership and engagement among members. But cooperatives are not percieved only as economic entities, since in addition to being active in the market (where they are otherwise subject to the same market and economic laws as all other economic interests), they are also aimed at solving the problems of local communities. Cooperatives often prioritize social and community well-being over purely financial gain. They can be established to address specific local needs or promote social goals, such as providing affordable housing, healthcare services, sustainable food production, fair trade practices. Cooperatives contribute to community development, social cohesion and sustainable economic practices, making them an attractive choice for individuals and communities seeking to create positive social impact. They all operate according to common cooperative values ​​and cooperative principles.


Cooperative landscape in Slovenia

Slovenia is one of the oldest cooperative countries in the world and that cooperatives are part of our cultural tradition. The first cooperative that was founded on Slovenian soil was in 1856, just 12 years after the first cooperative in the world. It was created as saving-bank cooperative, namely as an association of farmers and artisans in need of a loan for financing development, as they were previously at the mercy of usurious lenders. Since then, we have experienced three times the flourishing and destruction of Slovenian cooperative movement. (ZADRUŽNIŠTVO – Stanje v Sloveniji 2020, poročilo in smernice za razvoj).

In the light of the new, fourth rise of cooperative movement in the last ten years here are some data and status of cooperatives in Slovenia from 2012 to 2022.

data on cooperatives in Slovenia

Based on the statistical review, we can draw some conclusions regarding the development and state of cooperatives in Slovenia in the last few years from 2012 to 2022. The number of cooperatives was increasing and is now we see the trend of decreasing again. Total number of employees in cooperatives was steadily decreasing, but in the last two years finally we see a smaller increase in the number of employees. Annual revenue is back raising after several years of decline. Employees in cooperatives in Slovenia represent 0.3% of the entire working population, which is a significantly lower percentage than at the European (2 %) or global (10 %) level.


We have a lively cooperative history and even now, cooperatives as a civil movement are strong, however, in the share of turnover and employment and in the scope of services and products of the cooperatives in Slovenia wea are far behind than other counties. The Slovenian legislation, supporting environment, as well as financial instruments for cooperatives is good enough for cooperative development and strenghtening cooperative movement - it does not directly hinders cooperatives, but it does not explicitly encourage it either.

For further development and strengthening of cooperative movement in Slovenia we shall (1) adopt and implement normative and systemic measures, fon instance cooperatives are under the jurisdiction of Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Food which complicates the development, financing and support of cooperatives operating in other fields; (2) implement various organizational and promotional measures and (3) financial mechanisms (different resources for financing (repayable and granted) and equity financing). (Aplikativna analiza stanja na področju socialne ekonomije v Republiki Sloveniji)


So, why cooperatives?

In cooperatives there is collective risk sharing, since members have a shared stake in the business, they also share the financial risks and responsibilities  That can provide a safety net for individual members and reduce the impact of economic uncertainties or business setbacks. It promotes resilience and stability within the cooperative and supports the long-term viability of the business. By pooling resources and leveraging collective bargaining power, cooperatives can achieve economies of scale, reduce costs and improve market access. This allows members to compete more effectively in the marketplace and achieve better economic outcomes compared to individual businesses. Cooperatives should provide opportunities for members to develop new skills, learn about cooperative principles and practices and participate in the governance and management of the cooperative which can all contribute to lifelong learning. By distributing economic power and decision-making authority among various stakeholders, cooperatives aim to create a society where individuals and communities have a greater say in shaping their economic lives and where wealth and resources are more fairly distributed. Cooperatives foster social cohesion and collaboration within communities. They bring together individuals who share common goals and interests, fostering social interaction, trust and cooperation. By creating a platform for individuals to work together towards a shared vision, cooperatives contribute to building strong and resilient communities. As they prioritize social values, empower individuals, they also contribute to the overall well-being and constant development of society.

Author: Petra Peternel, Centre for Alternative and Autonomous Production (Združenje CAAP, so.p.)


About CAAP

The Association Center for Alternative and Autonomous Production is a supporting non-governmental organization for the development of the social economy and new social practices and a Social Enterprise. It operates as a connecting organization with the mission of developing the local environment according to the model of revitalizing social processes. CAAP creates a supportive environment for the development of social economy and social innovation, thereby strengthening self-organization and community empowerment. The organization implements its mission through three key activities or programs, firstly, by moderating and enabling social processes in the direction of the development of socially innovative practices, products and companies, as well as community empowerment. Secondly, through education, training and consulting in the field of cooperatives, social and solidarity economies, economic democracy and social innovation. And thirdly, through research and advocacy for the development of cooperatives, social and solidarity economies, and economic democracy.

CAAP has a status in the public interest in the field of developing new social practices to meet the needs of the community (Ministry of Public Administration of the Republic of Slovenia) and is a proud network affiliate member of CECOP. CAAP is member of Council for Social Economy established by the Government of the Republic of Slovenia as a representative of cooperatives.



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Publication date
13 June 2023
EU Country
  • Slovenia
  • Cooperatives
  • National level
  • Social economy organisation