In the Co-operative Values Series, we shared about the co-operative values that will make an individual a caring and productive person and inspire individuals to come together to enhance the betterment of the communities.
In this article, we talk about two co-op values, Equality and Equity, and how these two co-op values help during this month-long circuit period, Stay Home, Stay Safe in Singapore.
We have realized that in a co-op, equal say is extremely important.
But, a co-op involves a few other aspects that must be equal, including how much opportunity each member gets. Everyone should be treated with fairness. Before we delve into fairness and co-op, let’s first clear the confusion between the two words.
What’s the Difference?
Imagine A has four oranges, B and C have none. B is poorer than C, so he cannot afford food.
If A gives both of them two oranges each regardless of their monetary situation, that’s equality.
If A gives B three oranges because he is poorer, and gives C one orange, that’s equity.
Let’s not turn this into a debate about which one is better, but rather how a co-op integrates them together.
A co-op involves everyone helping each other and helping themselves. Every member in a co-op contributes to how much they can. But everyone has to contribute something.
It is like when you have a university group project and you have to go to an external organization. But one of your teammates has a tight schedule so he can only make it for a few of the agreed days. In short, equity is how we carry out our co-op business in a way that is fair and unbiased.
Now let’s look at equality. Everyone gets a fair chance to contribute to the group. Nobody likes a slacker. And it’s not fair for someone to “hard-carry” the group.
All the members in a co-op are willing to take up equal opportunities in different sectors, be it marketing, or finance, or HR. This is similar to how we assign a group leader, a videographer, or a presenter whenever we have a JC or university project!
That’s equality. In short, equality is no matter how much money a member invests in their co-op, they still have one vote! They have equal say!
Believe it or not, these two principles are emulated throughout co-op companies worldwide, such as Rabobank based in the Netherlands. It has grown to become a driving force in global finance, and is especially known for lending support to other smaller co-ops.
Rabobank functions to finance start-up co-op coffee grower organisations in Central America so that they escape being manipulated by bigger middlemen who charge exorbitant prices for their coffee. This promotes fair trade among coffee growers in Central America.
That is fair to both consumers and the coffee growers themselves. Consumers get coffee at a cheaper rate and coffee growers aren’t exploited.
AUPE Multi-Purpose Co-operative Society
These two co-op values are even exemplified in different co-ops in Singapore. For example, Amalgamated Union of Public Employees (AUPE) Multi-Purpose Co-operative Society is a co-op offering general services such as home renovation, food and beverage, printing and machinery leasing. It was established in 1973.
Credits: AUPE Multi-Purpose Co-operative Society
However, it was previously a thrift-and-loan society, which was set up on 9 March 1965 by the lower-paid workers in the postal and telecommunications units with the help of the National Trade Union Congress (NTUC). They pooled their money together to encourage thrift among the members.
The co-op was so successful that by 1968, money could be set aside to give to poorer members, or as scholarships. To cater to the growing needs of the members, they decided to shift to more general ventures like property services and printing.
All the members pool together their monetary resources in AUPE, which means that everyone must contribute. It is also noteworthy that the money can be set aside to give financially challenged members some monetary aid, displaying equity.
Equality and equity are probably the main pillars of a co-op, because who doesn’t like being given opportunities to excel?
Honestly speaking, prepare yourself. It is going to be a more collaborative and coop-oriented future. Everyone needs an equal opportunity to show what they can do and play their part.
When you start a co-op, find some time to organize and divide the labour in the group, making sure everyone has equal opportunities and can contribute equitably. Equality and equity in both opportunities and team dynamics can really help boost a team’s potential.
This article was brought to you by Rishi Rayapati from Anglo-Chinese School (Independent), an intern at SNCF from 9 December to 13 December 2019. Rishi likes reading a good book and playing badminton.