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 focus on one of the co-op values, democracy and what does democracy means during this circuit breaker period, Stay Home, Stay Safe in Singapore.democracy-coop-valueThis is the third article in the 5-part co-operative value series of what it takes to be a valuable co-op member, and we aren’t going to let things be political. Well, maybe a little.

So you must be wondering: what’s democracy doing in a co-op? A co-op is essentially a team, and whatever decisions the team makes has to be with the agreement of the teammates. This is how most democratic countries work. In short, democracy means giving members a say in the way we run the cooperative business.

Scottish Parliament Building

To better understand what democracy is in a co-op, let us look at something we are very familiar with. Our very own students governing our welfare, school procedures, and any other aspects pertaining to us. If you haven’t gotten the answer yet, think and scroll down.

Credit: The Choate News

Spoiler alert: it’s the student council.

Think about it, the student council is an excellent example of democracy, and it is also a co-op system. Members share their experiences and ideas for the overall welfare of the students. How are they elected though?

The fate of the chair they sit on, rests entirely upon the hands you use to scroll through this webpage.

It doesn’t matter how many A1’s or C6’s you get.

Nobody looks at how many assignments you’ve completed.

And it doesn’t even matter how many pens you have in your pencil case. Everybody gets ONE vote. That’s the power of democracy.

raise hands having a say

And it is with that one vote can you hold your ground on an issue, be it electing a suitable candidate or making decisions as a team. This is why it is so important in a co-op. It lets members speak.

Real Madrid FC

Are there any co-op societies that uphold democracy? Of course! Not to bore you, though, we’ll be looking at only one such organization. It’s a team that plays the sport we all used to play in the void deck or on the field. It also happens to be the capital of Spain.

Yep, you guessed it right! It is none other than Real Madrid, the famous football club. Fact: they are a co-op society as well!

Real Madrid Co-operative Logo

Real Madrid is completely owned by its members (including fans), and they get to decide who becomes the president of the team! Like most other countries, the president changes after every 4 years and a re-election is held.

Bad joke, but Real supporters are the real supporters of the club * cue ba dum tss *, because they have no intention of making a profit from the team.

That means that ticket prices for games played by Real are cheaper compared to privately-owned clubs.

The undoubted stellar career of Real has made co-op football clubs an alternative to privately-owned clubs, and is pioneering future co-op clubs in other sports.

Seacare Co-operative Ltd

Of course, co-ops here in Singapore exhibit democracy too! Take the Seacare Co-operative Ltd for example, which was established in May 1994. This organization was a developed version of the Singapore Organisation of Seamen (SOS), established in 1971 by the NTUC.

Logo of Seacare Co-operative and Seacare Hotel

Logo of Seacare Co-operative and Seacare Hotel

The main function of the co-op was to re-employ and reintegrate seamen into the Singaporean workforce, as the late 1980s saw the displacement and retrenchment of many sailors. This was a concern of many sailors in the co-op, but their voices did not go unheard.

The SOS had heeded to their pleas and jointly decided to combine forces with NTUC to set up the Seacare Co-operative Ltd. Through appropriate investment measures and businesses expanding in the five areas of environment, medicine, marine, manpower and property. Consequentially, during 2001 – 2005, the co-op reported a yearly turnover of about 23 million SGD. They even have a hotel!

Seacare Hotel

Credit: The Seacare Hotel

The democratic nature of the co-op allowed them to solve the issue on their own, instead of letting the seafarers struggle with unemployment. Their voices were heard and not unnoticed, which is what makes a co-op so strong.

Democracy shapes what a co-op is supposed to be. Everybody has equal say in what happens in the team, and everybody is heard. Nobody dominates, nobody slacks. No matter where you are from, no matter how many shares you have, you still get the same voice as everybody else.

 

Teamwork

You might understand how important it is for everyone to speak their mind regarding a project, but I hope you have understood why co-op values democracy so much. When you are discussing something in your co-op, listen to your teammates, give them equal say, and try not to override them. If you are someone who doesn’t say much, speak up!

Remember, the fate of the co-op rests in each and every member.


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.

CONNECT WITH US