Co-operative Movement of the Netherlands on the National Inventory Intangible Cultural Heritage?

tempel blauwFoundation Journey of the Razzia (Reis van de Razzia) has put forward a proposal to list the Co-operative Movement of the Netherlands on the National Inventory of Intangible Cultural Heritage.

The proposal wil be evaluated in November 2016, somewhere at the time the German application to put the Genossenschaften on the Word heritage reference list of UNESCO wil be decided. The Dutch proposal is effectively put forward by the Associations ‘To Our Avail’ and ‘Memento Mori’. The proposal is backed by the National Co-operative Museum. 

(The following comes from the research report). 

The research project ‘Chronicle of a Gov’s Association’ has established by fact that the Association “To Our Avail” is not an isolated biotope. The Association was able to respond adequately to the evolving economical circumstances and this has contributed to her longevity. “To Our Avail”’ has also empowered the local community for more than a century by strengthening social cohesion. Apart from that, the flexibility of the economy increased because the cooperative movements lead to a greater diversity of business structures. 

The attention for cooperative forms can be traced back to the early Middle Ages. ”At that time”, argues Prof. De Moor, ”there was a Silent Revolution, because it didn’t evolve riots, but the construction of new social institutions”. The current economical cycles we are experiencing are, according to the De Moor, evidence of a new Silent Revolution. New Business-models increasingly incorporate cooperative principles as a solution for the dwindling Welfare-State. Nevertheless, despite her longstanding history, the cooperative principles are not always being carried forward by businesses presenting themselves as “commons”. The up and coming Sharing Economy and changing structures of some well-known Cooperative Banks seriously contribute to this wide-spread disorientation. 

Nurturing of and promoting the cooperative principles encourages new forms of Institutions for Collective Action orientate and helps to prevent confusion. The project ‘Chronicle of The Governor’s Association’ provides a modest contribution by securing the importance and the history of this local cooperative through immortalizing the personal stories and minutes of ”To Our Avail” and by situating them in the context of their times. In line with this we propose the Cooperative Movement as a suitable candidate for the Dutch National Intangible Heritage Inventory.[1] At present our request coincides with the current application to the UNESCO Commission Germany for the Genossenshaften to be included on the Representative List for the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity. The Association “To Our Avail” is very proud to be part of this movement and is looking forward to see the German application for UNESCO accepted by November 2016.

(Translation: Jeanette Tierney)

Introduction: Chronicle of the Governor’s Association

bbondje_rood_achterland_basisChronicle of the Governor’s Association is a field research project investigating the sustainability of a so-called Institution for Collective Action.

A cooperative Association is an expression of such an institute. By examining the functioning of a 110-year-old Cooperative sickness fund we aimed to identify the qualities that have ensured the long-term existence of the Association.

The Association “To Our Avail” has operated since 1905 as a communal sickness fund for entrepreneurs in Amsterdam-North. The Association is part of the so-called Second Wave of the Cooperative Movement, initiated in Germany by Friedrich Wilhelm Raiffeisen and Franz Hermann Schulze-Delitzsch. The German movement led to the foundation of for example the Raiffeisenbank and Local Farmer’s Bank (Boerenleenbank). In 1972 the two merged, resulting in the Cooperative RaBoBank. Since 2015 the cooperative structure has gradually been abandoned to a more centralized form of management control.

By means of counteraction to this form of progression a renewed interest has arisen for various forms of cooperative entrepreneurship. The rise of the Participation Society and the economical crisis of 2008 are all determinants, which have sparked this renewed interest in the commonality.

Despite this interest, the principles of self-governance and cooperation are currently no longer apparent in the collective social conscience, argues Prof. Tine Moor (University of Utrecht. With the research project Chronicle of the Governor’s Association we aim to contribute to safeguarding and propagating the original principles of the Society.

The emphasis of the project Chronicle of The Governor’s Association lies on facilitating the process of change within the Association “To Our Avail”. In order to achieve this goal we applied the Method “Challenge for Change” as developed by the National Film Board of Canada (NFB). Hereby filmed video-interviews and reports are employed to create discourse. The data is consequently presented to the target group and generates new outcomes. The board and members of the Association “To Our Avail”’ thus form active participants in our research. The interviews were supplemented with results of historical research in order to provide the necessary context. We collaborated with experts conducting contemporary Academical Research about the functioning of Commonality in the present period, also known as the Third Wave of the Cooperative Movement.

The project The Chronicle of The Governor’s Association is divided into three periods of which the first one covers the foundation years and the rise of the Society from 1905 till 1939. The second period deals with the Welfare-State: 1966-1985.

The third and final chapter covers the period 2005-2016 of which the latter years were dominated by the American Financial Crisis of 2008 . This crisis gradually resulted in a fundamental rethink among citizens and local communities worldwide about the actual functioning of the present-day economical principles.

Chronicle of The Governor’s Association has thus become a narration of the local and the common, juxtaposed against the setting of the bigger social movements. The Association “To Our Avail” can therefore be seen as a lieu de mémoire in which “Memory” and “History” are intertwined, a relationship formerly described by Pierre Nora. (Pierre Nora. “Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Mémoire” as published in the Magazine Representations – edition 26.)

The project Chronicle of the Governor’s Association is initiated by the Dutch Foundation Journey of the Razzia (Stichting Reis van de Razzia) in the context of its research programme “Journey through the Hinterland”. The project is supported by the research group ‘Institutions for Collective Action’, supervised by Prof. Tine de Moor of the University of Utrecht. Also partner in the project were the Digital Platform DANS (Data And networked Services) of the KNAW (Royal Dutch Academy for Science).

The projecPrins-Bernhard-Cultuurfonds_RGB_logo-800x846pxt is financially supported by the Prince Bernard Culture Fund North-Holland.