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Periodic Report Summary 1 - CO-OP ISOMPRPHISM (CO-OP ISOMORPHISM: From epidemiology of implicit anthropologies to good co-operative governance)

In this research, we answer two questions. (1) Why are some co-operatives isomorphic to investor-owned companies? In other words, why do they resemble capital venture companies in their operations, promotion activities and staff behaviours and thus are under threat of losing their co-operative identity? (2) How can co-op members and executives recognize strategic value in the adherence to Co-operative Values and Principles, audit themselves and their co-op and avoid isomorphism? Those two questions are important not only for the co-operatives? They are important for all other sectors which abide by a different set of values than profit orientation such as family companies, non-profit organizations, public institutions (e.g. schools, hospitals), religious institutions, political parties, trade unions, etc.
Given their associational character on the one hand, and market pressure on the other, co-ops are susceptible to isomorphism. This co-op isomorphism is noted in a number of studies and some government policies which help to privatise co-ops like in Ireland or in Poland. The reasons for this isomorphism are traditionally sought for in areas delineated by classical studies of DiMaggio and Powell (1983) who propose three forces of institutional isomorphism: (i) coercive; (ii) mimetic (iii) normative. Market and financial power of corporations to influence culture and epidemiology of representations may seem responsible for isomorphic abandoning co-operative values. This epidemiology of profit related cognitive structures influences the law, the education and the examples of good practice. The solution may be a new form meritocracy, where all co-operative members are competent in the most sensitive domains of expertise. I call such future governance system – a common meritocracy, in opposition to Aristotelian elitist meritocracy which transformed into, and is traditionally called aristocracy. In this research, we claim that apart from the market and economic factors, isomorphism has psychological roots in the contagion of implicit anthropologies, lack of business and economic literacy and governance structures that do not recognise human dignity and participation as an important part of that dignity. I proposed to audit all of those factors with known or new tools developed during the fellowship. They aim at individual diagnosis and following it an organizational multidisciplinary audit.
In the search of a way to measure implicit anthropologies, on one hand we encountered the concept of vertical and horizontal as well as individualism-collectivism culture orientations which seem to be a founding human attribute important for implicit anthropology, on the other hand, we have the lifestyle which seems to be the best operationalisation of implicit anthropology as it is applied in everyday life. Though not very popular in managerial and organizational context, lifestyle has very practical applications in lifestyle medicine, occupational medicine, and criminology. The models of those applied disciplines served as an inspiration for building the model of this research of co-operative isomorphism. Those models very well agreed with the concept of the epidemiology of cognitive structures.

Co-op isomorphism and loss of co-operative identity have not been successfully solved because of mono-disciplinary, one level simplifying approaches. Our goal in this fellowship is to give a new transdisciplinary answer to this issue and to propose actions that would make co-operatives immune to loss of identity and isomorphism in the future. Starting from criminology model we created a model that can be found in Figure 1.
Figure 1. Model of the research.

The red arrow starting from the cultural exposure represents what isomorphism is usually attributed to, the arrow added from the lifestyle represents what this research is trying to prove. The more effectively an organization is the higher influence of this success on individual lifestyle. The next step is the influence of the new lifestyle on the governance and decision-making process.

We propose that the key intervention may take place in the expertise component. There were so many arguments found to support this view that they formed a whole book. The book will be the main content of the project website, dissemination activities and will be used as a post- or pre-study reading.
Figure 2. Map of the book for participants. here

I describe the model together with the tools that were finally used to test each element of the model.

The epidemiological approach starts with two kinds of exposure. Attributes of people were measured by (Triandis & Gelfand, 1998) version of Vertical and Horizontal, Individualist and Collectivist self-appraisal questionnaire (Singalis et al. 1995), which in a sense measures what an individual was exposed to in the past and what has shaped his or her self-perception. Attributes of places (co-operatives) were measured by Co-opIndex questions of Part I (Stocki & Hugh, 2016) referring to Values and Principles. The remaining tools were considered as tools measuring the level of expertise in seven different domains. The domains were selected as counterparts of levels from individual to distal analogically to the model used in lifestyle medicine. For measuring expertise in the agency we used part two of Lifestyle Appraisal Questionnaire. To measure expertise in personal development we have conducted a separate new tool based on the concept of deliberate practice. It was meant to show how much of what influences us comes from deliberate practice. The expertise in interpersonal relationships was measured by The Emphatic-Listening Scale. For co-operative knowledge, we have created a new tool: Tacit Knowledge Inventory for Co-operators. Business literacy and economic literacy were tested by simple knowledge tests in which the respondents were to declare if they know and understand the presented concepts. Finally, the lifestyle expertise was tested by Part 1 of Lifestyle Appraisal Questionnaire.
The objective of the first year was to prepare the tools and to conduct the research. In the second year I was to calculate and interpret the results and in the third year to repeat the study in Europe and disseminate the results. Unfortunately, at the beginning of the second year of the fellowship, three co-ops withdrew from participating in the research. Two new co-ops were found to replace them, but the participation was offered also to individuals so altogether 33 persons participated in the pilot version of the study. In fact, while waiting for the participants, I wrote a whole book which is being translated into Spanish. It was meant to be an important part of the dissemination. All 33 participants of the research have received individually tailored books (reports) with their results, their interpretation, and recommendations for the future. In the last year of the research, we plan to update the research after the feedback from the participants, disseminate the research and invite participants from any country in Europe and the whole world to participate. Finally, the research will be strongly disseminated in the social media and academic journals under the logo of MyIndex, that was designed fort this individually oriented research (Figure 3).
Figure 3. Logo of the MyIndex diagnosis which resulted from the research.

The co-operative difference can only be appreciated if the co-operative participants are compared with non-co-operative ones. Open invitation to participate may make such comparison possible. I hope “MyIndex” may become an important tool for personal and organizational development for many organizations not only co-operatives.

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