Trust, Social Capital, and the Coordination of Relationships Between the Members of Cooperatives: A Comparison Between Member-Focused Cooperatives and Third-Party-Focused Cooperatives

Isabella Hatak, Richard Lang, Dietmar Rößl

Publication: Scientific journalJournal articlepeer-review

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In recent years, nonprofit scholars have increasingly studied the phenomenon of social enterprises which has become a generic term describing a wider reorientation among third sector organizations. The emergence of social enterprises has also led to a dynamic of hybridization and broadening in the cooperative sector, similar to an earlier dynamic of ‘‘economization’’, but this time on the other end of the organizational spectrum. This paper aims at developing a fine-grained conceptual understanding of how this organizational dynamic is shaped in terms of member coordination, thus contributing to a more comprehensive theoretical understanding of different organizational forms of cooperatives. Specifically, to highlight the difference to traditional member-focused cooperatives, the paper introduces the term third-party-focused cooperatives for those social enterprises which emphasize economic goals as well as control and ownership by a particular community (typically place-based). The key result of the paper is that with the shift from member- to community-focus in cooperatives, the main coordination mechanism becomes one of norm-based trust on the basis of generalized reciprocity. In contrast to traditional maxim-based trust member coordination on the basis of relation-specific reciprocity, this enables third-party-focused cooperatives to mobilize bridging and linking social capital, facilitating collective action aimed towards the community interest. The findings suggest that this identity shift requires a mutual re-positioning between the cooperative and the nonprofit sector, in terms of umbrellas as well as regulatory and legislative bodies.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1218 - 1241
JournalVoluntas: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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