Within one year at the most, the Organization of the Cooperatives of the State of São Paulo (Ocesp) will be receiving an extensive study on the cooperatives in the state. With this instrument, the entity will be able to monitor the self-management of the cooperatives, and draw up proposals for public policies that encourage cooperative activities. In addition, it will be possible to assess how ventures like the Program for the Revitalization of Farm Produce Cooperatives (Recoop) are faring; this cooperative was created by the government to reschedule the debts of these entities, caused by crop failures or low prices, or by bad management.
The project is being run in partnership with USP's School of Economy and Administration in Ribeirão Preto (FEA-RP), with the support of FAPESP. It uses cutting-edge technology to generate a sophisticated database, capable of showing the social economic impact of these organizations, and even of making forecasts of performance and risk. The problem is not a new one. Since 1988, when the Constitution laid down self-management for cooperatives, they ceased to have external supervision (and they also lost an important source of finance, with the extinction of the National Bank for Cooperative Credit).
From then until now, the number of cooperatives has continued to grow, year after year, particularly in the urban environment, where they have become an important alternative for the scarcity of jobs. But the lack of qualification of many of those who run them, coupled with the lack of effective supervision, has ended up doing some damage to the sector. In the opinion of Ocesp's superintendent, Marco Aurélio Fuchida, the project should help the entity to identify fraud, in which the title of cooperative works just as a façade for unscrupulous businesspersons.
“We want to know if management is really democratic, and if the members are actually benefiting”, he explains. The study will also make a contribution towards the recently created Cooperative Apprenticeship Service (Sescoop), an entity connected with the Organization of Brazilian Cooperatives (OCB), to prepare programs to qualify managers, increasing their level of professionalism.In charge of the coordination of the project is Sigismundo Bialoskorski Neto, who teaches Farm Economy and Organizational Economy at FEA-RP (having already worked 17 years at the state's Department of Agriculture, where he ran the Institute of Cooperativism).
He has two collaborators: Marcelo Nagano, from the FEA-RP's Accounting Department, and Fernando de Almeida, from the Administration Department. Together, they decided to dare, adopting the “cutting edge technology” of neural networks, a program that is normally .used only in the financial sector “to measure bank performance and risk”, according to Bialoskorski. This will make it possible, not only to obtain information on the cooperatives' financial performance, the participation of their members, transparency in management, and regional impacts, like the creation of jobs and of wealth, but also to foresee the performance of the various branches of the activity.
Millions of cooperative members
Growth of active cooperatives registered with Ocesp and the number of members
1991 / 1992 / 1993 / 1994 / 1995 / 1996 / 1997 / 1998 / 1999 / 2000 / Nº of members – July 2000
Educational 0 / 3 / 3 / 6 / 7 / 13 / 19 / 20 / 22 / 28 / 7.879
Electrification 25 / 19 / 21 / 21 / 21 / 21 / 21 / 21 / 20 / 18 / 30.159
Housing 32 / 38 / 35 / 35 / 40 / 61 / 106 / 118 / 131 / 119 / 53.312
Farming 159 / 155 / 153 / 152 / 141 / 137 / 138 / 130 / 144 / 135 / 116.305
Labor 31 37 / 42 / 46 / 65 / 86 / 127 / 170 / 291 / 296 / 142.907
Credit 176 184 / 184 / 199 / 196 / 200 / 200 / 208/ 211 / 202 / 280.080
Health 82 / 86 / 96 / 98 / 112 / 128 / 146 / 158 / 176 / 186 / 285.904
Consumption 72 / 69 / 61 / 58 / 49 / 47 / 45 / 44 / 43 / 40 / 1.245.322
Total 577 / 591 / 595 / 615 / 631 / 693 / 802 / 869 / 1038 / 1024 / 2.161.868