The unchallenged expansion of a financialized global order has come to an halt in recent years due to growing inter-governmental tensions around international trade liberalization, energy crisis, and more recently, massive financial crisis entailing serious economic and social tensions in both Northern and Southern countries. To some observers, these crisis are opening up opportunities for alternative modes of organization from the social economy to provide more sustainable forms of governance, employment, production and consumption. The challenges faced by organizations from the social economy to size up these opportunities should not be underestimated, however. Governance systems established at the onset of the industrial revolution or redefined in the postwar era often proved in need of reform in order to tackle the task of building new balances between economic, social and environmental considerations in the conduct and management of organizations.
In order to build further knowledge on these issues, our empirical research focuses on articulations between governance systems, market strategies and human resource management (HRM) in the specific context of the French SCOP, a cooperative form of enterprise initially developed by manufacturing workers and later on extended to other sectors in order to provide workers with the capability to collectively set directions and govern their own organization. Indeed, the governance of SCOPs is exercised by workers themselves along the core cooperative principles of free adhesion, double worker status (employee and associate), collective ownership, fair cash flow distribution, and shared decision making capacity. Because workers collectively make strategic decisions during annual general assembly meetings, SCOPs are protected from predatory strategies to relocate production or merge activities on the basis of rationale to increase financial returns. As such, they offer great potential to promote sustainable forms of development. However, to realize such potential requires human resource management (HRM) policies that allow workers to skillfully exercise their collective decision-making capabilities so as to promote sustainable strategies for their organization. This involves, in particular, adopting innovative HRM practices successfully adapting HRM professional skills to the specificities of SCOP governance, values and organization.
Focusing on a sample of 12-15 small and medium-sized SCOPs belonging to both traditional and innovative sectors, we conducted interviews with top managers in order to further explore such questions by: - identifying innovative SCOP-based HRM policies promoting democratic governance and successful market strategies - exploring specificities in strategy-building dynamics within the SCOP model - assessing how a balanced dynamics of democratic governance, humanitarian HRM and ad hoc market strategy could develop in SCOP organizations, - and characterizing contextual factors that can favor or hamper such virtuous dynamics. Our results highlight both the potential and limits of the contemporary SCOP model for promoting sustainable forms of development. BIBLIOGRAPHIE
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