The ability to cooperate is an important success factor for food companies, especially in the organic sector. In the case of farming and the value-added process, organic farms and small and medium-enterprises that are managed well in (regional) collaboration with each other are more likely to succeed in a globalized market. Because of these, and other factors, interest in cooperation is increasing, especially among younger farmers and business owners.
Successful cooperation brings many positive effects:
- collaboratively managed farms tend to be more diversified, which leads to innovation
- collaboration across the value chain and the involvement of consumers, can lead to more binding trade relations and often better prices
- sharing and reciprocating sparse resources such as consultation, support, and representation enables collaborators to focus on their individual strengths
- finding synergies yields cost savings
- experience of the joy of doing things together instead of struggling alone
Farm and marketing associations could be a model for even more farm operations than they are today.
But everyone has negative experiences in dealing with others. Not all communities work well together, and so some people do not dare to take the step to more cooperation, although makes sense to do so. However, we are convinced, that cooperation and technical/specialized knowledge can both, to a large extent, be learned!
We are interested in showing that successful community cooperation has its own needs and requirements. For example, the time saved by the abovementioned advantages is a result of time spent on meetings, coordination and creating transparency. And whoever neglects this, allows mistrust and tension to grow, which undermines the success of the project.
The tools are primarily intended for farm and marketing associations, i.e. farm businesses and cooperatives managed by several people or families. They are for both existing communities and newly forming associations. The materials can also be used for farms that work together without founding a joint enterprise. However, the examples and forms are specifically designed for association/community businesses.
The aim of the project is to identify and present the factors for successful cooperation in such a way that the materials can be used largely without external help. However, please note that when tensions arise from working through the materials, external help should be sought. The tools can be freely downloaded from this website. They are intended to be directly applicable in practice and come with practical examples. Of course, the tools cannot respond to company-specific requirements, they can only provide suggestions on how a process might be carried out. They are intended to encourage the user to adapt the materials to their own situation.
How to use the tools
The tools are divided into 12 areas. For each area, you will find activity instructions, examples, worksheets and other materials on the themes.
We start with a diagnostic sheet for existing communities that answers the question, where do we stand in the various work areas? Where do we see the most urgent need for action?
After clarifying the baseline conditions and the topics we would like to work on, we move on to the question "What guides us?"
The next step is, "how do we achieve what we want?" This section addresses the concrete plans for the next few years and clarification of tasks and responsibilities, as well as, additional skills and training needed. Emphasis is on the careful planning of the different parts of the company. The issues of trust, contracts, agreements, and resources available are all addressed.
The cultural components are deliberately before the economic sustainability of the company, because we have observed that it is important to create clarity in the other areas as a basis for enjoyable and successful long-term cooperation.
The project was financed by the Software AG Foundation, the Schweisfurth Foundation and the Cocreatio Foundation. We would like to thank these foundations for their generous financial and professional support of this project that is close to our hearts.