ECC is geared towards creating, disseminating, and applying knowledge regarding cooperatives by blending detailed description, informal theory, formal modeling, and empirical analysis in order to contribute to cooperative business practice as well as to science.
A cooperative is an enterprise owned by a particular group of stakeholders, e.g. many independent suppliers or many independent buyers. These organizations are usually not publicly-listed, provide benefits to members, have democratic procedures for goal setting and decision-making, and have special rules for dealing with capitalization and profit.
Worldwide cooperatives are prominent in agriculture and food, financial services, wholesale and retail. About 1/3 of world food production passes through cooperatives. To illustrate, the European Union had 132,000 cooperatives with 83.5 million members and 2.3 million employees, the United States of America had 47.000 cooperatives with 100 million members, India has nearly 600,000 cooperatives with 240 million members, and China had 450,000 cooperatives with more than 1,400 million members. Worldwide, they provide 100 million jobs, twenty percent more than multinational enterprises. It is therefore not surprising that the UN has declared 2012 International Year of Cooperatives.
Cooperative enterprises are facing major developments, like world population growth, concern for the environment, and technological developments regarding ICT, genetics, and cybernetics in the external environment, and important developments inside agricultural markets like the process of agricultural industrialization, the rise and concentration of the retail sector, the trend towards product differentiation, and food safety. These developments require value creating responses regarding many aspects of the organization of cooperatives, like finance, governance (member relationships, member communication, boards), accounting practices, product differentiation, to name a few. Even the more basic question regarding the viability and efficiency of a cooperative has to be addressed. A better understanding of cooperatives is therefore beneficial to cooperative enterprises, their members, their management, and society as a whole.