Research Handbook on Sustainable Co-operative Enterprise
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Research Handbook on Sustainable Co-operative Enterprise

Case Studies of Organisational Resilience in the Co-operative Business Model

Edited by Tim Mazzarol, Sophie Reboud, Elena Mamouni Limnios and Delwyn Clark

Co-operatives are found in all industry sectors and almost all countries around the world. However, despite their significant economic and social contributions, the academic literature has largely ignored these important businesses. This book is a detailed examination of the co-operative enterprise business model and the factors that help to enhance its sustainability and resilience, as well as those forces that lead to its destruction.
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Chapter 21: The Italian co-operative banking and financial system: institutions, performances and theoretical background

Marco Mazzoli and Gabriele Quadrelli


For a large part of the last century, a peculiarity of the Italian co-operative movement has been its ideological fragmentation. Only in December 2010 did the three main associations of co-operatives ("Legacoop", with a left-wing orientation and, until the 1970s, even with some Marxist influence, "Confco-operative", with a Catholic background, and "AGCI", culturally close to the Republican movement, very active in the 19th century process of Italian unification) create a unique coordinating body, a first step toward a merger. The first co-operative bank was founded in 1883 by Leone Wollenborg, at Loreggia, near Padua. In 1897 there were more than 900 credit co-operatives (originally called "Casse Rurali e Artigiane") and 775 of them had a Catholic orientation. Their number was bound to decrease in the following decades because of mergers and economic crises. Over the last century, the Catholic co-operators have promoted two different types of co-operative banks: mutual loan societies (in Italian, "Banche Popolari", henceforth BP) and credit co-operative banks (in Italian Banche di Credito Cooperativo, henceforth BCC), while the left-wing co-operators of Legacoop have mainly been operating in the insurance and financial sector, by the acquisition (in the 1960s) of the insurance company Unipol, a corporation previously owned by a private entrepreneur.

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