The great plasticity of co-operative status has enabled it for more than a century to be an innovative and concrete response to societal issues: consumption, handicrafts, agriculture, fishing, banking, production and lately the collective interest. This was especially true when legislators crossed the cooperative movement at the Social Museum.
This plasticity is based on the strength of its founding principles, enunciated in England in the years 1840 by a group of Rochedale weavers, then taken up, supplemented and recently updated by the International cooperative Alliance.
This capacity for innovation, the UN will promote it in 2012 with the year "cooperatives, companies for a better world".
The question posed in this article is that of the co-operative's ability to respond to the Council of Europe's challenge to the Member States to recognise the right to cultural heritage.
The right to cultural heritage.
The right to participate freely in the cultural life of the community is recognized by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. The Council of Europe has made it clear for cultural heritage by proposing to recognise to each person, alone or in common, the right to benefit from the cultural heritage and to contribute to its enrichment. That is to say as an example the right to designate what makes heritage for oneself, to take part in the choices of its development or to give its opinion on the use that is made, alone or in common.
The definition of heritage taken into account by the Council of Europe goes beyond the registered or classified patrimony that we know in France. It includes all aspects of our environment resulting from the interaction in time between people and places. This heritage is neither static nor immutable. On the contrary, our human action defines it and redefines it permanently. This approach does not separate the heritage of the human, it binds them.
It is a Copernican revolution that is proposed to States to think no more about the object to be protected – the heritage – but Ausujet beneficiary, namely any single person or in common. The Council of Europe is convinced of the need to involve everyone in the ongoing process of defining and managing cultural heritage.
It is a matter of initiating a process of democratization of the Heritage Factory. This approach is echoed by all those who see their heritage environment transformed, exploited, confiscated or abandoned.
Ten states agreed to progress together on the recognition of this right to cultural heritage. From this year 2011, they will begin their work on the basis of the objectives, areas of action and major directions of progress drawn up by the Council of Europe in its framework Convention on the value of cultural heritage for the so-called Convention Society Faro.
The choice of the North Hotel Co-op.
In Marseille, the future European capital of culture, citizens meeting in a cooperative, Hotel du Nord, have decided to give themselves the means to apply the principles laid down in this Faro Convention.
The social purpose of their cooperative is to enhance the heritage present in the 15th and 16th arrondissements of Marseille to keep it "alive" and to improve the lives of those who live and work there. The inhabitants of the 15th and 16th arrondissement of Marseille are involved in the heritage.
To pursue its social object, the cooperative develops publishing activities, popular education through a host school and promotes hospitality: Bed and Breakfast, accompanists, shops, businesses, stays, artistic creations. Its purpose is to develop economic activity.
This cooperative is based on a diffuse network of residents, civil servants, associations, artists and business leaders who have been producing heritage for 15 years. The town hall of 15th and 16th arrondissements (8th sector) and the association Marseille-Provence 2013 are at their side.
The purpose of this article is to explain the reasons that led to the choice of co-operative status to create solidarity economy from this heritage wealth.
The cooperative principles, historically alive in the neighbourhoods concerned by a century and a half of working history, have served as the basis for reflection as to whether they were adaptable today for an application of the principles of the Faro Convention By the citizens. Only the practice and the invention of still unknown forms can tell us.
One member, one voice.
One of the demands of the inhabitants is to be associated with the governance of the heritages of their districts, in the middle of the period of industrial conversion. Hence their commitment to the recognition that everyone, alone or in common, has the right to benefit from the cultural heritage and to contribute to its enrichment.
This right is reflected in the Cooperative principles: voluntary and open-ended membership or the so-called "open door" principle and the democratic power exercised by members under the rule "one member, one vote". These principles make it possible to establish the framework of democratic governance of a heritage process: cooperatives are democratic organizations led by their members who actively participate in the development of policies and in the taking of Decisions.
A common heritage.
A second claim is that the economic valuation choices of these assets are part of a solidarity economy.
The Co-operative principle of economic participation of members is based on solidarity between members of the cooperative and with future generations. Each member of a cooperative is in solidarity with the others and the common heritage.
Throughout their existence, cooperatives constitute an undivided financial reserve. It is a collective property etinter generational that contributes to the sustainability of the cooperative. If the co-operative is dissolved, the reserve is allocated to another co-operative or to works of general interest. This principle has some similarity to the notion of inalienable property that characterizes registered and classified heritage.
A solidarity economy.
The cooperative is a company which, although no-profit, must develop economic activity to ensure its autonomy and its existence. This forces and commits to generate the economy on the 15th and 16th arrondissements of Marseille which strongly need it.
In a cooperative, the capital can be paid by a limited interest comparable to that of a loan. It is allowed to the extent that it does not fragile the common good. The cooperative helps to ensure that economic policies respect the integrity of the cultural heritage without compromising its intrinsic values.
A heritage community.
One of the other qualities of the co-operative is to be a possible form of heritage community, i.e. to bring together a group of people who value specific aspects of the cultural heritage they want, within the framework of Public action, maintain and transmit to future generations. The cooperative is positioned between the public sphere and the private one. It may enter into agreements with other private or public organisations if these agreements preserve the democratic power of the members and maintain their independence.
To strengthen this independence, cooperatives have committed in their history a great importance to provide their sociétairesl'éducation, training and information needed to be able to effectively contribute to the development of their Cooperative, although this is less topical today. This concerns the Council of Europe's concern as well as to foster an economic and social environment conducive to participation in activities relating to cultural heritage.
A common goal.
Finally, the Faro Convention calls on States to ensure that the conservation of cultural heritage and its sustainable use are aimed at human development and the quality of life. In 1995 the International Cooperative Alliance clearly reiterated the commitment of cooperatives towards the community and their contribution to sustainable development.
Towards a European cultural co-operative.
Although there is currently no legal cooperative heritage as there are specific cooperative statutes for many human activities, this proximity has confirmed the choice of co-operative status as a possible form of application Of the principles set out in the Faro Convention.
To conclude and put into perspective this process, the Coopérative Hotel du Nord is not a "typical model" of a heritage cooperative because it is first and foremost the expression of a community with its peculiarities, fragilities and riches.
In the long term, the cooperative aims at the status of a European heritage co-operative which will give a European status to the heritage constituted in its content (its undivided reserves) and its identity.
It is a matter of enrolling in a historical process: For some decades these two European creations, the good Inaliénableconstitué by the heritage and the undivided reserve constituted by the cooperatives, are growing the common good in The interest of future generations.
Prosper Wanner, Co-operative manager of the Nord Hotel.
Text of the intervention to the study day of Thursday, 25 November 2010 "Evolution of heritage contexts and representations of patrimony" organised by the general Association of curators of public Collections of France, PACA section (AGCCPF )