We call cooperation to mutual help between individuals in order to achieve a common good. Each of the cooperators contributes something to the cooperative process, usually money or work.
Cooperation has been a basic element of humanity since its inception. It is a process by which a series of individuals come together in order to solve a common problem or to get something that everyone needs. This union responds to efficiency criteria, it is assumed that trying to achieve an objective individually has a higher cost than if it is done in a group. In many cases, it is impossible to directly obtain them individually.
Cooperation is highly extended, we see it in all areas of life. Families, friends, companies, sports, they all work cooperatively. It does not have to involve an economic interest.
For example, if friends decide to play a soccer game, they must cooperate with each other and contribute as much as possible to the cooperative process (play to the best of their ability) to win the match. Or in a family, so that the house remains clean and orderly, all its members must collaborate.
But cooperation may also not be as obvious as it seems, we see this in the prisoner’s dilemma.
It is an unfavorable fictitious situation in which the collaboration implies minimal losses for the two people involved; But if they behave selfishly, one wins everything and the other loses everything. With which, individualism and selfishness are a great temptation.
Origin and evolution of cooperation
As we mentioned at the beginning, cooperation is a very old act. It is innate to man and his relationship with other people. Even when the human being had not formed the first societies, such a practice existed.
The oldest and most elementary unit is the family. For its members to survive, the collaboration of all of them was necessary, both in mutual care and in obtaining food. The same happened in small units such as tribes, which divided the work to be able to hunt, gather, raise children, etc.
Later, with the creation of the first complex societies, cooperation became even more important. With the existence of greater goods and services and the complexity to obtain them, mutual aid was more necessary than before. For the construction of houses, for the manufacture of garments, for obtaining food, etc. They were tasks which needed more than one individual.
In contemporary times and the information society, cooperation is even more palpable. Each and every one of the jobs that human beings develop are to add value to society and thus obtain a salary. That on a global level. At a more concrete level, companies are getting bigger and the division of labor is increasing, which means that each of the parties must be more involved than ever.
Business formulas such as cooperatives and UTES have also been developed, in which this cooperative practice is carried out explicitly. The involvement of developed countries in helping the most disadvantaged has also sparked international cooperation.
Types of cooperation
We can establish two broad categories to classify the types of cooperation.
These are the following:
- Direct cooperation: It is the most obvious form of cooperation. Through direct cooperation, individuals consciously unite in order to achieve a common good or goal, or to perform any kind of help. Example: a medical team, a company, international cooperation, etc.
- Indirect cooperation: Cooperation is no longer so evident, it is more diffuse. Individuals immersed in cooperation are not aware that, through their behaviors and actions, they are collaborating with each other. Example: Free trade, through it, it is possible for everyone to have access to any good and service; or the payment of taxes, which returns in public services of a universal nature.
Forms of cooperation
Going into more specific forms of cooperation, we are going to see some ways in which cooperation takes shape directly and goes further.
Given the demands of the market and the high quality of the services that companies have to provide, there are some formulas by which they have evolved:
- Outsourcing: It is a practice in which the main company orders a smaller company to supply certain products in order to be more efficient in the production of a good. This is done because the development of the ordered product is impossible for the main company or would mean raising production costs. Example: The services of a demoscopy company provided to a media outlet.
- UTE: It is a temporary union of companies. It happens when several companies are united in one, each one of them contributes to the project the work in which it is specialized. It is a very useful figure to elaborate projects that demand the union of very different or specific works. As an example we have a construction company.
- Franchise: Through this formula, the franchisor assigns the brand and the products to be marketed to the franchisee in exchange for an economic consideration. Both win, whoever owns the franchise has a business with a strong and well-known product and, in addition, takes care of many aspects of the company. The franchisor, on the other hand, benefits from the expansion of its products and greater popularity, as well as from a greater economic return without running the company directly. Example: McDonald’s.
- Cooperative: It is a business formula in which the workers of the company are owners of the same, having a voice and vote in the decisions made in it. As such, they are also net recipients of the benefits. Despite this, to be a member you have to meet a series of requirements. It is common in agricultural and food companies.
With globalization and the immense inequality that exists between the different countries that make up the planet, numerous NGOs, individuals, States and international organizations have been concerned with helping underdeveloped or developing countries improve their standard of living.
As individuals we find missionaries, people who go directly to the countries they want to help and do so directly, providing food, education, clothing or helping with daily tasks.
As NGOs we find some such as doctors without borders, who provide health care to people in countries of extreme poverty.
The States cooperate through agreements or direct aid that improve the structural situation of the country.
Finally, organizations like the UN seek to mediate conflicts and ensure that human rights are respected throughout the world.