In this free-falling economy, the store’s co-founders say it is imperative to develop innovative cooperative working models that facilitate communal participation in the economy and equitable wealth creation and distribution.
Cooperatives are solidarity economy enterprises that are owned, governed, and run by their members. They aim to meet the common economic, social, and cultural needs of the community and create a space where people can work together democratically.
Maher Abou Shackra, a researcher, organizer, and member of Daleel Tadamon, an NGO that maps, connects, and supports different solidarity enterprises and collectives, defines solidarity economy as a “third sector” in which “economic activities and projects are founded on the principle of solidarity.” People-owned, this sector is “independent from the public sector, and its principles and management differ from the private sector’s dominant paradigm of making profits and wealth accumulation. It is a different culture.”
And it is this culture that the dikkeneh is nurturing.
“We want to provide low prices, so people can afford their necessities, and to pressure other stores that are trying to exploit the crisis into competing with our prices,” said Karim Hakim, the operations manager.
“[In co-ops] people have power over their resources, assets, and labor. And it makes a difference.” —Dana Abed, researcherA co-op is a “good model that comes from the community and really involves everyone. People have power over their resources, assets, and labor. And it makes a difference,” Dana Abed, a researcher at Oxfam, told The Public Source. Last April, she moderated a panel discussion on international cooperatives at “The Democratic Economy” conference.
There are cooperatives for different economies, including farming, production, retail, housing, craftsmanship, and consumers. “Co-ops are not a new concept in Lebanon, but they’re picking up some popularity after the economic crisis and everything that we have been going through,” according to Abed.
In fact, the inspiration for the dikkeneh comes from the cooperative model that was prevalent in Lebanon in the 1970s and 1980s. Then, many cooperatives were agricultural, formed by farmers who collectively negotiated retail prices and the cost of materials. Consumer cooperatives were also popular and were established by families who paid member dues or acquired stocks in local stores. In exchange, they had a say in the selection of products and benefited from lower prices.