Barcelona will open its macro “hub” for cooperatives next year

From 2023, Barcelona will host the “hub” of the largest work cooperatives in Europe. The works to prepare the 4,500 square meters of block four of Can Batlló, the old factory site of the late nineteenth century in the neighborhood of Sants, are in the final phase and is scheduled to begin work on July 1 to build the enclosure where there will be spaces reserved for the incubation of new projects, as well as equipment for already consolidated projects -such as meeting areas or videoconferences- and spaces for shared work (coworkings).

The Catalan co-operative world is beginning to recover from the aftermath of the covid pandemic and is consolidating its base of 4,551 companies throughout Catalonia, according to the latest data from the Department of Labor of the Generalitat in April. These contribute around 2.2% of Catalan GDP. And the opening of Coopolis, the promotion center located in Can Batlló, promises to be a lever for a group that employs more than 45,000 people throughout the territory.

The initiative has its origins in the neighborhood and cooperative movement, more specifically in the Cooperative Neighborhood project promoted by the La Ciutat Invisible bookstore in 2008. Today this project is located in La Comunal, a space shared with other cooperatives, such as the restaurant La Deskomunal, the Iridia group of lawyers or the Aula d’Idiomes, among others.

The works are delayed, as the initial idea was that they would be completed by 2021. Between the pandemic and the archaeological discoveries of ancient skeletons that the workers have been making, the work has been getting longer. The current forecast is that the site may open next year.

New law of social economy

And it is that 2023 promises to be a key year for cooperativism in Catalonia, since in addition to the launch of Coopolis, it is also planned that Parliament will process the new law on social economy. The aim of this standard is to create a kind of seal to distinguish those projects -whether cooperative, foundation or company- that work according to the principles of the social economy, according to Guillem Llorens, co-president of the Federation of Work Cooperatives .

To this end, a series of requirements will be established – pending to be specified in Parliament -, such as the degree of employee participation in management and decision-making, a maximum ratio between the salary of the lowest paid and the best and other requirements for to certify that whoever has this seal is really within the framework of the social economy. This recognition will also serve for the same advertising differentiation of companies or cooperatives and for their inclusion in future public policies of economic promotion, among other issues.

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