Dear seminar attendees

Welcome to the most cooperative country in the world. With a population of 5, 5 million we still manage to have 7 million memberships in our cooperatives and mutuals. Finland has over 5000 cooperative enterprises in many fields. We have retail cooperatives, mutuals, cooperative banks, agri-cooperatives, infra-cooperatives, worker cooperatives, shopkeeper cooperatives and student cooperatives. And every year 200 new cooperatives are being established.

My name is Martti Asunta and I am a forester with forestland in Ylöjärvi near the city of Tampere. I am also the president of Metsä Group which is a cooperative forest-industry company. In addition, I chair two national, cooperative confederations: Pellervo Society and the Cooperative Council.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Cooperatives are major investors in Finland. In fact, the biggest investment at the moment in this country is Metsä Group’s Äänekoski bio-product factory in Central Finland. The cooperative food industry is also a very active investor.

Cooperatives are running a growing business. And they are no small players in the Finnish economy. This means that it is vital to know what cooperation is. If cooperatives are not being researched, they are not being taught and therefore not known. And this, in turn, affects the knowledge and understanding among the members, administration and business management, not to mention with the authorities and within the scope of politics. It is therefore very important that universities take cooperatives into account.

Investor ownership and limited liability company model dominate our way of thinking too much. We want business to be understood in its entirety. And this should not be an unreasonable demand.

We see that cooperation is a phenomenon that can be approached from many angles. In research and education this means that all field of science are important and that interdisciplinary approach is suitable for increasing the understanding of cooperation.

The Finnish cooperative movement has taken the following actions to support research and education of cooperation:

  1. We work in collaboration with all the university researchers according to their level of interest. And luckily there is some. We have consciously tried to recruit researchers as board members of cooperative organisations to increase understanding and interaction. One such researcher, who is also present here today, is professor Anu Puusa, member of the board of Pellervo.
  2. We fund, on our part, the national university network of cooperative education: the Coop Network Studies coordinated by Research Director Hagen Henry and E-Learning Coordinator Pekka Hytinkoski.
  3. We also finance the professorship in cooperative management at Lappeenranta University of Technology. The professorship is held by Iiro Jussila who is also the chief editor of the international Journal of Co-operative Organization and Management.
  4. We have organised funding in different ways for cooperative researchers as well as for organizing cooperative research conferences.
  5. We write about and display the researchers and their results in our seminars, magazines and publications.
  6. We also encourage the employees and elected officials of cooperative enterprises to pursuit post-graduate studies in cooperative research.

But above all, it is all about will and a supportive attitude. It is important that practical economic life and researchers do not turn their backs on one another but shake hands and, with an open mind and a warm heart, think what can and should be done together and what separately. And how can the human life be improved in the process.

Cooperating with universities is like driving with high beams on. This seminar is just that. I encourage it. Thank you.

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