Indonesian Youth Co-operatives and the Changed Environment

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There are approximately five million youth involved in the Indonesian co-operative movementIntroduction
Co-operatives in developing countries have different characteristics from co-operatives in developed countries, differences explained by social structures, social systems, economics and politics. In developed countries, most co-operatives operate as autonomous and independent institutions. In some developing countries like Indonesia, governments play dominant roles and co-operatives at the local and national level have the tendency to be used as government tools.

Only about 27 million of the country’s 215 million people in Indonesia are members of the 103,000 co-operatives spread all over the countryThe Indonesian people are also still largely unaware of the co-operative movement. Only about 27 million of the country’s 215 million people in Indonesia are members of the 103,000 co-operatives spread all over the country (Minister of Cooperatives: 2003). Moreover, many of the co-operatives reported are, in fact, not now in operation and many do not follow the co-operative principles in their operating practices. Top-down management dominates too many co-operatives and member participation is weak and inefficiently managed: they do business like conventional companies, being only concerned with profits. Competitively, some co-operatives cannot compete with other forms of market companies. Unfortunately, there are also cases of corruption, fraud and manipulation that weaken people’s trust in co-operatives.

Only some youth take advantage of co-operative opportunities.This context, of course, affects the role of youth in the co-operative movement. Youth tend to see co-operatives as uninteresting organizations, and only a few take advantage of co-operative opportunities. We can see this from the weak participation of youth in the national co-operative movement. Even the minority of youth who are active in some sectors of co-operation do not always show a strong commitment to the continuity of co-operatives. The gap between the youth and co-operation in Indonesia seems to be quite large.

Youth Cooperative Organization and Its Achievements

Active co-operative sectors in Indonesia include credit unions, village co-operative units, farming co-operatives, diary co-ops and student co-operativesThere are approximately five million youth involved in the Indonesian co-operative movement (Kuncoro: 2004). This is a small percentage, if we compare it with the number of youth in general, which is approximately 90.3 million people . The numbers of youth in co-operatives in Indonesia includes those who join in many kinds of co-operative sectors, such as credit unions, village co-operative units, farming co-operatives, diary co-ops and others, as well as those who are engaged in co-ops exclusively for young people, such as university student co-operatives (Kopma’s), student co-operatives (Kopsis’s), and co-operatives for youth (Kopda’s).

Youth are more often involved in educating, running competitions, and managing co-operative magazines as opposed to developing co-operative policyThose who are involved in many kinds of general co-operative organisations, like credit unions, diary co-ops, and farming co-operatives, make only minor contributions. Their involvement has not been supported in co-operative policy: their activities and youth programmes receive minimum budget allocations. However, youth have been involved in some positive activities: they have been enlisted as education facilitators holding “Cow Expeditions” in diary co-ops, running competitions, and managing co-operative magazines. Generally, they have not been significantly involved in developing co-operative policy, though in some co-operatives they have created their own forum to help meet their needs.

Young people active in exclusively youth co-operatives have succeeded in creating strong apex organisations at the local and national level.Young people active in exclusively youth co-operatives have succeeded in creating strong apex organisations at the local and national level. At the national level, youth co-operatives have formed many organisations, including the following:

  • the Youth Co-operative Communication Body (BKPK), which is a youth co-operative organisation underneath the Board of Indonesian Co-operative (Dekopin);
  • the Indonesian Youth Co-op (Kopindo’s), which is a secondary youth co-operative in Indonesia;
  • the Indonesian Student Co-operative Communication Forum (FKKMI), a network created by the university student co-operatives.

At the local level, there are other organisations:the Yogyakarta Student Co-op Union (HKMY);

  • the Yogyakarta Student Co-op Union (HKMY);
  • the Semarang Student Co-operative Association (Akomas);
  • the Jakarta Student Co-operative Association (Akukopma); and
  • the Bandung Student Co-operative Association (Asbikom).

Co-op businesses include mini markets, copy centres, cafes, phone shops, student dormitories, savings and loan services, computer courses, foreign language courses, seminars, co-operative education and training programmes, and management training.The co-operatives run by young people at the local level operate a number of businesses, including mini markets, copy centres, cafes, phone shops, and student dormitories. Others run savings and loan services, computer courses, and foreign language courses as well as seminars, co-operative education and training programmes, and management training. University student co-operatives are not always able to develop their programmes as they would wish to do because they are dependent on their “landlord”, the university, for the facility in which they exist.

University Students Co-operatives and The Discourse of Change

There is tension regarding the role of co-ops in development of entrepreneurial skills for private business versus community gain.Currently, there are 139 university student co-operatives. The first co-operative of this type was established in 1974, as “Bumi Siliwangi” IKIP Bandung (now called University of Indonesia Education (UPI) Bandung). According to Darsono (2002), a second co-operative was soon established because of efforts to “muzzle” the voice of university students demanding social and political change during the 1970s. Some students charge, therefore, that university student co-operatives act as servants of the capitalist state and only develop entrepreneurial skills helpful to people who wish to work in the capitalist sector.

A 1996 study by the Canadian Co-operative Association identified the co-ops as a means of satisfying tangible or consumable needs, instead of instruments of democracy or change.A report on six big university student’s co-operatives in Indonesia prepared by the Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA) in 1996 is also critical, albeit for somewhat different reasons:

We didn’t see the service provided by these co-operative as instruments of democracy or change, but rather as a means of satisfying tangible or consumable needs. Perhaps we didn’t see these co-operatives as a part of something larger, such as a consumer co-operative movement.

Sixty-eight percent of university co-operatives have automatic membership: students automatically become members when they register.The trend of establishing university student co-operatives continued until 1995. Twelve percent were established between the years 1975 to1979, 68 percent were established between the years 1980 to1986 and 21 percent were established between the years 1986 to 1995. Sixty-eight percent of university co-operatives have automatic or top down membership – students automatically become members when they register – and only 32 have voluntary membership (Darsono: 2003). Recently, though, more co-operatives have been becoming voluntary and a few are opening themselves as public co-operatives, following the ordinary consumer co-op model.

The effects of these changes were evident at a recent Seminar and Workshop of Indonesia University Student Co-operative. The forms of university co-operatives represented included:

  • university students co-operatives with memberships open only to university students;
  • university student co-operatives that still keep the name but open memberships to the community; and 
  • university students co-operatives that have become open to the public and have changed their names

Co-operatives are not fully meeting the needs of youth in Indonesia partially because youth do not realize the importance of co-operatives.Principle Problems
There are a number of general reasons why co-operatives are not fully meeting the needs of youth in Indonesia.

  • Youth do not realize the importance of co-operatives.
  • Co-operative organizers do not recognise the importance of youth involvement. 
  • Co-operatives do not present an attractive image to youth. 
  • The average education level of co-operative youth is low, and some still have to finish their school.
  • Co-operatives do not have the capacity to give youth economic benefits.

Co-operatives that exist to meet the needs of youth, such as university student co-operatives and student co-operatives, face some specific problems:

  • Problems with student co-operatives include management patterns that are not sufficiently professional.In many, membership is still automatic and member interest is low;
  • The participation level of members in co-operatives is still low with the average of less than 50%;
  • The organizing of resources is difficult and management pattern is not sufficiently professional;
  • High dependency upon “landlords”;
  • Weak communications with the membership;
  • Insufficient management education and training;
  • Weak co-operative network; 
  • Limited direct benefit from membership;
  • Lack of sensitivity from the “co-operative elites”; 
  • The discourse of “Campus Autonomy” is considered by some leaders of the universities as an effort to take away the business opportunities of university student co-operatives; and
  • A lack of understanding that university student co-operatives are an important part of universities.

The co-operative movement in Indonesia needs to formulate a vision that promotes youth involvement.Conclusion and Recommendations
The role of youth in co-operatives still seems small and young people lack influence in the making of key decisions. The co-operative movement in Indonesia needs to formulate a vision that promotes youth involvement and those leading general co-operatives need to be more responsive to the changes that surround them.

I recommend the following changes in order to empower youth in co-operatives:

  • To empower youth in co-operatives, co-ops need to develop more effective youth involvement strategies.Develop more effective youth involvement strategies;
  • Change the general attitudes towards youth through workshops, seminars, and publications;
  • Develop budgetary support for programmes leading to greater youth involvement;
  • Develop stronger youth networks at local, national or even international level through the use of facilitators and youth camps; 
  • Develop workshops to promote youth creativity and employment opportunities based on co-operative entrepreneurship;
  • Ensure the continuity of youth programmes in the co-operative movement thereby assuring co-operative development in the future;
  • Increase the opportunities for youth empowerment in the Indonesian economy and the co-operative movement; and 
  • Co-operatives involved in youth empowerment must recognize that they will have to adapt themselves to a rapidly changing environment.

SurotoSuroto joined the General Soedirman University student co-operative (now "SOEDIRMAN" Co-operative) in 1997 (Chairman for the period 2000-2001 and 2001-2003). With other youth activists he helped create the Institute for Co-operative Studies and Development (LePPeK) in 2003. He has been its director since its formation.

Creator - Author(s) Name and Title(s): 
Suroto
Publication Information: 
Youth Reinventing Co-operatives: Young Perspectives on the International Co-operative Movement – (Eds.) Robin Puga, Julia Smith, and Ian MacPherson
Date: 
Thursday, January 1, 2009
Publisher Information: 
New Rochdale Press, British Columbia Institute for Co-operative Studies

Location

Indonesia