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Presentation of Communication issues for Co-operatives at the Canadian Public Relations Conference, Victoria, BC.

"If communication should lead to a mode of cooperation, cooperation should lead to a mode, not to say a system, of communication," wrote Henri Desroche in 1992. In a socio-economic context of long-standing crisis, which implies public mistrust towards traditional economical models, what mode(s) and what "system" of communication would suit the cooperative movement? That is what the worldwide research project we have started at the Chaire of Public Relations and Marketing Communication aims at studying. The first steps of the research we present here are: 1) a study of perception of co-operatives by members and non-members, held through focus groups with Ipsos, in Canada, United Kingdom, France, Argentina and Japan; 2) the organisation of an international Forum on communication issues for co-operatives that will gather scholars and communication practitioners of the co-operative sector. Due to their alternative structures (Favreau, 2010) and to their particular relations to motivation and involvement values (Simmons and Birchall, 2003), co-operative organisations face new communication challenges while external and internal tensions occur between expectations, perceptions and realities, ideologies and practices. Definitions and missions of those organisations thus need to put forward the science of cooperation and to call into question "the assumption of selfishness" (Leadbater, 2012) so as to provide the publics with scales of communication for a better understanding.