CIPR | Center For Inter-American Policy & Research

Tulane University

Health and Well-Being in Venezuela's CECOSESOLA

September 29th, 2011

Written by:
Hannagan Johnson
CIPR RPA and MA Candidate in Latin American Studies

On September 16, 2011, Tulane’s Center for Inter-American Policy welcomed Myron K. Rogers, co-author of the best-seller A Simpler Way and leader in organizational change, to speak with students and faculty about self-organizing systems and cooperatives, in particular, CECOSESOLA (Central Cooperative for Social Services of the state of Lara), a progressive cooperative in Venezuela for which Rogers has served as a consultant.

Rogers traced CECOSESOLA’s evolution from a community funeral and mass transportation service over forty years ago to its present state as a multi-faceted, multi-service cooperative. The organization now aims to not only address the physical well-being of its members but also to actively explore how a community overall “creates well-being in an environment of chaos.” Rogers underscored the adversity faced by many Venezuelans because of high levels of corruption and violent crime. Such a “climate of uncertainty” in Venezuelan society is inimical to citizens’ overall well-being. CECOSESOLA seeks to mitigate these external environmental challenges by bringing people together to formulate effective responses to needs in their community.

On the practical level, Rogers explained that such measures have included the establishment of credit unions and emergency centers for co-op members, as well as the creation of a multi-million dollar in-patient hospital. On the philosophical level, Rogers highlighted the cooperative’s approach to confronting and reducing the “deficit of trust” prevalent in Venezuelan society. He stressed the significance of instilling “a community of trust,” an evolving process dependent upon the co-op members’ collective willingness to consider and question their personal perceptions of identity and civic duty. This enables them to jointly cultivate what Rogers terms “a shared picture of reality and what is important.” Such a process prompts members to ask how they imagine themselves in relation to the community as a whole, how they connect with the community, and to recognize that a narrow sense of identity can diminish trust within the community.

The structure of CECOSESOLA meetings reflects its broader philosophy. As in the cooperative, which has no hierarchy, the meetings have no leaders. As Rogers stated, they are not “driven by power dynamics”. All members are permitted to address any concerns, and decisions on how money should be invested or distributed are made jointly. This process can be lengthy and tiresome. But, in Rogers’ opinion, it serves to bolster the spirit and atmosphere of trust within the cooperative.

Rogers went on to re-emphasize that the co-op is a dynamic enterprise whose focus at any given time is commensurate with the needs and collective will of the membership. Its one constant is its commitment to maintaining a community of trust through shared identity, making CECOSESOLA a paradigm in community cooperatives worldwide.

Pictured from left to right: Myron Rogers, Speaker; Ludovico Feoli, CIPR Director; Anna Frachou, Puentes Inc.; Eduardo Silva, Tulane Political Science