1891-1918: The Roots of the ConfCooperative
The adoption of "Rerum Novarum" by Pope Leo XIII encouraged the Catholic growth of awareness and maturation in regards to the general social problem, and in particular the world of work, stimulating a commitment and active presence that speaks with special intensity in the field of cooperation.
From this point forward, the content of the encyclical developed an entire line of thought, which would be given the name "Social Doctrine of the Church", becoming the fundamental point of reference for all Catholics involved in the world of cooperation, and whose experiences led (in 1919) to the birth of the "Cooperative Italian Confederation."
In Italy, the first Christian-inspired co-operatives started in the 1880's. From the beginning they distinguished themselves as powerful instruments of economic and social emancipation for their individual members, and for the local communities that expressed a desire for civil development.
Historically, as early as 1880, the first "Christian" co-operatives to gain ground as bodies capable of influencing the growth of Italian society were those concerned with credit (rural and artisans' banks, mutual aid banks).
The Confederazione Cooperative Italiane was first established in 1919. After its dissolution by the Fascist Government, it was re-established on a new basis in 1945 by representatives of the Catholic world. In 1947, co-operation and its social function received the official acknowledgement by the Italian State in article 45 of the Italian Constitution. Confcooperative itself was recognized as a primary national association representing, assisting, protecting and auditing the co-operative movement.
Over the years Confcooperative has implemented a policy sensitive to the needs and changes of the social, civil, and economic world. This has permitted constant increase in membership so that today the Confederation is the largest part of the Italian co-operative movement.
Cooperation has a story that is both ancient and modern. Ancient, because if we refer to cooperation as a simple form of self-organization then the concepts of cooperation, solidarity and mutuality could be found in examples as old as ancient Rome. Modern because if we want to refer to cooperation as we know it today then we have to place it within historical context amid the socio-economic "industrial revolution", for which cooperation arose as a response to conditions of extreme hardship as a consequence of technological innovation that laid the classes less affluent, heavily as a result of cheap labour.
The Italian Confederation Cooperative -Confcooperative for short- is the leading, legally recognized organization representative of the cooperative and social enterprise movement. It draws on cooperative principles established and regularly updated by ACI (International Cooperative Alliance) and, because of its constitutionally recognized cooperative and social function (Article 45), promotes development and growth. Article 1 of the Statute also acknowledges that the actions of Confcooperative are in accord with the principles and traditions of the Church's Social Doctrine.
Confcooperative has a presence throughout the country, with an organization that is made up of:
22 Regional Unions
81 provincial unions
07 Unions interprovincial
The Confcooperative system is divided into eight sectors (housing, food, consumption and distribution, culture, sports, tourism, labor and services, fisheries, social and credit cooperatives).
Confcooperative, drawing on the social doctrine of the Church, is leader among associations representing the cooperative movement in Italy, by number of co-operative enterprises (19,657), employment (480,253), business volume (with 58,934 million, of which 6,991 million euros of interest income, and commissions income of Credit Cooperative Banks).