The cooperative group Grupo SSI has the function of providing a comprehensive response to the social needs of people with social vulnerability and dependency in the Basque Country, Spain.
We had the opportunity to sit down with Karmele Acedo, the CEO.
Grupo SSI was founded in 1986, to answer the challenge of formalizing the caregiving profession in Bilbao, Spain. This was something unthinkable at that time because the profession was not formalized back then. One of the first founders of the first cooperative of the group, María Luisa Mendizabal, a caregiver herself, saw in the cooperative model a solution to the problem, providing caregivers direct participation in the decisions that would be made in the company.
At first, it was difficult, but thanks to the hard work of Maria Luisa Mendizabal and a group of other caregivers, after two years the cooperative had 250 employees, and at the end of the fourth year, almost 500.
The cooperative's successful performance lies in the personalized care service for the client, which generates a lot of satisfaction among all the people who use its services.
Fast-forward a few years, and now Grupo SSI is a group of worker cooperatives, specialized in different care services focusing on different social challenges and participating in different research competitions, always looking for advances to improve patient service.
The multiple worker cooperatives are specialized in the silver economy and care for elders around the Basque country. The success of the first cooperative allowed them to found multiple spinoffs, which is why they have such a specialized knowledge.
An example of the above-mentioned is its research and development unit. Thanks to its group of cooperatives, and other support networks in the field of R+D+I (Research + Development + Innovation), they can compete in different calls for the development of new strategies, such as its research on patient profiles and caregiver profiles. Because, if people are living longer and their needs are changing, caregivers also have to adapt to these new challenges, and continue providing excellent care.
Grupo SSI, like many other cooperatives, has faced the challenge of involving new technologies in their daily work. They explain that there is a general concern among caregivers about these emerging technologies, as they think that jobs will be cut to be replaced by new machines, but this is not the case. Currently, they use technological advances mainly for communication, for example, if a client needs special care the caregiver needs to be informed. Grupo SSI hopes that new technologies will make the patient's life more pleasant and revolutionize everything we currently know about care. Currently, the cooperative group has 570 employees.
95% of the workforce is female and in the cooperative group there are polices in place to ensure that within their cooperatives there is gender equality and that women can reach high positions.
Maintaining and keeping a cooperative group this large, and with this success is not easy. However, Karmele told us how they manage to do it.
"We use two pillars mainly, the first is to settle well the concept of cooperativism in the members and workers, and the second is to develop their training. Using as support another cooperative as an advisory company."
With attention to its community, Grupo SSI supports different entrepreneurs who want to accelerate their business, regardless of whether they are cooperatives or not, by making them their own suppliers to support them during their first years in the market, proving again that cooperation is the best way to maintain an active economy.
"We are looking for a more cooperative future both with companies and with other cooperatives, the future lies in cooperation." says Karmele
Looking at the future, Grupo SSI fully trusts that cooperation is the answer to many problems, and with the current lack of cooperative education many opportunities for growth are being lost. We are all heading towards the same point, it is better to help each other along the way.