Since 1992, the BICS is a research institute based at Humboldt University in Berlin. Back in the 1990s, the founders of the BICS shared the conviction that the city of Berlin needed a research unit capable of studying the role of cooperatives in the successful transformation of political, economic, and legal systems in central and eastern European countries, including East Germany. Since then, BICS scholars have produced more than 300 studies and publications on the subject.
Cooperative organizations differ from other organizational types in that they are member-based collective action organizations governed by democratic rule, the principle of user-benefit, and the principle of user-ownership. Members collectively own, control, and finance what cooperatives do. In return, members expect benefits and services for their work. The management of collectives is frequently riddled by a number of problems — member heterogeneity and the constraints on members to effectively work together as a group are some examples.