Cooperatives are a concept of cooperation based on the voluntary contributions of their members and democratic decision-making that has been tried and tested worldwide. Therefore, the main subject of the institute’s work is the scientific examination of current problems and fundamental questions from all areas of cooperatives and — more fundamentally — of cooperation research. In this context, specifics and innovative forms of cooperation are empirically and theoretically addressed and further developed.
Since 1991, the basic funding of the institute has been provided by the members of the sponsoring society. These are individuals, cooperatives and their associations, as well as association partners of the cooperative organization in Germany.
Research activities are financed through third-party funds raised by the Institute’s members from research funding institutions such as the German Research Foundation, the DZ-BANK Foundation, the European Union, the Federal Ministry of Education and Research, the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD). At the same time, scientific studies and the tasks of clarifying fundamental questions from cooperative practice are also repeatedly assigned to the Institute and its members for processing.
In addition to the wide range of teaching tasks and research projects from the members’ departments, since the end of 2007 a “Cooperation Sciences” department established specifically for this purpose has been supporting important basic research specifically in the field of cooperative science, ensuring a teaching program specifically in the field of cooperative science at Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin, and coordinating study and consulting services from the field and the application and implementation of international cooperative science projects. Currently (2012), 7 doctoral theses and 3 master’s theses are supervised at the Department of Cooperative Studies. A research coordinator and 2 assistants support the cooperative sciences at the Institute of Cooperative Studies. A large number of other projects closely related to cooperative science are supervised and carried out by members of the Institute.
In its tasks, the Institute always aims at a close practical relevance of its scientific work.
A prerequisite for practice-oriented research is close contact with cooperatives and their organizations. This is the only way to obtain information on the areas in which research is needed, and the only way to ensure that research is relevant to practice. The Institute’s regular conferences and lecture series are therefore an important supplement to the research work. In the last three years, more than 12 scientific events with a total of 761 participants have been held at the Institute outside of the usual courses. Scientific results and experts from all over the world have made these events milestones in the development of research and teaching but also in the development of relations with politics and cooperative practice.