07 / 1993
The first MAG - Mutua Auto Gestione - was set up in Verona with an ongoing process that lasted from 1976 to 1978. It was a period of industrial re-structuring and unemployment problems. A group of workers therefore decided to start a cooperative on their own. Two years later, a group of peasants launched a series of activities to fight against the poor conditions in the countryside. They occupied and started to cultivate land that had been left unproductive. Various (especially young)groups in the Province of Verona joined these two initiatives as an alternative to being unemployed. Unfortunately, traditional banks do not give loans for this type of economic activity. This led the MAG to decide to launch its own savings scheme. Unlike past initiatives of this kind, this time people investing their savings were paid interest. Over a period of 6-7 months the MAG wass able to collect more than 200 millions lire (around 130,000 US $). This was partly due to support activities by the local trade union.
The basic principles governing this first MAG are deliberately similar to those of the Mutuo Soccorso Operaio tradition (Workers Self-Help Scheme). In order to set up an alternative credit scheme MAG members opted for a cooperative status. Infact a cooperative can legally collect loans and savings from its members. In this way MAGS canuse this money to give financial support to its members’ projects.
In order to be successful, the MAG has also set up a consultancy service for organizations receiving MAG loans. The MAG has also been able to set working objectives which are highly motivating for the popular sectors of the local population. In contrast with the capitalist view of savings as pure profit, the MAG puts forward the idea that savings can be a way of protecting people and supporting them when they are in difficulty. Single members are also informed of how their savings are used and the projects they help finance. Mag Verona does not want to be an alternative bank. It is more of a service and consultancy agency supporting social projects. The financing scheme is just one part of this global programme that intends to gradually expand this solidarity network. Today MAG Verona has 340 members and a savings fund of 900 million Lire (around 600,000 US $).
MAG Verona has become a point of reference at regional level for consultancy work in this field and also for similar initiatives, such as MAG 3 (Padova), CTM-MAG etc. It has therefore achieved a very stable financial and managerial base.
Translated by Alessio Surian
DAVICO, Luca, IRED NORD, 1993 (ITALY)
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