On March 4, 1964, under the inspiring leadership of Dr. Uriel Estrada Calderón, a group of twenty-seven doctors founded the Medical Cooperative of Valle (Ccoomeva). Intending to jointly offer financial and insurance services, the group harnessed the cooperative structure of credit unions. Gradually the successful model attracted more members: first doctors and later individuals from associated trades until, in 1967, Coomeva opened to all professionals.

Combining a deep belief in the principals of cooperatives with a dynamic sense of entrepreneurship, Coomeva expanded their services, their territory and their social base. Today, the organization manifests itself as a Business Cooperative Group and is present in 1,050 municipalities in Colombia. The 265 thousand members benefit from the 16 companies that the Cooperativa formed in diverse sectors, such as finance, health, insurance and recreation.

The cooperative maintains intense participation and democratization through the more than 170 committees that involve around 1,600 leaders. The elections for determining the cooperative delegates mobilize more than 40% of the members and constitute an example of democracy in Colombia.

The model assures that the Cooperative maintains majority ownership of the businesses, allowing them to offer a spectrum of over 140 integrated products and services, always with the goal of bettering the quality of life of the members. More than this, the Cooperative drives the entrepreneurial character, both in training and financing, of the members as they develop businesses.

Coomeva promotes a relationship between members and their roles as owners, users and administrators. The Lealtad Coomeva program recognizes and awards redeemable points for member participation in terms of monthly capital contributions, democratic involvement, training and utilization of services.

In 1984 the Cooperative adopted a formal organizational and administrative model that later evolved into The System of Integrated Management. Through implementation of this system, the Cooperative won the 2012 Columbian Prize for Management Quality.

Proud of their cooperative nature, Coomeva declared in their 2015 Strategic Plan an intention to continue generating benefits for the most important professional collective in the country, as well as the larger Colombian community. This will entail working in two complementary and harmonious dimensions: the business and the cooperative. They will seek the parallels that assure unity of purpose, direction and control.

Coomeva has $2.5 billion in assets and equity of $275 million. It generates nearly 13 thousand direct jobs and 28 thousand indirect jobs. It ranks as one of the 20 largest companies in Colombia.

Story translated by Kathryn Kruse