The idea of giving access to culture to all Swiss people, launched by Switzerland's largest retailer, Migros, is this year 50 years old and still going strong.This content was published on May 25, 2007 - 11:49
The scheme is so named because Migros puts about one per cent of its annual retail turnover into cultural activities - in good economic times and bad.
"It goes back to an idea of the founder Gottlieb Duttweiler, who anchored the 'culture per cent' in Migros statutes in 1957," Josephine Siegrist from the Migros human resources, culture and leisure department told swissinfo.
Duttweiler, whose vision was to sell low-price goods and services, was a shrewd businessman as well as a social benefactor.
"Not enough is done in this rich country to open the doors to cultural services and goods to the less well-off," he argued.
The "culture per cent" has now grown into a comprehensive financial commitment by Migros in the areas of culture, society, education, leisure and the economy.
Migros was, however, taking its social responsibilities seriously long before 1957. It began supporting Swiss films in 1943, while a language school was founded a year later.
"The Migros club school, founded in 1948, now offers over 700 different courses in languages, IT, management and business, and leisure," Siegrist said.
"There are also Eurocentres which offer foreign language training to promote understanding between people from different linguistic, cultural and social backgrounds."
Other bodies supported by the "culture per cent" include the Gottlieb Duttweiler Institute at Rüschlikon just outside Zurich –a think tank and conference venue – the four Green Meadow Parks and the Migros Museum for Contemporary Art.
With leisure in mind, Migros also owns the Monte Generoso Railway in southern Switzerland, rising from 274 metres at Capolago on Lake Lugano to Generoso at 1,704 metres along a stretch of nine kilometres.
Ideas and talent
Almost SFr116 million ($94.19 million) came in from the "culture per cent" in 2006, an amount divided according to strict controls.
"People come to us asking for money and we have clear criteria on how we give it."
"We try to support good cultural projects from individuals or groups that are interesting, not just with money but also with networking, helping with infrastructure or giving them a platform to develop their ideas and talent," Siegrist said.
She added that "good, new ideas" came back, which helped those people working in the scheme to develop it. "It's exciting to work here."
Celebrations to mark the 50 years have been focusing on a national competition called MyCulture, which has been open to young people aged between 14 and 20. Its motto is: "MyCulture is looking for you and your talent."
The categories include dance, sound, theatre, words, art and design, film and new media.
Winners of the competition – coached by professionals – will go on a tour of the country from the end of June.
"We want to find young people who have special talent and give them a platform to show how they work and to express themselves. On the other hand we try to give the public the possibility to have an insider view of what's happening now in society and in culture," Siegrist said.
Migros is later this year organising a concert of the Rolling Stones, not least thanks to its efforts in promoting culture.
The concert of the Rock Legends in Lausanne on August 11 is to celebrate ten years of the Migros Cumulus customer bonus scheme.
"For us the Stones were the group we wanted from the beginning. It was in particular our big commitment to culture that finally persuaded the management of the Rolling Stones," commented Migros marketing head Urs Riederer.
"We are not only celebrating ten years of the Cumulus scheme this year, but also 50 years of the Migros culture per cent."
swissinfo, Robert Brookes in Zurich
Culture per cent in 2006: SFr115.7 million
Distribution: 55% for education, 23% for culture, 10% for leisure, 4% for social issues and 2% for economic issues.
Migros was founded in 1925 by Gottlieb Duttweiler. At the beginning he bought five small Ford-T trucks, filled them with coffee, rice, sugar, pasta, coconut fat and soap, and sold his goods in the Zurich area.
It is now Switzerland's largest retailer, with a turnover of nearly SFr21 billion and a staff of almost 80,000.
The Migros Group consists of ten regional cooperatives and the federation of Migros cooperatives. Industrial companies, service companies, foundations and other organisations are affiliated to the federation.
It does not sell alcohol or tobacco. Duttweiler said they were a threat to the family.
1.4 million customers visit M-Shops every day. 99% of Swiss households shop at least once a year at Migros.
As a cooperative, Migros is jointly owned by nearly two million Swiss.
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