In a world that seems to be slipping back towards protectionism and national isolation, the international co-operative movement can provide valuable lessons on the social and economic benefits of working together. According to International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) president Monique Leroux co-ops are working to address major challenges ranging from global trade disputes and job creation to climate change and the refugee crisis.
In an interview ahead of next week’s third biennial International Summit of Cooperatives in Quebec City, Ms. Leroux said global socio-economic and geopolitical trends will be an important focus of discussions among the 2,600 delegates from 105 countries expected at the summit.
“We see a trend in some countries towards protectionism and stricter border controls. We see a lack of co-operation to resolve global challenges that can only be resolved through co-operation, and we believe the co-operative movement can contribute to the solutions we all seek,” she added.
Collaboration, inclusion, innovation and sustainability are the foundations on which co-ops are built, said Ms. Leroux.
“The co-operative model is a tool to facilitate the inclusion of people in society,” she added. “We will be exploring how to use this model to improve opportunities for people to be socially included and economically empowered. It could be financial empowerment or the social inclusion of refugees in some countries. For example, the summit will hear about the experience of the Italian co-operative movement in helping and supporting refugees coming into Italy.”
The summit is significant because it is the most important gathering of the co-operative leaders in the world, said Ms. Leroux. The inaugural summit in 2012 coincided with the United Nations’ International Year of Co-operatives. It focused on the continued development of the movement and how to enhance its contribution to global business.
“This year we will focus on the power to act,” she added. “We will explore how we can work together to connect our organizations across the globe to benefit the whole movement, further develop our businesses and help address broader global challenges.”
Delegates will also explore business issues such as big data, access to capital, talent management, sustainable development and co-operative responsibility.
“We will be talking about the role of businesses as strong contributors to society and to the economy. It’s not just a question of making money; it’s also about creating jobs because societies perform better when people have opportunities.”
Ms. Leroux said while the co-operative movement is well established and growing in countries like Canada and the United States, there is also steady growth in emerging economies around the world.
“We’ve also noticed that the co-operative model, which is sometimes considered a bit old-fashioned, is being used in a very innovative way by new entrepreneurs to participate in collaborative business models that provide the scale, resources and innovation to remain competitive with much larger companies. There is a great opportunity for the co-operative model to become the new buzzword for young entrepreneurs,” she said.
Nevertheless, the co-operative movement still faces challenges in some countries where regulations and the legal framework necessary to support the development of co-ops and recognition by governments of the role co-ops can play in the economy are not what they could be, added Ms. Leroux.
WHEN: October 11 to 13, 2016
WHERE: Quebec City
WHY: The summit is the world’s leading event for business development in the co-operative and mutual community. It offers managers of co-operative and mutual enterprises of all size and in all sectors, as well as anyone in the world of business, a unique venue for networking and training on major trends, as well as on economic and financial issues.
WHO: More than 2,600 participants from 105 countries.
For more related to this story visit globeandmail.com