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November 7, 2012

The co-ops are coming

The co-operative movement is a broad church with a history stretching back more than 200 years. Whether a co-op is owned by the community, workers or consumers, the principles of cooperation, mutuality and reciprocity hold true for all.  We’ve seen rapid growth in recent years – no doubt reflecting the global financial crisis and a new appetite for more ethical business models. 10,000 co-op members from 45 different countries gathered in Manchester recently.  A highly ambitious vision for the next decade was unveiled.


By Simon Birch

The leader of the global co-operative movement today outlined an ambitious vision for making co-operatives the fastest growing business model by the end of the decade.

Launching the Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade, Dame Pauline Green, president of the International Co-operative Alliance, the trade body representing co-ops from around the world said: “We want to see co-operatives rise to the top of global business as the fastest growing business model by 2020. Our strategy is for the co-operative model to become the acknowledged leader in economic, social and environmental sustainability and therefore the model preferred by people. And as a result of this to become the fastest growing form of enterprise.”

Dame Pauline was speaking at the opening of Co-operatives United, a three day event designed to showcase the resurgent and increasingly confident global co-operative community.

A mash-up of conferences, exhibitions and fringe festival, organisers are hailing Co-ops United as one of the biggest-ever international gatherings of global co-operative organisations and is being held to mark the close of the United Nations International Year of Co-operatives.

Over 10,000 co-op members representing 1,500 co-ops from 45 countries have gathered under Manchester’s legendary leaden skies to hear how the global co-op economy offers the opportunity to build a more ethical and resilient global economy.

In a defiantly upbeat speech, Dame Pauline said that this was a pivotal moment in the history of the co-operative sector.

“This international year has seen the global co-operative movement come together in a way which was previously unimaginable. Now our challenge is to build on this hard work in a way which garners results. We now are in a position to cement our business model in markets worldwide”.

With research published today showing that the top 300 co-operative and mutual enterprises have a turnover of just under $2tn, the global co-operative sector now comprises 1.4 million business across the world and has one billion members.

Dame Pauline expressed frustration that the importance of the co-op economy has yet to be recognised by the leaders of the global economy, a point which was brought home by the absence of any Government minister at this morning’s opening ceremony.

“Why is there still not a co-op economist within the IMF?” demanded Dame Pauline who added, “We deserve to be heard in global forums.”

Co-ops United is also throwing its doors open to the public with a packed programme of free exhibitions, workshops and tours enabling people to come face to face with the global co-op community.

Over 100 co-operative businesses from Canada to China have been assembled in the world’s largest global exhibition of co-operative businesses whilst UK co-ops are represented in wide range of sectors from co-operative schools, shops and healthcare to finance, housing and pubs.

“Co-operatives United is a huge celebration of co-operatives around the world,” said Ed Mayo, secretary general of Co-operatives UK, the UK trade association for co-operatives.

“We invite families, children and all those interested in the movement to come and really engage with how to live a co-operative life.”