From October 5 to 9, the 2014 International Summit of Cooperatives held in Quebec City, Canada brought together 3,000 participants from 93 countries. Worker and social cooperatives were broadly represented both in institutional terms and with concrete examples from all around the globe. A gathering for worker cooperators was held on October 6th, and CICOPA’s Secretary General, Bruno Roelants, was a panelist at five sessions, including the presentation of a worldwide report and the final round table.
CICOPA was entrusted by the Summit organisers to produce the intersectoral study “Cooperatives and Employment: a global report” presented on October 7th at the session “Job creation and heightened productivity”. The results showed how cooperatives contribute to resilient employment, a sustainable economy and the well-being of people at work, making up almost 12% of the entire employed population of the G20 countries. They also showed that the characteristics of cooperative employment reinforced the economic sustainability of cooperatives and vice versa, and resulted in a generally stronger level of resilience to the global crisis by all cooperatives. A significant surge in employment for worker and social cooperatives appeared to be one of the main trends in the evolution of cooperative employment over the last few years. Bruno Roelants shared the main inputs of the study on a panel with Sandra Polaski, Deputy Director-General of the International Labour Organization (ILO) who welcomed “the report’s emphasis on employment policy and statistics, enterprise restructuring through worker cooperatives, the potential of cooperatives to play a role in formalization of workers and units in the informal economy, and the promotion of cooperative entrepreneurship among youth, to mention a few of its important contributions”. You can read the full statement of Ms Polaski here.
The publication "Job preservation through worker cooperatives: An overview of international experiences and strategies" was also released by the ILO Bureau for Workers‘ Activities (ACTRAV) and the ILO-COOP unit at the International Summit of Cooperatives. The study is a review of the lessons learned by trade unions and cooperatives in their efforts to prevent the closing of enterprises through buyouts. It provides examples of success stories and documents the conditions that led to success. In its third edition launched at the occasion of the Summit, the World Co-operative Monitor shows that the top 300 cooperatives in the world have an aggregate turnover of $2.205 trillion– an increase from the previous year’s result of $2.097 trillion.
Several keynote speakers underlined the role of cooperatives, such as Robert J. Shiller, 2013 Nobel Co-Laureate- Economics, and Distinguished Professor of Economics, Yale University: “the cooperative movement has done substantial innovation towards a ’good society’” (referring to Adam Smith’s concept of a ‘good society’). Juan Buchenau, Senior Financial Sector Specialist, Finance and Private Sector Development of the World Bank, said that getting people into the job market “is a major challenge in the fight against poverty and cooperatives can play a big role”.
On October 8th the experience of worker cooperatives facing the challenge of transferring businesses to employees was at the heart of the debate in a dedicated forum. Patrick Lenancker, President of the Confédération Générale des Scop (Confederation of Worker Cooperatives in France), Camila Piñeiro Harnecker, Professor, Centre for Studies on the Cuban Economy, Havana, and others shared their experience on the topic.
Gathering of worker cooperators
In conjunction with the International Summit of Cooperatives, the Canadian Worker Cooperative Federation (CWCF) and Quebec Worker Cooperative Network (‘Réseau’) hosted a gathering for worker cooperators from several countries on October6th. CICOPA presented the main trends in the development of worker cooperatives globally. Various worker cooperative examples and representatives from the US, Argentina, Colombia, Cuba, Mondragon Spain, Scotland, France, Belgium, Poland, Korea and China participated and cooperative strategies were presented, for example, on governance, business transfers, and approaches to better integrate new members.
“At the International Gathering of Worker Cooperatives 2014 we can see the strength and power of the worker cooperative model around the world where the cooperative values resonate strongly. We heard about the explosive growth of the model around the world, at least where favourable conditions including co-op-supportive public policy are in place, e.g., in Argentina. Many great connections were made, and it is hoped that the networking among worker cooperators from various parts of the world can continue, through connections within our federations and within CICOPA and its regional affiliates”, said Hazel Corcoran, Executive Director of the CWCF.
Cooperatives to transform society: a message form young cooperators
The young cooperative leaders and members who participated to the International Summit of Cooperatives launched a manifesto calling the cooperative movement to transform an economy now based on the individual accumulation of wealth and power into a system that serves the collective well-being of people and our planet through redistribution of resources and common ownership and the active participation of youth.
“We believe that there is an alternative to the capitalist economy. The cooperative movement needs to be at the forefront of creating this. This means not emulating the institutions of capitalism, looking to capitalism’s leadership and theory for guidance, or staffing the management teams of our cooperatives with subscribers to neoliberal philosophy”. The full manifesto can be found here, and the young cooperative leaders seek to have individuals and organizations sign in. Bruno Roelants supported this message at the closing ceremony saying that “if we don’t include the youth we will regret it, young cooperators are our treasure to renew the cooperative movement”.
Awarding communication campaign promoting cooperatives
The winners of the first TOP.COOP competition, aiming to empower enterprises that showcase their cooperative position through innovative campaigns and communication strategies, were announced as part of the International Summit of Cooperatives. The eight winners from six countries were selected from a total of 30 entries from 10 states around the world. The Confederation of Worker Cooperatives in France won the Merit prize on the Advertising and Marketing section for its campaign www.jetransmetsamessalaries.fr.
In line with the Summit’s main focus of innovation, the 2014 Declaration covers five major changes cooperatives can make for the global economy: 1) be more influential; 2) increase innovation; 3) contribute to food security; 4) develop cooperatives’ role as creators of employment and 5) step up efforts to improve access to health care and services. The Summit invites contributions by Summit participants by sending ideas and comments until October 31. Participants can log on to the collaboration platform and submit their suggestions in the "Declaration" thread (click on “See all topics”). The Summit also encourages all stakeholders to promote the Declaration within their networks. Comments can also be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org The 2014 Declaration will be submitted later this year to many international organizations and events. The Declaration will also be submitted at the United Nations before the end of the year.
International Organisation of Industrial, Artisanal and
Service Producers' Cooperatives
Secretariat: C/O European Cooperative House - avenue Milcamps 105
1030 Brussels, Belgium
Tel: +32 2 543 1033, fax: +32 2 543 1037