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Making our mark

Today, I am giving my talk at Co-operative Congress – the annual gathering for co-ops – which this year takes place as part of ‘Co-operatives United’, the closing event for the UN International Year of Co-operatives.

We have taken the visual identity of stamps for the event and it is the comparison between the first stamps and the first co-ops that I will touch on.

A community energy revolution?

There is nothing like spreading the load.

That is true for work and it is true for campaigning.

No Costa, no cry

There is great news now from Totnes, the town where things happen first.

The No to Costa campaign in favour of local, independent coffee shops has won it’s first battle with Costa Coffee deciding against setting up shop in town.

I wrote about the campaign earlier this year, which has been an uplifting reminder that imagination and creativity are the most powerful tools we have for social change.

Postcard from Quebec

I have spent the last week at an uplifting Co-operative Summit in Quebec. This included nearly 2,800 participants from 91 countries – including a healthy presence from the vigorous co-operative sector in Quebec and Canada more widely.

Love me do

The Beatles launched ‘Love Me Do’ 50 years ago today, playing it at the Co-op Hall in Nuneaton.

Just perfect.

Costa ‘n arm and a leg

If you are out and about and feel the need, there is better quality coffee now and more available than ever, with coffee shops on every high street. As a place to sit, or a place to talk, coffee shops can be good for community.

But behind the scenes, there are competing visions of how coffee shops relate to the local economy. In Totnes, the birthplace of the transition movement, this has erupted in the form of a campaign against national chains.

Holes in our pockets

If your family includes an estate agent, a second-hand car dealer and a lawyer, it is easy to believe that you have seen it all.

But having run a consumer investigation over the last nine months at the request of Labour Shadow Business Secretary, Chuka Ummuna, I have now seen a lot more.

There are holes in our pockets as consumers and few of us are aware of how much we lose out.

So here are five conclusions from the investigation, set out in my report Confidence and Competitiveness:

Mountain high

Earlier this year, a flag for the International Year of Co-operatives made it up to the top of Everest. Now, a team of Canadian co-operators has done the same for Tanzania’s Mount Kilimanjaro, and raised good money for the Co-operative Development Foundation of Canada in the process.

Jo-Anne Ferguson, Lydia Phillips and Ingrid Fischer, who work for our sister organisation, the Canadian Co-operative Association, reached the summit a fortnight ago.

All power to you.

Uiuipi

Uiuipi is a co-operative of craftsmen on Wimbe Bay on the northern coast of Mozambique that I first got to know six years ago. Their members were lone street sellers before, but police harassment got them both fired up and co-operating. The threat more recently has been from officials and outsiders who have tried to take their land from underneath them.

The world loves credit unions

The global credit union movement has welcomed eight million new members in 2011, according to the World Council of Credit Unions.

The 2011 Statistical Report, based on reports from 100 countries, shows the world’s credit union membership at 196 million,

At the launch of the new estimates, in Gdansk, Poland, Lech Wałęsa, former head of Poland’s Solidarity party and the Nobel Peace Prize winner, called on the co-operative and credit union movement to start its own “revolution” through economic action at the grassroots.

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