It's the International Day of Co-operatives so I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight some fantastic work that has been going on across our Movement in the past 12 months.
To ‘build a better world through co-operation’ we must look beyond our shores. As a Movement, we are having real impact through disaster relief and uplifting international projects which are improving people’s livelihoods each and every day.
Our international work and influence is co-ordinated through the International Co-operative Working Group (ICWG).
I have the honour of chairing the ICWG, which is made up of people from leading UK co-operatives, networks and infrastructure bodies, including the Co-operative College.
Celebrating our global movement
For the ICA's International Day of Co-operatives 2023 I wanted to take the opportunity to highlight some fantastic work that has been going on across our movement.
Through the ICWG, earlier this year we worked with Co-op Group to extend its partnership with the Disasters Emergency Committee (DEC) to the wider co-operative movement.
This was unfortunately tested immediately when, in February, the devastating earthquakes struck in Turkey and Syria. Our movement sprung into action within 24 hours of the DEC Appeal going live.
Several retailers gave direct donations; but importantly we mobilised co-operative members and customers to give generously so DEC could get funds to people on the ground as quickly as possible. As a result, more than £265,000 was raised by our movement for the DEC Appeal.
The ICWG is also in touch with co-operative networks in both countries to see how else we can add our support.
In India, you may remember in 2020, retail co-ops across the UK came together to provide much needed emergency supplies to co-ops and communities in India during the Covid crisis, raising £100,000.
A two year programme began last year to support SEWA, the Co-operative Federation in India which works with 106 women’s co-ops. Recent projects have included the establishment of two incubator co-operatives in community research and marketing.
ICA Co-op Identity consultation
Some who attended Co-op Congress last month, may have attended the ICA Co-op Identity Consultation. This is one of many workshops we hope will feed into the ICA global consultation on the relevance of the co-operative identity this year.
This opportunity doesn't come round very often; and it’s a big opportunity to influence future co-operative identity and ensure that the UK has its say. You can do this by directly hosting a consultation event or by tacking on to existing events, for example, AGMs or Membership Forums. You can use a toolkit developed by the ICA to guide you through holding the event, asking the questions that are important to them and feeding back to the ICA. If you run a session, please let [email protected] know.
Earlier this year we announced that the ICWG is investing in an exciting new documentary project with aroundtheworld.coop.
We received so many incredible entries, pitching to be featured in the documentary. We invited 10 shortlisted co-operatives to attend Co-op Congress for a screen-test. The filmmakers were wowed by the quality of the co-ops and inspiring stories being told. Two or three will be picked for the feature-length documentary – the names will be announced in the coming months, with filming due to take place in 2024.
International Co-operative Development Fund
The ICWG is exploring the creation of an International Co-operative Development Fund.
The idea emerged from the Our Malawi partnership, led by Central Co-op in partnership with The Co-operative College and launched a year ago.
The initiative supports farmers and producers in Malawi, improving livelihoods and helping strengthen trading capacity. In the spirit of Co-op Principle 6, Central Co-op is working in partnership with other co-operatives while also collaborating closely with The Co-operative College to support the Malawian Federation of Cooperatives too (MAFECO).
At our recent Co-op Congress, Central Co-op hosted a workshop looking back over the last year of Our Malawi Partnership, sharing knowledge with other co-operatives and inviting them to join in with the Malawi initiative. You can also find out how your co-operative can get involved with the project!
An altogether different global movement
So, as Co-op Fortnight draws to a close, let's commit to keep shouting about the power of a collective movement – in the UK and globally – and let's keep celebrating our impact as we build a better world through co-operation.