The International Summit (held October 8-11, 2012) was a mixed experience for a worker co-operator like me. As someone profoundly committed to the values, principles and democratic nature of the co-operative movement, I found it relatively challenging to listen to the dominant themes of this Summit. The dominant themes included profitability and growth for the already established co-ops -- with the co-op principles, democratic process and development of new co-operatives or a transformative co-op movement playing a small role. Of course, at the outset it was billed as an event “only for the 300 largest co-ops in the world.” When Summit organizers opened up the participation, they did not open up the process or the content in any substantial way. For example, there was no opportunity to speak at a microphone in plenary for any of the 2800 regular participants. There were, however, some notable exceptions in plenaries to this focus on only the Big 300: remarks made by Ricardo Petrella, Felice Scalvini, Sonja Novkovic, Bruno Roelants and a few others – which were inspiring indeed.
The Declaration which came out of the Summit contained no mention that I could find of co-op values or principles.
On the other hand, there were some very good things about this Summit. The best of them were: the complementary Conference Imagine 2012 (which unfortunately I had to miss most of), the challenging speakers noted above, and the opportunity to see people from the co-op movement from far and wide. I also think it's good that it has opened up space in the public for more discussion about co-ops by attracting some media attention. Lastly, the break-out sessions that I attended were excellent: one on the worker co-op movement around the world; the other on using Co-op Values to attract and retain talent. The many complementary meetings, including the one for worker co-operatives, were also important and useful.
For those who wish to consider two alternative visions of the co-operative movement, see the Summit Declaration 2012 (indicating suggested amendments by CWCF, and possibly other worker co-op federations - below), and compare it with the Worker Co-op Declaration, which was signed by all worker co-op federations in North America last fall.
There are a series of intersecting crises today, of an environmental, social and economic nature, and I believe that the co-operative model, practiced fully, is the best hope for the human race. I heard it said at this Summit that we need a co-operative revolution. I would say that we also need a revolution inside the co-operative movement, to help it re-connect to its roots: the values, principles and responsiveness to human need which (to my thinking at least) are why we are here in the first place.
Another issue with this Summit is that the cost to attend was prohibitively expensive for most worker co-operators and other co-operators from emerging sectors; fortunately many of us were able to attend as a result of having costs covered, as workshop presenters, journalists, etc. I strongly encourage you to read the document called “Impressions”, by other worker co-operators who were there; it contains fascinating analysis of the Summit and the state of the co-operative movement.
In addition (in case you have not already seen this in the e-Newsletter): it's your last chance to register for the CWCF-CoopZone Conference! The deadline is this Friday, October 26. We invite you to join us in Hamilton, Ontario for our Conference on Surviving and Thriving as a Worker Co-op, on November 8 through 10. There are also optional activities, on November 7: an all-day workshop on the Co-op Index, and the first in-person meeting of the CoopZone Legal Network. On the evening of November 7th will also be the Canadian premiere of the new worker co-op film, Shift Change. Keynote speakers are from Come As You Are worker co-op: Annanda DeSilva and Jack Lamon. To see our other
exciting speakers and Conference activities, please follow this link. To register, which only takes a few minutes, click directly on this link: www.gifttool.com/cwcf.
We are trying to arrange for live-streaming; please tell me if you are interested! I hope to see you there.
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