To celebrate the International Year of Co-operatives, the Central Cooperative Union of Bulgaria, hosted the Young Cooperative Leaders Forum recently. The main objective of the forum was to find the right approach to attract and motivate young people and to encourage them to get involved in the co-operative movement.
Peter Stefanov, President of the Central Cooperative Union said in his address to the participants: “We frequently hear the message that young people are our future, but it loses its meaning if they are not also our present. Generations of co-operators have devoted much of their lives to keep the flame of the co-operative idea alive, a significant dividend today, and it is on the youth to invest this dividend prudently and to give their contribution to the sustainable development of the co-operative business, founded on values and principles that have been current for almost two centuries.”
The forum (14–15 June) sent 7-key messages seven key messages to young people across the world: inspiration, training, decision-making, innovation, collaboration, commitment and action. Young people present at the forum got the chance to share ideas and exchange opinions and information through discussion and various forms of online training.
Rodrigo Gouveia, Secretary General of EUROCOOP also said: “Co-operatives can reach out to youth in a multitude of ways. First, cooperatives are a source of sustainable, long- term employment. Co-operatives offer a chance to develop professional skills. Co-operatives are also connecting young people through new communication tools – Facebook, Twitter, YouTube.”
After the official business sessions, the young people visited the consumer cooperative in the town of Ahtopol, where Katya Kirova, Chair of the Consumer Cooperative, welcomed them.
One of the most prominent speakers at the conference was Ros Tennyson, an internationally recognised advisor who has worked as an advisor on partnership for many leading companies, non-government organisations as well as in various areas of the economic and social life. He shared specific examples of partnership building, negotiations and sustainable networks, managing to get the youth actively involved in the debates by using interactive approaches and role-playing games.
The forum aimed to discuss how to create an environment in which young people, the leaders of tomorrow can express their opinion freely and be part of the decision making process within co-operatives.
The participants in the forum passed two resolutions. The first one suggested that the main “policy topics” on the website of Cooperatives Europe should include a sub-menu “Youth Policy”. The second resolution encouraged the representation of the co-operative movement in projects funded by the European Union in the area of youth policies.
Representatives of 12 European national cooperative organisations took part in the forum, which was organised for the second time, in partnership with Cooperatives Europe – European Region of the International Cooperative Alliance and the European Community of Consumer Cooperatives (EUROCOOP).