Our view: How co-operatives can take advantage of the Trump presidency

Citizens of the world have hit back at the political elite in quick succession this year. Some of this can be traced to the 2008 financial crisis, after...

Citizens of the world have hit back at the political elite in quick succession this year.

Some of this can be traced to the 2008 financial crisis, after which people showed real anger towards Wall Street and other financial institutions, nationally and globally.

But now we are seeing the culmination of many years of anger towards politicians. Brexit and the Trump presidency show that we have divided nations, with one group of people wanting to close the doors and ‘look after their own’, while another group wants a global world where we all work in harmony together.

Some of the reasons behind Brexit and the Trump presidency are shrouded in hatred, but ultimately, they indicate a dissatisfaction with the status quo. Brexit and Trump were unexpected results. The public know this and were pushing for upset of the political world.

Trust in politicians is at an extreme low. According to pollsters Ipsos MORI, politicians are the least trusted profession in the UK – even behind bankers. In the US, Gallop has also seen the ratings of government decline rapidly; just 44% of people today say they have ‘a great deal’ or ‘fair amount’ of trust and confidence in the federal government, down from 77% in 2001.

The message is clear, people have lost trust in politicians and they want something different. It’s perceived that many politicians are overly interested in their own careers, rather than representing the people. So is it co-operatives they’re looking for?

Related: What will Donald Trump do for co-operatives?

We have a model that can run services, provide employment and promote equality throughout communities. They can respond to the problems faced by communities by being on the ground and being owned and run by those same communities.

They are also more trusted than government – 66% of people say co-op businesses are “trusted”, according to Co-operatives UK.

The United Nations also knows that government does not have the answers for everything. Despite being made-up exclusively of the world’s governments, the UN recognises that more needs to be done outside of this bubble. Models of self-help, such as co-ops, are one mechanism to achieve this.

To help push this change along, the UN has developed a global plan – the Sustainable Development Goals. In publishing the goals, the UN talks about the need for partnerships with people and businesses.

Last month at the International Summit of Cooperatives, the UN’s US ambassador Sarah Mendelson said the goals are an “enormous opportunity”. But they’re not just for government, she said, “they’re our goals”.

With trust so low for politicians and financial institutions, there is a gap for a trusted movement to help provide some of the answers. Can co-operatives fill that void? And how do we make it happen?

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