Breaking down the barriers to young people in the co-op movement

The Alliance's Youth Network is working on a strategy to draw in more young co-operators

The co-operative movement faces challenges when it comes to engaging young people, who sometimes see the model as outdated and struggle to rise through the ranks of a co-op, a global conference heard.

The Youth Network of the International Co-operative Alliance, which met at the Global Conference and General Assembly in Kuala Lumpur, is working on a co-operative youth manifesto and strategic plan to improve the situation.

The meeting also saw the network look to select a new representative to the ICA board. Sébastien Chaillou, from France, is set to take over the role from Gabriela Buffa. He was elected by the network by 48 votes to one abstention, with the appointment to be ratified by the Alliance.

Sebastien Chaillou and Gabriela Buffa at the session

Andrea Sangiorgi, from Italy, was elected to the Youth Network’s executive committee as member-at-large from the European region.

The seat for Africa region received no nominees and has been left vacant.

Delegates heard updates from regional networks – the Americas, Europe, Asia-Pacific and Africa – on their work for the past two years. Representatives said efforts have been made to develop business opportunities, create networks, encourage co-operative education, share information and lobby governments.

The co-op manifesto for youth adopted at the meeting was developed from studies of statements made at youth events around the world over the past few years

It notes that “youth have long been, and increasingly are, disproportionately affected by unemployment, underemployment, disempowerment and disengagement”.

It adds: “Through effective involvement with co-operatives, youth can work together with governments, civil society and other stakeholders to overcome these challenges.”

But it also notes problems within the movement, with a generational divide “leading to difficulty in integration of youth into the co-operative movement.”

The manifesto warns that young people see co-ops as “outdated” and says there are barriers to promotion and representation for young co-operators, and young people in the movement often receive fewer resources, the event heard.

To tackle these issues, the meeting in Kuala Lumpur saw delegates split into working groups to consider four initiative areas:

  • Co-ordination: How the network can work via regions, sectors and organisations such as the ILO and EU
  • Consultation: mapping co-op the youth movement and gathering statistics
  • Participation: using meetings, virtual meetings, networking to consult network members
  • Communication: using websites, emails, social media to develop the network’s strategy.

Feedback from the event will be used by network organisers as they go forward with their strategy.

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