Research as a central pillar of co-operation

Updates from the International Cooperative Development Platform, Overseas Cooperative Development Council and Committee on Cooperative Research (Africa Network)

International Cooperative Development Platform (ICDP)

The third party meeting of the International Cooperative Development Platform (ICDP) took place on Sunday 13 October, ahead of the ICA International Conference in Kigali, Rwanda, with over 40 delegates attending.

The ICPD gathers co-operative organisations active in international development from around the world to foster collaboration and strengthen the links between agencies. A directory has now been created of ICDP members, and fortnightly webinars will commence from later this month to share members’ work to gain insight into how they can collaborate in advocacy and programme delivery. 

The focus of the meeting was collaboration and partnership. Wangeci Gitat-Kirigi, senior advisor at Social Justice Through Trade, delivered a session on building partnerships for social justice through international cooperative development. 

She opened the session referencing how, by working collaboratively with 42 pacemakers, Kenyan long-distance runner Eliud Kipchoge was recently able to complete a marathon in under two hours. The athletes were all working to one goal, recognising that putting achievement before self interest can make incredible things happen. She also shared the work that the Co-op Group and Compass Group are undertaking to support Fairtrade women cocoa farmers through the African Women’s School of Leadership, providing a leadership programme in Cote D’Ivoire.

Mark Blackett, global network director at AMEA (which works for the professionalisation of farmer organisations) shared his organisation’s work in Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and Cote D’Ivoire, emphasising the importance of collaboration to develop an AMEA Framework to support farmers.

And Dirk Vansinintjan, president at REScoop – the European federation of renewable energy co-operatives – presented work being carried out to grow a network of European energy co-operatives.

Overseas Cooperative Development Council (OCDC)

On 16 October, the Overseas Cooperative Development Council (OCDC) shared a research study, What Difference do Cooperatives Make. The study covered Kenya, Philippines, Poland and Peru, where 2,000 people (1000 cooperative members and 1000 non-members) in each country were interviewed to establish the difference that cooperatives make. Findings were presented on three countries (Kenya, Philippines and Poland).

The research found that overall, co-operative members are in better economic situations than non-members, are less likely to be poor and have better economic standards due to being part of the co-op. They also have greater social capital as measured by trust and have greater resilience as measured by access to resources in times of emergency. 

Co-operatives in the three countries have a varied record on gender equality, the report shows: Poland is neutral, Kenya has work to do and the Philippines is very good. Among women, members are better off at a higher rate than non-members. The members as a whole do not perceive the social advantages as a direct benefit of being in a co-operative – but they value solidarity, having joined for economic reasons and staying on for social bonds such as belonging and wellbeing. 

OCDC intends to share the final results of the study with representatives from Kenya, Peru, Poland and the Philippines in 2020.

Committee on Cooperative Research – Africa Network

African researchers at a conference session looked at ways to re-energise the Committee on Cooperative Research’s Africa network.

Both researchers and co-operative movement leaders sought to identify a future agenda for collaboration between the research community and the co-operative movement in Africa.

Participants noted that co-operatives in Africa tend to rely on imported model, with little adaptation effort. In their presentations, they quoted existing studies from by NGOs, local research institutions, the ILO and the UN, which show that co-operatives in Africa are not efficient enough, operate in few sectors and are usually too controlled by the state.

Furthermore, they pointed out, co-operatives are not perceived as legal forms of business, like companies, but village entities that constantly need the support of the state to survive. They believe the main role of research should be to reverse this trend with concrete proposals for the emergence of cooperatives rooted in African tradition and culture.

Prof Esther Gicheru from the Co-operative University of Kenya suggested creating a database on cooperative development and strengthening collaboration between researchers and co-operators engaged in research.

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