Co-operation across borders: How the ICA is working with the EU

'What can happen if co-ops join together? We can have a strong voice: this is what has happened at the EU level'

The power of the co-op movement working together across borders was highlighted in a session at the Co-op College’s Centenary Conference.

Marc Nöel, international development director at the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA), highlighted the organisation’s work with the European Union – the ICA-EU Partnership, also known as #coops4dev.

“What can happen if co-ops join together? We can have a strong voice: this is what has happened at the EU level,” he said. 

Around a decade ago, 10 organisations came together to explore how they could collaborate to raise the profile of co-operatives and co-operation within EU institutions. “From the first meetings it was clear that there was a lot of opportunity. But it was also clear that some had no clue what we mean when we say co-operation.”

The conversation around the added value of co-ops in international development continued, and in 2016 the ICA-EU partnership was signed to increase awareness and reach of co-operatives in European policies and platforms.

Mr Nöel added that these conversations took place in the context of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) – and particular SDG17, which focuses on the importance of partnerships (and through this, education) in creating meaningful, long-term change.

“From the ICA-EU partnership has come a series of concrete tools and actions which can be useful for international development – and the role of co-operatives within this.”

These tools include a world map on the partnership’s website,, which shows data on co-operative sectors in different countries; thematic videos and webinars (such as Tuesday Talks every other week with co-op development organisations); a series of documentaries on co-ops that will be showcased on; and research publications that have “member-driven thematic approaches”.

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