I had the privilege recently of helping to open the first International Conference on Co-operatives in Iran. 600 participants from 20 countries gathered to hear presentations spanning the full range of co-operative sectors. Practitioners and researchers combined to share their learnings and their insights.
Iranian co-operatives displayed an impressive array of goods they produce, from ordinary food products to high-tech cables. Government leaders shared their commitment to increase the co-operative share of GDP to 25% by the end of this decade, from its current 7%. Seeing the range of goods exhibited, it was clear that this is very possible.
This is the sort of vision and commitment that is needed from leaders around the world if we are to fulfill the promise before us – that this could be the co-operative decade.
Shaun Tarbuck, ceo of ICMIF, ICA’s sectoral organisation for insurance, shared with me recently a graphic he prepared showing shifts in economic models over the past two centuries. According to this, co-operatives witnessed a flowering of activity in the early decades of the last century, followed by a period of dominance by government and then by capitalism. His assessment is that we are now again due for a co-operative period.
These data points are compelling because they support the impression I get when I visit our members around the world – that we are entering a time of remarkable co-operative growth. Nowhere was this feeling stronger than this recent conference in Iran. My hope is that others who attended will return inspired by the leadership they are seeing there to combine a vision for the future with the commitment to see it through.