Setting the scene

While the General Assembly officially begins today, most of us aren’t going to Cancun until tomorrow (Tuesday) morning.  That is because the first day is devoted to ICA...

While the General Assembly officially begins today, most of us aren’t going to Cancun until tomorrow (Tuesday) morning.  That is because the first day is devoted to ICA board and committee meetings, which only involve some of the participants.  So it’s a good opportunity to set the scene for the week’s events.

Scene setter 1: Where is Cancun anyway?  It’s in the state of Quintana Roo on the tip of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula.  It was created by the Mexican government specifically as a tourist destination; four decades ago it was a deserted island with nothing on it but sand dunes.

By 1986, Cancun was the largest city in Quintana Roo; today, it is Mexico’s most popular tourist destination and there are more than 500,000 inhabitants in the urban area.

“You’re not really going to Mexico,” a colleague who had been to Cancun said to me this morning, referring to the concentration of tourist resorts and tourism-oriented attractions.   But I’m not so sure; there are a lot of places in the world which have tourism as their primary industry, but still retain something of the country’s character.  Think Niagara Falls or Whistler in Canada: they may be devoted to tourism, but they are still Canadian.  I suspect I may find the same thing about Cancun, if I ever manage to get away from the resort hotel where the meetings are taking place.

With that in mind, I thought it might be interesting to find out whether Cancun had any co-ops, and sure enough, it does. A Google search for “cooperativa Cancun” revealed that there are at least six co-operatives in the area, including a caja popular (credit union) and, not surprisingly, a Cooperativa de servicios turisticos.

Scene setter 2:  Who will be attending the ICA event?  Co-op leaders, directors, delegates, staff.  Special guests, like speakers Sam Graham-Felsen, the Obama campaign staffer who masterminded his social media strategy, and Philippe Cousteau, grandson of famed undersea explorer Jacques Cousteau and an expert at using the media to enact environmental change.

In all, they’re expecting some 2,000 people, including more than a dozen Canadians.  Five are there from CCA: board members Beryl Bauer and Jill Kelly; Jo-Anne Ferguson, senior director of International Development;  Tanya Gracie, CCA’s program manager for the International Year  of Co-operatives, and myself.  Kathy Bardswick, president and CEO of The Co-operators, is there in her capacity as Canada’s representative on the ICA board.  And there will also be a delegation from the other Canadian ICA member organization, the Conseil canadien de la coopération et de la mutualité, as well as representatives of the two Quebec-based international co-op development agencies, SOCODEVI and Développement international Desjardins.  And of course, Ian MacPherson, professor emeritus at the University of Victoria and Canada’s foremost expert on the history of the co-operative movement.  Not to mention the fact that he had a major hand in the last revision of  the co-operative principles.

Well, I’m flying out at 7 a.m…..time to get some sleep.  More tomorrow.

– Donna Balkan

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