When ICA developed its plans for the 2012 International Year of Co-operatives, we knew that an important component would need to be our digital strategy. This results from the fact that our primary goal is to raise public awareness of the co-operative as a serious, values-based business model, and from the fact that young people are a key audience for that message.
One way we are implementing this strategy is by creating a social media component of our public awareness campaign. We’re on Facebook at IYC: International Year of Co-operatives and on Twitter @icacoop. Our friends and followers are steadily growing, and reflect our commitment that we are launching a multi-year campaign, not just a single-year event.
Our communications overall is beginning to show more sympathy with digital options. Last year we moved from a traditional newsletter format, distributed three times a year by email to members and other interested audiences, to a monthly e-Digest format. My attempt at a blog is another way ICA is experimenting with other ways of communicating.
We also have developed a new web site for the Year, www.2012.coop. This site, which uses a CiviCRM platform, will soon replace the content currently at www.ica.coop. The ica.coop URL will be repointed to 2012.coop. After 2012, 2012.coop will be renamed ica.coop. As a result, ICA will replace the “historical steward” image that our web site has had with the more dynamic look and feel coming out of the 2012 IYC.
We are now looking beyond 2012, and to the end of the decade. A Planning Work Group has been assembled to draft a Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade, a strategic plan intended to fulfill the vision the ICA Board has set: that the co-operative will be the fastest-growing model of enterprise by 2020. This will not happen without a serious digital strategy.
Core to ICA’s digital strategy is the dot.coop domain. Today there are about 7000 dot.coop URLs. We believe there should be 100,000. Establishing a dot.coop name is an effective way for a co-operative to brand itself as such and to identify with the values-based model whose brand ICA is committed to building up over this decade. We believe that many co-operatives are unaware of how to easily implement a dot.coop strategy, simply by pointing that URL to their existing site.
ICA is today in conversations with the leading organisations involved in the creation and management of the dot.coop domains. We believe the time is ripe for a new business model that can transform what is today too often seen as a transaction, into an essential part of a co-operative’s branding and marketing.
At the same time, ICA is moving to a new stage in our collection and dissemination of data. We have for the past few years periodically published the Global 300, a list of the 300 largest co-operatives in the world. In 2011, we expanded the list to include sectoral analysis as well. Now we have partnered with Euricse (the European Research Institute for Co-operative and Social Enterprise) to relaunch the Global 300 in 2012 as the World Co-operative Monitor. The goal is to move beyond the largest 300 and beyond the measure of annual turnover. To do this, we will be partnering with other co-operative lists, by country and sector, that we know to exist, sharing data as we can, and making it available to the co-operative community.
There are other exciting digital conversations now percolating outside of ICA. Some of these deal with the desire to provide the co-operative community with tailored technology solutions. Open source is often cited as an example of an aligned movement, with values consistent with those of co-operatives. Others are asking whether there should be co-operative cloud computing options, or perhaps this is too commoditized a business to create a co-operative difference. These are important and timely issues that co-operative leaders need to explore.