On November 20, 2012, young cooperators from all over the world came to the United Nations Headquarters in New York to officially present the International Cooperative Youth Statement 2012, as part of the closing ceremony of the International Year of Cooperatives, declared by the UN. This pivotal year gave young people an opportunity to be heard and to promote the cooperative model.
The Statement was drawn up in an inclusive and participatory manner, which included an online survey, a discussion forum on Facebook and at the United Nations, as well as the finalization of the Statement by a group of young people committed to cooperative development. Through this process, young people from all over the world shared their experiences regarding youth empowerment and their involvement in cooperatives.
Firstly, this is a very encouraging development which has the potential to kickstart a programme of youth engagement that utilises the co-operative model of enterprise. The Statement outlines young people’s commitment to the economic, social and environmental benefits generated by co-operatives, in particular their ability to provide decent, satisfying jobs. It makes for a succinct, inspiring read and I would encourage those with a broad interest in youth development and co-operatives to read it. There are some particular passages which I will highlight here as they are relevant to our work in Scotland.
Of the recommendations made in the Statement, three stand out:
- a benchmark of youth engagement in co-operatives should be developed, ranking this objective alongside other economic and social goals;
- a call to embed teaching about the co-operative model of enterprise in education, from primary to tertiary; and
- specific recognition as part of the ICA’s Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade.
The Statement is also wise to highlight some of the challenges to succesful youth development through the co-operative model, including:
- the lack of awareness among young people, their teachers/lecturers, parents etc;
- the risk that the co-operative model is perceived as old-fashioned;
- a need for a stronger evidence base on the impact of co-operatives on youth development; and
- the lack of engagement local co-operatives have with young people.
There are certainly some points in this Statement that deserve CETS’ and others attention. Thoughts?