I’ve written often about the Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade, which the International Co-operative Alliance’s members in 100 countries adopted during the 2012 International Year of Co-operatives. In its first meeting since that action, in Moscow in late March 2013, the ICA Board approved a preliminary plan to turn the vision of the Blueprint into action. ICA is using its traditional four-year planning cycle to consider, first, the period from 2013¬–2016, which will be followed later by a second four-year plan carrying through to 2020.
The 2013-2016 plan launches a handful of initiatives seen as preparatory steps in this eight-year course. For example, we will commission two scans to assess the current state of co-operative activity, one in participation and one in sustainability. These are proof of concept undertakings, to determine the extent to which we can claim achievements in these vital areas. We want to identify promising practices in the use of technology and social media in promoting participation, especially for youth engagement and gender diversity. Similarly, we want to understand where co-operatives have made sustainability commitments and demonstrated leadership in this area.
We will also be commissioning a thought leadership paper on Redefining Growth and Efficiency, in order to set forth the co-operative perspective on sustainability, incorporating economic, social, and environmental dimensions. This paper will help to shape the co-operative position on the post-Millennium Development Goals.
Also among these preparatory steps, in the area of capital, we are assembling a ‘Blue Ribbon’ panel to assess the advantages and disadvantages of existing means of financing co-operative growth and creation. This group will examine public channels as well as the role of financial co-operative institutions and innovative methods such as crowd-funding.
And in the identity area, we are drafting the message platform to ensure, first, that we have internal understanding and embrace of the Blueprint within the co-operative community. That is our priority for 2013 communication. The following year we intend to take our messages external, to the public and media at large.
While this background research is underway, we will be launching specific initiatives that build the foundation for future progress. For example, we now invite governmental agencies and regulators into associate membership in the ICA, where we intend to create a forum for input and exchange of ideas. We are likewise building a network of Global Co-operative Parliamentarians, based on an existing Latin America Parliamentarian Association, to identify legislators sympathetic to co-operative principles. And we are designing a Doing Co-operative Business report, to supplement the World Bank’s Doing Business report, which evaluates the business climate in countries around the globe.
As we prepare for ICA’s General Assembly and Conference in Cape Town this November, we will be gathering input to assess the viability of a Co-operative Africa plan, with African co-operative leadership, to ensure that the development of Africa rebounds to the benefit of people on that continent. While this is underway, the first tranche of lending is intended to be released from the Global Development Co-operative fund, a legacy project of the International Year and a continuing initiative under the Blueprint. ICA will also be designing a co-operative trade initiative, as a successor to the ICA Expo, which we will not be continuing on a global level.
Very important work is underway in the identity area during the advent of this planning cycle. Foremost, the Board has approved the development of a shared co-operative visual image, a marque to succeed the logo of the International Year of Co-operatives, and which would also form the basis of a redesigned ICA logo. A design firm has been engaged and we are beginning to seek input from ICA members.
Also essential to our identity is the development of Guidance Notes for the Statement on Co-operative Identity, as our members approved in 2012. Our Principles Committee is now working to ensure that the first set of Notes is available for our Cape Town conference. These Notes will maintain the relevance of the Co-operative Principles in changing times and conditions.
Another initiative intended to ensure relevance is the launch of a Co-operative Enterprise Quarterly. While not yet assured, we are currently assessing the feasibility of such a high-level business journal for co-operatives.
Finally, the ICA Board approved the creation of a DotCoop Alliance to help develop the .coop brand into a more integrated and expansive model. We see a .coop identity as an essential component of every co-operative’s brand.
This work will require resources, financial and human. A Leadership Circle of ten of the world’s leading co-operatives is being formed to serve as a resource nucleus. Beyond that, ICA’s members are being encouraged to contribute to a Blueprint Fund, which will provide the financial resources to advance these initiatives, resources not available from the regular operating budget of ICA. Most importantly, however, we will need co-operatives across the world to embrace the spirit and direction of the Blueprint in their own planning. Only this will allow us to have the impact needed to fulfill the 2020 vision.