OVER 800 delegates and visitors are set to attend Congress 2004 at Manchester United's Old Trafford stadium this weekend.
"This year's Congress will celebrate the diversity of co-operative enterprise," said Dame Pauline Green, Chief Executive of organisers Co-operatives UK.
"The revitalisation of co-operation in recent years has seen exciting new co-operatives springing up in many different sectors of the economy, from broadband internet provision to renewable energy. "
Added Dame Pauline: "Co-operatives marry democratic accountability with practical solutions to local needs, and a renewed commitment to the sector from the highest levels of Government is once again putting co-operation at the heart of our communities.
"The prospects for co-operation are better than they have been for a generation and our annual Congress is an important step in taking forward our agenda."
Highlights of this year's Congress include the Presidential address by Keith Darwin, current chair of the Co-operative Group and former Chief Executive of Lincoln Co-op.
Ben Reid, chair of Co-operativesUK will present the Co-operative Movement's Financial Performance Report, outlining the trading position of co-operative societies over the last 12 months, and Terry Wynn, MEP for the North West Region of England and chair of the EU Budgets Committee which oversees the £ 70 billion EU budget, will address delegates.
A series of top level workshops which illustrate the breadth and diversity of the Co-operative Movement will include sessions on childcare, co-operative capital, corporate governance, and specialist schools.
A workshop looking at ways of increasing the involvement of young people in the Co-operative Movement in this country will be attended by young co-operators from across Europe.
An exhibition of co-operative enterprises will take place and there will be a series of fringe meetings focusing on issues as wide-ranging as recycling and remanufacture; community broadband internet provision; mutual home ownership and GP out-of-hours co-operatives.