A NEW "Co-op Commission" to bring together the various youth initiatives in the Movement could lead to 2005 being designated as the Year of Young People.
A meeting being convened next month by Richard Bickle, Secretary of the UK Society for Co-operative Studies, is expected to lay the foundations for closer co-operation between several youth groups including the Woodcraft Folk, Young Co-op Network, Chain and Young Co-operatives.
And, says Woodcraft Folk vice chairman Richard Lace, the time to act is now after years of discussing and prevaricating over how to involve more young people in day-to-day co-op activities and democracy.
Mr Lace told delegates at the recent Congress at Old Trafford: "Involving and recruiting young people to our Movement has been a popular topic of discussion for some years now, but the action taken so far is not enough. We cannot afford to wait any longer ? inaction or deferment is not an option.
"Young as we are, we are not the future. We are the present. We are here and we are able. We want to take an active role and share responsibility to ensure a healthy Co-operative Movement for our children and our grand-children."
He said many young people have Co-op values and principles, but do not realise they form the core of a living, vibrant movement.
Next year should be declared the ?Year of Young People' by the Movement, he said.
"We want to form a Youth Commission to bring together everyone's ideas. We want to probe into all the corners of our Movement to reveal our strengths and weaknesses and suggest concrete actions. The Youth Commission would be owned by young people and follow on from the findings of the Co-operative Commission in 2001."
Added Mr Lace: "We'll start with a group of interested and involved young people from our co-operative youth organisations putting their heads together to come up with a proposed framework for the Youth Commission and we'll launch whatever we come up with in September for consultation."
Mr Lace's comments were welcomed by Alex Wilde, Co-ordinator of the Scotland-based Young Co-op Network and by Co-operatives UK Chief Executive Pauline Green.
Dame Pauline said: "We were delighted to see so many young people at Congress this year. For once, young co-operators were conspicuous by their presence and any initiatives that lead to a greater participation and involvement of young people in the Movement will be looked on favourably and encouraged."
Ms Wilde said that the opportunity to pull together the Movement's various youth initiatives had "fired the imagination" of Young Co-op Network members.
She told the News: "It's important that next month's meeting is as open as possible and that it focuses on pulling the differing initiatives together. Obviously, young people should have ownership of the agenda that drives the project forward.
"But we are very excited about the possibilities and it would be great if Congress 2005 in Glasgow could highlight the progress of an expanded and joined up co-operative youth network.`
Any youth groups wishing to attend to attend next month's meeting should e-mail Richard Bickle or telephone 01603 502527 for further details.