What a year 2011 has been. Over the last twelve months, we have seen the UK beginning to co-operate again and the co-operative form once again coming to the fore.
In the UK today, a thriving co-operative economy exists. Our state of the sector report, The UK Co-operative Economy 2011, shows that there are 5,450 independent co-operative businesses owned by around 12.8 million people, with the co-operative economy outperforming the UK economy, growing by 21% since the start of the credit crunch in 2008.
Demonstrating just how commercial success can sit hand in hand with values and principles, last year the combined turnover of all UK co-operatives grew by 4.4% to £33bn, despite the wider economic downturn.
Membership of co-operatives has also seen a dramatic increase, rising 18% since 2008 to 12.8 million people, meaning that one in five people in the UK are now a member of a co-operative.
Together, the UK co-operative sector had a big impact through our second ever Co-operatives Fortnight, which saw a remarkable four million people engaged — not to mention record media coverage for the co-operative sector.
Looking forward, the UK co-operative sector as a whole is counting down to 2012, the International Year of Co-operatives. Our plans are in place for marking the start of the International Year on 12 January, when we will join with other co-operatives across the world in celebrating the start of a momentous year for us all.
We are working with co-operatives across the UK — big and small — to help equip all with the tools to make the most of the International Year and really promote their co-operative and the co-operative way of doing business.
We will be coming together again with our international colleagues again for International Co-operatives Day on 7 July too, when we will all be able to hold shared events and activities to demonstrate how the global the co-operative movement is.
And, of course, we are working closely with International Co-operative Alliance and The Co-operative Group on Co-operatives United, the world festival and expo taking place to end the International Year from 29 October — a week not to be missed.
We will join together for International Co-operatives Day on 7 July and we will be there at the grand finale, in Manchester, from 29 October, to really celebrate the World Co-operative Festival.
We’ve a lot to look forward to and I would like to wish all co-operators the very best of success for 2012, the International Year of Co-operatives.