UK co-operatives unite to launch the International Year

Co-operative organisations and retail societies have come together to get the 2012 UN-backed International Year of Co-operatives off to a flying start in the UK.

Co-operative organisations and retail societies have come together to get the 2012 UN-backed International Year of Co-operatives off to a flying start in the UK.

A number of high-profile events will be staged next Thursday (January 12th) around the country to help kick-start the celebrations, including the launch of a new book on co-operation; receptions in the Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies; and a live online debate being jointly broadcast by The Guardian newspaper and Co-operative News online.

The book: ‘The hidden alternative — Co-operative values, past present and future’, a collection of case histories and studies by a number of academics and co-operative experts, is being promoted at simultaneous launches in London and Manchester organised by the Co-operative College.

The 320-page volume is being published by Manchester University Press and the United Nations University Press and College Principal and Chief Executive Mervyn Wilson commented: “This is an important year and this book reflects that, with a range of expert contributions on how co-operatives are making a difference around the world.”

The Wales Co-operative Centre is to launch a report on the Co-operative Economy of Wales at a reception being hosted in the Welsh Assembly by Labour/Co-op AM Vaughan Gething, who chairs the cross-party group on co-operatives in the legislature.

And at the Northern Ireland Assembly building in Belfast, Green MLA Steven Agnew, chair of the all-party group on co-operatives at Stormont, is also hosting a reception where the contribution of legendary Irish co-operator Paddy ‘the Cope’ Gallagher — founder of the Templecrone Co-operative Society in Dungloe, Co Donegal, in 1906 — will be saluted.

In Edinburgh, Co-operative Development Scotland and the Edinburgh Bicycle Co-operative will hold the first of a number events to promote the International Year and celebrate the success of co-ownership north of the border.

The successful worker co-operative is opening its doors to showcase its journey from small bicycle repair shop employing three people in 1977 into one of the UK’s most respected cycle retailers.

CDS Chief Executive Sarah Deas told the News: “We're excited to be kicking off the International Year of Co-operatives with a celebration involving one of Scotland's most successful co-operatives.

“Edinburgh Bicycle Co-operative embodies all the benefits co-operation can bring — including sustainability, performance and innovation — so they're an apt first stop on our year-long programme of roadshows.”

However the biggest and most inclusive event on January 12th in terms of public participation promises to be the hour-long online debate from 1.30pm on whether co-operation holds the key to rebuilding British business. Chaired by the Guardian’s Executive

Editor Jo Confino, panellists include Co-operative Group Chair Len Wardle, ICA President Dame Pauline Green, economist Charles Leadbeater and Li Chunsheng, Vice-President of the All-China Federation of Supply and Marketing Co-operatives.

This website will be simulcasting the debate. On the same day (5.30pm GMT / 12.30 EST) the Global News Hub will be covering celebrations from Canada, which will be launching the International Year across the country in a live video broadcast.

Meanwhile Midcounties Co-operative, the UK’s second biggest independent society, is starting its year of celebrations to mark the International Year by hosting events at several locations in its trading area and at its HQ in Warwickshire. Chief Executive Ben Reid says the society will be making a number of New Year ‘resolutions’ including supplying 28,000 hours of volunteering time and providing £340,000 in community grants.

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