UK celebrates launch of International Year of Co-operatives

Co-operatives UK launched its celebrations for the International Year of Co-operatives today.

Co-operatives UK launched its celebrations for the International Year of Co-operatives. A panel of co-operators came together to discuss whether co-operation is the key to rebuilding British business.

Watch the recorded webcast here:

Held at the Guardian newspaper office in London and hosted by Jo Confino, Executive Editor of The Guardian, the discussion was broadcast live on the Global News Hub.

Mr Confino said co-operatives have to come out of their shell to show their power and to make change. He also said there is a "public perception that co-ops are old fashioned". He added: "It is not always about looking for the next big thing, but going back in the journey to see which lessons we lost."

Ed Mayo, Secretary General, Co-operatives UK, responded that although older people tend to look back to remember their parents' divi number, young people now see co-operatives as trendy. Mr Mayo cited that renewable energy and online collaborative co-operatives are connecting with younger people.

Also on the panel was Pauline Green, President, International Co-operative Alliance, who explained that co-operatives "stretch from a four or five person co-operative in a small african village to retain the wealth within that community through to a large business of scale".

Charles Leadbeater, economist and innovation thinker, on the panel said: "We have been taught over a long period of time that we are selfish. This is reinforced by years of neoliberal economics that selfishness actuates the economy, and that's wrong. This will be proven to be wrong.

"There is a growing number of pieces of intellectual work that points to our co-operative nature; that we are born co-operative. We are more capable of forms of co-operation that are vastly more complex than any other species."

Len Wardle, Chair of the Co-operative Group, talked about his society's commitment to the co-operative movement. In response to a question about how he feels co-operatives will grow in the future, he said: "We hope we will move forward. In this audience there are people who represent tiny co-ops and as a co-operative that, if private, would be in the top FTSE 30 we have a duty to help these. Last year we helped to set up one new co-op per day in the UK. Over the next three years the Group has set aside £17m to help develop new co-ops across the UK."

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