“An economic giant, but a political mouse.” That’s how the cooperative movement has sometimes been described. How can it become a real sphere of influence in economic and political arenas? This is one of the questions the 2012 Summit participants will address. From an economic standpoint, there is no question about the importance and impact of the cooperative movement, which has 750,000 cooperatives in over 100 countries and more than 800 million members worldwide. It also provides 100 million jobs – about 20% more than multinationals. Globally, cooperatives and mutuals generate an aggregative turnover equal to Canada’s GDP! From a sociopolitical perspective, however, the cooperative and mutualist movement’s influence is more modest. For example, although it has been shown to have a significant impact on the development of local communities, this is not necessarily reflected in the choices consumers make. Getting people to recognize the distinctive characteristics of cooperatives and mutuals is a competitive advantage that is not being fully exploited. There is still some scepticism about what makes cooperatives and mutuals different from other businesses. What’s more, the cooperative movement plays a limited role in higher spheres of influence and political decision-making. Yet the recent economic crisis demonstrated the resilience of the cooperative and mutualist model and showed that this business model is part of the sustainable solutions to global crises. The Summit will include a round table on the sociopolitical influence of cooperatives to determine what policies, laws and regulations governments need to put in place to support cooperative development and gain recognition for cooperatives at the social and political level. The 2012 Summit participants will also be encouraged to discuss how cooperatives can increase public awareness and exert their fair share of influence on sociopolitical decision-making. Discussions will also focus on how the participatory nature of cooperative governance can influence other types of businesses and serve as an example of leadership.