ICA General Assembly adopts Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade

ICA representatives adopted “The Blueprint for a co-operative decade”at its Extraordinary General Assembly meeting on Wednesday, 31 October.

ICA representatives adopted “The Blueprint for a co-operative decade”at its Extraordinary General Assembly meeting on Wednesday, 31 October.

The document aims to set out a blueprint for a co-operative decade and marks the culmination of the United Nations International Year of Co-operatives.

Co-operative leaders hope the Blueprint can become an impetus for making the co-operative model “the model preferred by people” and “the fastest growing form of enterprise” by 2020.

Referring to the Blueprint, ICA President, Dame Pauline Green, said: “We have the opportunity to take this Blueprint and change people’s lives.”

With the International Year approaching its end, co-ops need to build on the achievements of 2012, such as the recognition of co-ops in the Rio+20 Treaty, whilst working on developing a Co-operative Decade. The blueprint, containing four chapters, mainly aims to clarify the co-operative message.

ICA Director-General, Chuck Gould, said the Blueprint is driven by a vision that co-ops can become the fastest growing business model. The Blueprint identifies 5 key areas in which change is needed to achieve this.

Thus chapter 1 focuses on participation, explaining the seven co-operative principles and revealing the way in which co-ops contribute to creating active communities.

The Blueprint describes participation and engagement of citizens and workers as at the core of the co-operative model. People are given a voice, which makes it easier to work towards securing long-term sustainability, a legal framework for co-ops and the necessary capital.

The second chapter of the Blueprint focuses on the sustainability of the co-operative enterprise model. The Blueprint seeks to make sustainability a term universally associated with co-ops by 2020.

When presenting the Blueprint at the ICA GA, Chuck Gould said efficiency has been defined in economic terms only and for this reason co-ops have not been recognised as sustainable business models.

He said: “This requires re-thinking what growth means. We need to re-define it in social-environmental as well as in economic terms.”

The document argues that because they place human need and not profit at the centre of their organisational purpose, co-operatives have an ethical dimension. Furthermore, the Blueprint mentions how co-operatives show a tendency to resist crises over history – as Rabobank grew to 42% of its market in 2008. Membership levels of credit unions have also been rising during crisis.

The Blueprint emphasized on how the financial crisis was largely due to managers acting according to their own interests, rather than according to a shared interest. Co-ops, on the other hand, pursue stakeholder value rather than shareholder value.

Thus, argued Chuck Gould, it is essential for people to be aware of the positive role co-ops play in building a better world. He also added co-ops need to spread their message across the world, or else others will define co-ops.

Chapter 3 focuses on specific ways of building the co-operative message and securing the co-operative identity.

The Blueprint explains how the extent to which co-operative principles are applied or not, varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction.

It further stresses the need for the development of common co-operative symbols to promote co-operation across the world, and training programmes to explain the co-operative identity to future leaders.

The Blueprint aims for co-ops to be identified with both participation and sustainability.

The document also mentions the creation of a World Co-operative Heritage List to raise visibility of co-operative impact throughout modern history.

Chapter 4 focuses on securing a legal framework for co-operative growth. Co-op legislation cannot follow the same pattern in all states due to the fact that it is part of and specific to national jurisdictions. But, specific improvements must be identified and lobbied for.

Important questions to be asked, are, according to the Blueprint, whether the contribution to national/public good would justify a different treatment for co-ops and whether it is appropriate for competition and antitrust laws to be applied to the co-operative sector?

The Blueprint also suggest developing a mechanism to evaluate national legal frameworks and the extent to which they are enabling and support co-ops and a league table of jurisdictions to highlight the stronger and weaker ones.

Chapter 5 assesses the ways in which “secure reliable co-operative capital” can be accessed, while guaranteeing member control.

The chapter proposes undertaking various measures such as promoting and encouraging generally the funding of co-operatives by existing members, ensuring that co-operatives have a clear proposition to make to providers of funds and identifying institutions which can act as aggregators for businesses needing capital.

The Blueprint also encourages the creation of a co-operative specific index to measure growth and performance, whilst advocating for accounting standards and accelerating trade between co-operatives.

General Assembly members have also elected Marta Beatriz Josefina from Paraguay as a new member of the ICA Board Elections Committee. Members also discussed on the revision of the ICA co-operative principles, in particular Principle 7.

Furthermore, at this Extraordinary session members have also decided to dissolve the Swiss ICA association and instead register it under Belgian law as an international non-profit association in Belgium.

The General Assembly, the highest authority within the ICA is made up of Representatives appointed by ICA members.

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