Co-op meetings too boring to get young people involved?

With youth involvement being a key topic at the UN’s Closing Ceremony of the International Year of Co-operatives, Co-operative News spoke with young co-operator Roberto Cardiale from Legacoop...

With youth involvement being a key topic at the UN’s Closing Ceremony of the International Year of Co-operatives, Co-operative News spoke with young co-operator Roberto Cardiale from Legacoop on how he sees the role of young people in building a co-operative decade.

Building a Co-operative Decade

Roberto Cardinale said co-ops are now more relevant than ever in Italy. Co-ops play a key role in Italy’s economic development, accounting for 7 percent of Italy’s GDP. Italy has 43,000 co-ops, which employ 1,1 million people.

However, explained Mr Cardinale, even almost half the population of Emilia-Romagna belong to a co-op, in other regions there are few co-ops. That is why he saw the IYC as a great opportunity to raise the movement’s profile in Italy.

“The youth are the ones who can contribute to building a co-operative decade;" he said.

He said the Co-op Movement has the great chance to play an important role in the next decade, at both local and international level.

“The struggle of the Young Dissident, the Occupy Movement, the Gender Issue, the Arab Spring, the Greek Youth, the so called GLocal Movements and others have asked for urgent answers;" he added.

Present at the Big Debate at Co-operatives United, Mr Cardinale asked panelists; what strategy could attract more partners from outside the Co-op Movement?

He explained: “I pointed out that the IYC2012 was a great occasion for co-ops to meet and to see that we are not alone, and that in the world we can and do have a voice. Nevertheless, I expressed my belief that this year was a lost occasion in Italy and I asked if in other countries too.

“I stressed out the fact that we should have an attractive behavior with a concrete communication strategy at local and international level, that we should be featured more in the media and we should get involved in the important debates. I added, with a clear provocative sense, that we shouldn't be “boring” during our co-operative meetings.

"For what I've seen in Manchester, there is enough vision to play a role in the next decade. I totally agreed with Simel Esim's emphasise on the importance of the media and the importance of being in the decision making tables and I appreciated Peter Marks who excused his generation for being ‘boring’.”

He continued: “It is obvious that the shareholders model, which is the one who had and has the power of managing the media and the politics of the most important democracies and ‘almost’ democracies of the world, has failed in giving an answer”.

Mr Cardinale quoted Mr. Larramendi, President of Friends of Arizmendarrieta Foundation in Mondragon, who during its speech at “Internazionale” Festival in Ferrara last October said: “The co-operative is not the answer, the co-operative is the instrument with which we can build the answer”.

He gave example of the success of the Bank transfer Day in the USA, an initiative lauched by Kristen Christian.

Roberto Cardinale referred to co-ops as “the most powerful and enriching answer we can give to young people”.

He said: “If we fight in order to make the legal framework co-op friendly, we support the creation of co-ops, we use the right communication strategy, we enter the education system, then we, the co-ops, have the power to have a role in the next pages of the history's book.”

How does Legacoop engage with the youth?

To appeal to more young people, Legacoop has supported the creation of a permanent and formal coordination of co-operators under 40, which is named "Generazioni". The network was born in Emilia-Romagna in 2007 and from then about 500 co-operators have joined the group and participated to the annual meetings, workshops, work-groups and other initiatives.

“Generazioni is the voice of the future, the insurance that someone is caring about what will be the print of our foot while we are running towards progress,” said Roberto Cardinale. 

Legacoop also runs co-operative entrepreneurship training programmes in some schools.

“The idea is to teach students how to co-operate with each other”, explained Roberto Cardinale, adding the training is both practical and theoretical.

Students get involved in either gardening, buying materials, volunteer within the community or they have to imagine a virtual co-operative and have to create a business plan out of it.

One of the most successful youth projects of Legacoop is Bellacoopia, featuring a series of cross-national projects in 2009, 2010 and 2011 and involving young co-operators from across the world.

Roberto Cardinale is International Relations Delegate for Generazioni Emilia-Romagna, part of the young co-operators network within the Emilia Romagna branch of Legacoop.

Legacoop has more than 15,000 member co-operatives, overall 485, 000 employees and 8, 550, 000 members.


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