Designed to create a global forum for co-operative leaders, academics and experts, the biennial International Summit of Cooperatives will be examining how co-operatives can provide innovative solutions for the big challenges facing the world.
This year’s summit will focus on five main themes: developing co-operative and mutual enterprises; economics, financing and capitalisation; employment; food security; and health and social care services.
Executive director of the summit’s organising committee, Stéphane Bertrand, revealed how the themes were chosen by a panel of 60 managers, presidents and young people involved in the co-operative movement, as well as by academics.
“The inaugural 2012 edition of the summit aimed to raise awareness of the movement and its scale,” he said. “In 2014, we want to show the innovative nature of co-operatives and their ability to adapt to different economies.”
The second International Summit of Cooperatives is set to take place from 6-9 October 2014 in Quebec. According to Mr Bertrand, the event is aimed at co-operators and co-operative managers, helping them to improve the management and performance of co-operatives while connecting them to new clients and markets.
The Summit will also strive to show that co-operatives are essential for tackling some of the biggest challenges faced by humanity, such as food security, access to health services and job creation.
Last year, the World Co-operative Monitor revealed that over 32% of the top 300 co-operatives are agricultural or food co-ops. The co-operative enterprise model is also starting to gain more influence within the health sector. Mr Bertrand explained how in the USA the Affordable Care Act led to the creation of over 40 health co-operatives.
“The model is very relevant – in the health sector there is a great future ahead for co-operatives.”
Mr Bertrand thinks co-operatives have also proven to be more resilient during the financial crisis, having managed to maintain jobs, unlike other enterprise models.
Summit delegates will also discuss the financing and capitalisation of co-operative enterprises.
Over 3,000 people are expected to attend the summit, along with more than 250 speakers. The summit has already published a list of speakers due to attend the event, but it will release more names in the following weeks.
Participants at the event will also have access to an exhibition at Quebec City Convention Center where co-operatives, companies and associations will showcase their products. Exhibition participants from the banking, finance, retail, health and social care services, housing, agricultural, forestry, and mutual sectors will aim to build new trade relationships, network and raise profiles.
“The expo is an excellent opportunity for co-ops to showcase their products and expertise,” said Mr Bertrand.
He added that the Summit was also a chance for co-operators to engage with other sectors, as 5% of participants would come from outside the co-operative movement.
Prior to October, organisers are hosting over 40 pre-Summit events, which in Mr Bertrand’s view, are just as important as the official debates because they will enable delegates to talk about other topics that are not covered in the five main themes, such as energy technology, marketing performance and branding.
Mr Bertrand also launched an appeal to co-operatives from across the world, encouraging them to enable their young members and employees to attend the Summit in Quebec. “It’s an investment in their training and the future,” he said.
• Find out more about the conference: www.intlsummit.coop.