Raising the profile of a worldwide movement

The International Summit of Cooperatives gathers co-operators, managers and academics from around the world. We ask delegates what they expect from the event…   Gabriela Buffa, youth representative...

The International Summit of Cooperatives gathers co-operators, managers and academics from around the world. We ask delegates what they expect from the event…


Gabriela Buffa, youth representative on the board of the International Co-operative Alliance, is attending the Summit for the first time. 

She thinks it is a great opportunity to engage with young people, but argues that this engagement must continue after the Summit.

“If the Summit resulted in a commitment to increasing youth involvement in co-ops, that would be extremely valuable,” she said.

While not all young co-operators can afford to attend, those who do can share what they have learned, adds Ms Buffa. “For me it would be interesting to see each country organising a discussion forum to look at the topics of the Summit and then host another forum to debate what has been discussed here.”

Ms Buffa is a member of the teaching team of IDELCOOP, a foundation to promote and develop co-operative education. At the Summit she hopes to learn more about how co-operatives around the world develop educational programmes. She also wants to find out about youth co-operatives.

“In Argentina we have many co-operatives that have been set up by young people and I would like to find out about case studies from across the world,” she said.

“There’s a great opportunity to know members of co-operatives from other countries to know the situation of each country and how governments contribute to
co-operative development.”


Iain Macdonald, former director general of the ICA, is an international co-operative consultant for the Summit.

He said: “I hope we will continue to show the increasing strength of co-ops around the world – despite the problems in the UK. I hope as many British colleagues as possible will be in attendance to learn how to properly run a co-operative bank!

“I am particularly interested in hearing Michel-Édouard Leclerc, chief executive of one of the biggest retail co-ops in the world, who will hopefully also be talking about more European co-operation among co-operatives. My session is called Strategic Market Management, with speakers from UK (James Graham of SAOS), Israel, France, Canada and the USA.”

Dr Macdonald will chair a session on strategic marketing management in co-operatives, which will focus on how co-ops can assess and manage risks. He believes the one issue that co-operators should discuss is how to raise the profile of co-operatives around the world, especially with national governments and international organisations.


Shaun Tarbuck, chief executive of the International Cooperative and Mutual Insurance Federation (ICMIF), who was involved in the planning group that developed the agenda for the Summit. 

He thinks the event is the only one of its kind that manages to bring the sector together.

“We’re huge as a group, with $2tn in turnover,” he said. “Our sector is 40% of the overall co-operative movement. We need to make other co-operative leaders believe this is the right way to go and we are in it together.”

Mr Tarbuck added that he is looking forward to see what chief executives and consulting firms have to say.

He will be delivering a presentation at the Summit based on a research into how co-operative and mutual insurers are contributing directly to employee wellness.

“Many mutuals have won awards for best employers in the country or sector so decided to produce a report and show how good we are as a caring organisation for our people. Chief executives say we are nothing without our people,” he said.

While the first Summit managed to bring the movement together, the second should be about promoting the co-operative case externally, thinks Mr Tarbuck.

“We need to really look at ourselves as to how the external world sees us,” he said. “External stakeholders, the media, governmental organisations still don’t understand our model and governance. I’d like to see this conference really taking it to the external world.”

He added that having high-level people attending would help attract external stakeholders.


Canadian health co-operatives will be represented by Vanessa Hammond, vice-president of Victoria Health Co-op and chair of the Health Care Co-ops Federation of Canada. Ms Hammond, who is attending the Summit for the first time, expects to engage with leaders of other health co-ops.

“I hope to develop strong linkages within the wellness and health co-op sector globally and to integrate wellness and health education and services into the activities of a wide range of co-ops,” she said.

Ms Hammond is particularly interested in sessions related to the role of co-ops in the provision of health services, such as Banking for Health.

She is also keen to learn about the co-operative nature, member-driven strategies, the Solution Revolution Book, disruptive technologies, the Digital Cooperative and the status of co-operative management education.

Her presentation will focus on health co-operatives providing the financing and delivery of wellness and health services. She will look at the sector’s outstanding innovations in both areas and how to move the attention of governments towards wellness education and integrative primary care.


Dolly Goh, chief executive of SNCF Singapore, is also taking part for the first time. She says she is looking forward to the session Disruptive Technologies: Advances that Will Transform Life, Business, and the Global Economy.

She thinks the one issue that co-operators should focus on is their role in the new world economy, and the various ways in which that role could be enhanced.

She is keen to hear Prof Robert Shiller’s presentation on the state of the global economy and co-operatives. Prof Shiller, who jointly received last year’s Nobel Prize for economics, is a keynote speaker at the Summit.


Eudes de Freitas Aquino, president of UNIMED do Brasil, the largest medical co-operative in the world, says he expects his country to have a large delegation at the Summit. 

“The Summit is maybe the most important event outside of ICA events that occurs every two years on the global scene of co-operatives,” he said.

“It has a varied programme that touches upon all co-op sectors, and it’s particularly well structured when it comes to the health sector.”

Mr Aquino participated in the first edition of the Summit in 2012, where he exchanged ideas with representatives from health sectors from other countries.

“I think this will happen again this year, judging by the programme of the event,” he said.

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