Co-operative experience: Monique Leroux is president, chair of the board and chief executive of Desjardins Group, a federation of 376 credit unions and other groups serving 7 million members in Canada and operating in 40 other countries. In 2013, Ms Leroux was elected to the Alliance’s board, a move that was backed by both Canada’s co-operative apexes: the Quebec Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals and Co-operatives and Mutuals Canada. Earlier this year she was selected to represent Canada at the May B7 meetings in Germany, and in September joined 30 other leaders for the G7 Forum for Dialogue with Women, organised by German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
Agenda for the Alliance: Ms Leroux’s programme focuses on three priorities: engagement, leadership and growth. “My first priority is to work together to reinforce member engagement. Essentially, we have this foundation and strength of local co-ops. We need a way, within the Alliance, making regions and sectors work together, thinking globally but acting locally,” she says.
“We are used to co-operating at the level of national apex organisations in each country, but in a global world we need to push for inter co-operation between sectors and countries.”
She adds that using digital technology to connect co-operatives and national federations through the Alliance will help build momentum, which in turn will showcase co-operatives’ leadership and commitment to the world.
Sustainability: An early member of the advisory committee of the UN for the 2012 International Year of Co-operatives, Ms Leroux emphasises that co-ops have a key role to play in achieving the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
“Co-operatives across the world know that they have an important role to play in financial inclusion, food security, employment. These will be key topics at the next Summit, where we will not just talk about this, but build the momentum and show how some of the large co-ops work with smaller and emerging co-ops to make sure we can really make a major shift and contribution”.
What the movement can learn from Canada: “One of my motivations is to give something back to the movement, and letting the movement and the Alliance share in the collective experience gained at Desjardins and the Canadian apexes, where co-operatives across different sectors stand out for their vitality and high dynamism,” she says.
It was during Monique Leroux’ attendance of the World Economic Forum in Davos, in the year following the financial crisis, that she thought of providing the co-op movement with its very own “Davos”. The event that would become known as the International Summit of Co-operatives, was not an end in itself, but aimed to build precious momentum around the UN’s International Year of Co-operatives, and has established itself as a biannual summit that aims to open up the co-operative model’s greatest achievements and future potential to a wider audience.
For more information: www.moniqueleroux.coop