Editorial: Five years left until the end of the Co-operative Decade

With five years left until the end of the Co-operative Decade, how far has co-operation come since the International Co-operative Alliance’s launch of its 2020 action plan? The...

With five years left until the end of the Co-operative Decade, how far has co-operation come since the International Co-operative Alliance’s launch of its 2020 action plan?

The Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade, first launched in 2012, tackles five themes for co-ops to become the fastest-growing form of enterprise, and the model preferred by people.

Participation, sustainability, identity, legal frameworks and capital are all priority areas being focused on by special committees and regional/sector groups within the Alliance.

And the movement will be having a catch-up next month at the Alliance’s global conference in Turkey to check progress of the goals.

The organisation’s general assembly, which takes place on the last day, will also see the retirement of president Dame Pauline Green, who is stepping down two years earlier than planned after the Co-operative Group was unable to make funding contributions towards the role beyond 2015.

It will also mean there is no UK voice on the board of the Alliance. A voice that has had a long presence in board rooms.

We have published interviews with the four candidates who are standing for election as president who are from Argentina, Brazil, Canada and France. There will be a big debate at the Antalya conference before the election.

All candidates have strong visions for the future of the movement, such as increasing the identity of co-ops, transparency within the sector, co-operation between co-operatives and growth of the business model.

These are all strong areas that need addressing at all levels of the movement, from the international-level all down to the grassroots.

The £1m funding package from the Co-operative Bank to support co-operative development through Co-operatives UK will be one such way to re-engage with our co-operative communities.

There is still that missing middle of co-operatives – where co-operatives are in the main deemed either large or small. This may just be the nature of co-operation or a focus on co-operative development (both existing and startups) may provide the impetus for growth.

Being smarter is also a lesson that we can learn from both the international co-operative sector and disruptive tech companies such as Uber. In an interview with Shaun Tarbuck from the Alliance’s insurance body (ICMIF) he discusses how mutuals should not feel threatened by, for example, Google Insurance in the US. Mutuals have as much market intelligence and data as any other company, it is just knowing how to be smart with that data and having proper engagement with stakeholders that will make the difference.

Much of the direction is in the Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade. But can the movement wait until 2020 until its vision is realised, or will the co-operative sector be the next target of savvy tech companies looking to open up companies and make them more transparent?

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