Dame Pauline Green has joined the line of lifelong co-operators who have received the Rochdale Pioneers Award. Inspired by the Rochdale Pioneers, the award aims to recognise an outstanding contribution to the global co-operative movement.
The story of the Pioneers began in 1844 when a group of 28 men from Rochdale joined forces to sell cheap food in their community. The Rochdale Equitable Pioneers Society was driven by a vision for a better social order. To achieve this, the Pioneers set out seven co-operative principles that still guide co-operatives from all over the world.
Dame Pauline started her own co-operative journey as a local leader in the Woodcraft Folk, a UK-based educational movement for children and young people that advocates co-operation.
She was assistant parliamentary secretary of the Co-operative Union from 1984 to 1989 and Co-operative member of the European parliament from 1989 to 2000. In 1997 she was elected president of Co-operative Congress and in 2000 she became a member of the Co-operative Commission.
Dame Pauline retired from her political career in 2000 to join the Co-operative Union (Co-operatives UK). While chief executive of the organisation, in 2002 she was elected president of ICA Europe (Co-operatives Europe), the umbrella body for European co-operatives, and made co-chair of the organisation in 2006.
Three years later, Dame Pauline became the first woman to serve as president of the International Co-operative Alliance in its then 114-year history. She was elected on a platform for change, calling for the Alliance to focus on three key elements: offer the opportunity for business synergies for co-operatives around the world; enhance representation in global institutions; and develop a centre of excellence for global co-operative knowledge and information.
Under her leadership, the Alliance capitalised on the momentum of the United Nations’ International Year of Co-operatives in 2012. With support from co-operators from across the world, the Alliance launched the Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade, which set out the strategic goals for the co-operative movement towards 2020.
Asked what the award meant to her, Dame Pauline said: “This is the most tremendous honour given that I have already had such a wonderful career within the co-op movement. This was really a great surprise and a great privilege to receive the Rochdale Pioneers Award from the global movement.”
The original store of the Rochdale Pioneers is preserved by the Rochdale Pioneers Museum, and managed for the co-operative movement by the Co-operative College. While visiting the Museum on Toad Lane, Dame Pauline talked about her earliest memories of the co-operative movement. Born in Gżira on the island of Malta to a British soldier serving with the Royal Artillery and his Maltese wife, Dame Pauline first heard about the Rochdale Pioneers while in school.
“I’m one of those generations of British children who learned about the Rochdale Pioneers when they were in school. For me that meant when my father was a serving soldier just after WWII and we were living in Germany. I was taught at the primary school on an army barrack and I learned how the Rochdale Pioneers had caused such a storm in the late nineteenth century through their active work in trying to establish good, solid, decent food for ordinary people, with good prices and democratic business, and it stayed with me.
“So to find that at the end of this career I’m receiving this wonderful gift, it’s a great honour. And it’s not just for me, it’s for the world of the international movement, and I take it as that because there are so many inspiring things happening around the world in the name of the Pioneers. You won’t believe how often I come across the name of the Rochdale Pioneers in every language, every dialect around the world.”
The Rochdale Pioneers Award is the highest honour that the Alliance bestows. Since its creation in 2000 it has acknowledged the important work of individuals or organisations pioneering co-operation. Dame Pauline Green received the award in a special ceremony at the Alliance’s Global Conference and General Assembly in Antalya, Turkey. The event was the last she chaired as the Alliance’s president.
In June she announced her early retirement following a decision by the Co-operative Group to stop funding after 2015.
The list of Rochdale Pioneers Award winners:
2001: Dr Verghese Kurien (India)
2003 : Francisco Luis Jiménez Arcila (Colombia) and Lloyd Wilkinson (United Kingdom)
2005 : Hans Dahlberg (Sweden), Ian MacPherson (Canada) and Yehudah Paz (Israel)
2007 : Esther Gicheru (Kenya), Prof. Ungku Abdul Aziz (Malaysia) and Francisco Ceballo Herrero, (Spain)
2009 : Ivano Barberini (Italy), former president of the Alliance
2012: Roberto Rodrigues (Brazil)
2013: Plunkett Foundation (UK and Ireland)