ICA presidential election: Candidate Q&A with Melina Morrison

‘We need to grow co-operatives, grow the Alliance, and grow awareness of our way of doing business’

The 2022 ICA elections are taking place at the ICA General Assembly on 20 June in Seville, Spain. Three candidates are standing for the ICA president position and 22 candidates are standing for 15 seats on the board. Co-op News presents Q&As with each of the three presidential candidates and the board candidates.

Here, we hear from Melina Morrison, who is standing for president (nominated by the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals, Australia). She is standing against Jean-Louis Bancel (France) and incumbent Ariel Guarco (Argentina).

How did you get involved in co-operatives?

I was drawn to the co-operative movement through my work in communications, learning about the power of co-operation through the stories I wrote for co-operative publications, including the ICA Digest. This became a passion for increasing awareness of co-operatives through my advocacy roles such as executive director for the International Year of Cooperatives in Australia in 2012. Ever since I learned about the co-operative movement, I have wanted to share this ‘best kept secret’ with others.

What co-operatives are you involved with?

As the chief executive of the apex body for co-operatives and mutuals in Australia, the Business Council for Co-operatives and Mutuals, I am privileged to work with co-operatives in different industries from farming and agriculture to banking and insurance, housing, healthcare, retail, motoring, and fisheries.

My organisation has almost one hundred co-op members which I work with directly. I am involved with co-operatives from across the globe learning from the leaders in other countries.

What is your co-operative experience at the international level?

By its nature, working in the co-op movement is an international endeavour. I am fortunate to work with co-operatives all over the world, including across Asia-Pacific. In Australia we have always sought to draw from co-operative best practice around the world. 

I have worked for the ICA meeting co-operators from all over the world, and visiting co-operatives in Sweden, France, Switzerland, Italy, UK, and USA. I have spoken at ICA General Assemblies in Singapore, Cape Town, Kuala Lumpur, and Quebec, and at ICMIF’s Biennial Conferences in the US and New Zealand. Recently I was invited to speak at the Graduate Institute of Cooperative Leadership meeting in San Diego and at the Coops NZ Leaders’ Forum in Auckland.

How do you plan to help the ICA promote the co-operative identity?

I am co-vice chair of the ICA Cooperative Identity Advisory Group (CIAG) working with colleagues from across the world who are passionate about the co-operative identity and how we can promote it.

Co-operatives continue to be disadvantaged by their lack of visibility right at the time when they should be the preferred way to do business. I would start by insisting on clear and consistent communication about the influence and reach of co-operatives and their power to do good.

How do you plan to help the ICA grow the co-operative movement?

Increasing the number, size and reach of co-operatives will be at the heart of everything I do as president. We must compete successfully. We need to grow co-operatives, grow the Alliance, and grow awareness of our way of doing business. In Australia, I have demonstrated I can achieve this by ensuring co-ops have better access to capital and a more favourable policy environment. I have grown the number of members of my own organisation, the BCCM, ten-fold.

How do you plan to enable greater co-operation among c-operatives?

Building on the strength of the regions and sectoral bodies of the ICA my plan is to foster deeper engagement between co-operatives. A strong communication strategy will encourage greater co-operation built on understanding more about our movement.

In my own country I have fostered greater co-operation by founding the BCCM as a cross-sectoral organisation with a broad-based membership. We have fostered co-operation by setting up and running industry projects on capital raising and ESG to ensure that co-ops from different sectors and of different sizes, work collaboratively to reach our shared goals. 

How do you plan to help the ICA contribute to global sustainable development?

Co-ops are essential development tools reflecting many of the UN Sustainable Development Goals. I believe passionately in their ability to change lives and to help communities and businesses to grow sustainably. I will work to ensure we communicate and share the best global practice in sustainable development. I will work to deliver a global co-operative framework for ESG reporting that will put coops out in front when it comes to sustainable development.

What do you think the global movement can learn from co-ops in your country?

I am proud of the breadth and resilience of the Australian co-op sector. Our ability to communicate effectively as a movement has meant that we are now being seen as a serious part in the Australian economy. 

Australian co-ops came together to build a movement from scratch. The key to recognition, was education and lifting awareness through consistent, high-quality communications and research.

What changes would you like to see at the ICA during your term?

The ICA needs to change radically and rapidly to meet the pressures their members face. The ICA needs energetic leadership. We should be at the top table in global conversations with governments, opinion formers and international organisations, demonstrating clearly what co-operatives can do and why they should be treated the same as any other type of business. The ICA needs to communicate better and promote co-operatives effectively and consistently in all parts of the world. 

Follow this link for more ICA election Q&As

The General Assembly in Seville will be preceded by an international gathering from 19-22 June, hosted by the Spanish Confederation of Worker Cooperatives.  For the full programme and to book, visit seville2022.com