What’s next for the Global Innovation Coop Summit?

Next month’s event brings together leading co-operators and experts from outside the movement to discuss issues like climate change and the tech revolution

In 2019 a group of co-operators and event organisers got together to plan a new international gathering – a co-operative innovation summit.

The idea was born out of the need for an event to fill the gap left by the International Summit of Cooperatives, a biennial event held in Quebec in 2012, 2014 and 2016 with the support of the Desjardins Group and the Canadian government. 

“Unfortunately that event could no longer take place,” says the summit’s former programme director, Joanne Lechasseur. But this was not through lack of demand: long after the event was axed, co-operators were calling her to ask if it was returning.

This sowed the seeds for a new event. “We came up with the idea for the Global Innovation  Cooperative Summit,” says Lechasseur, “to respond to the need to bring together primary co-ops, to foster inter-co-operation and business exchanges, discuss interesting subjects and talk about innovation.”

Related: Whatever happened to the International Summit of Cooperatives?

The first Global Innovation Coop Summit event was held virtually in 2020, with three more online events following in 2021. A hybrid in-person/online summit will be held in Paris on 26-27 September, in English, French and Spanish.

“The aim is to reflect on the co-operative world of today and that of tomorrow,” says Jean-Louis Bancel, president of Cooperatives Europe, who is another of the event’s co-founders. “These are times of innovation – not only technological innovation but also social innovation and managerial innovation.”

Jean-Louis Bancel

The summit will explore pressing global challenges like climate change and the tech revolution. It will not be an academic conference, adds Bancel, and it will feature experts from outside the co-operative movement alongside well-known co-operators, with in-person and online participants able to join the discussion.

“We want the event to be as interactive as possible,” he says, adding that the hybrid format was chosen to enable people from around the world, of diverse backgrounds, sectors and ages, to take part. For example, universities that buy a virtual ticket will be able to stream it in big rooms to include larger groups of students.

Alongside international speakers on co-operative, social innovation and technology trends, the event will include small stages during coffee breaks with opportunities to discuss and share information; access to start-up incubators; interaction with platform co-ops, a young leaders’ programme and an exhibition area for sponsors and partners.

The main theme of the event is transition – and particularly  generational transition – with the focus not merely on sharing knowledge with young people, but involving them as participants and speakers. 

“It is about reciprocal learning,” says Bancel. Other summit sessions will explore how to attract and empower millennials and how to facilitate a leadership transition.

The agenda also includes sessions on the role of co-ops in the circular economy and meeting the SDGs, the importance of artificial and human intelligence, the potential of platform co-ops and the impact of the digital transition on different co-operative sectors.

The opening plenary will explore how co-operatives – as recognised promoters of social resilience, community action, ethical values and social responsibility – work alongside other types of businesses who also want a better world, and will feature Co-operatives UK CEO Rose Marley in conversation with Camille Dorival (former editor of Alternatives économiques).

Co-op News international editor Anca Voinea will facilitate a session on how a co-operative response can be integrated in circular economy strategies on the energy transition, and there will also be an open and interactive discussion about the youth perception of the co-operative business model and what twist it needs to be more inclusive, sustainable and grow.

Crédit Agricole, the world’s largest co-operative by turnover, is one of the main supporters of the event and is providing the conference venue, near the co-op’s start-up incubator, Le Village by CA. Le Village, which covers 1,800 m2 and houses dozens of start-ups, and will also lead workshops for delegates attending in person.

Joanne Lechasseur

Since the venue is provided by Crédit Agricole, the price of the in-person conference tickets (€490) is similar to that of online tickets (€450). Those who register before 30 July can also get a €40 discount.

As to the future, the plan is for the summit to be held annually in different countries. “We want this event to move around the world to be accessible to people,” says Lechasseur. “Not everyone will be able to come to Paris. The advantage of having a hybrid event is that people from all over the world will be able to contribute without having to book a flight to France.

“Likewise, those wishing to attend in person will be able to talk to other delegates over coffee breaks and visit Le Village.”

The full programme and list of speakers is available globalinnovation.coop