Major advances in co-ops occur in troubled times
The International Year of Co-operatives comes at a very exciting and interesting time. Political and economic changes are lining up to call attention to the need for co-ops, complementing the United Nation’s selection of co-ops as its theme for 2012. The UN probably didn’t envision the year leading up to the International Year of Co-operatives as one of continued financial turmoil and growing political unrest from the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street. But here we are.
The major advances in co-operatives have occurred when our nation has faced economic and social upheaval and governments respond with positive action that allow citizens to gain more control in the marketplace. That is the lesson history teaches us, and it my prediction for the future.
Over the past decade there has been a profound shift in the number of co-operatives and it is now more common for our movement’s leaders to raise their co-operative profile and focus on their difference from capitalist businesses. The response to the recent recession and the concentration of wealth in the top 1% will propel co-operatives to new levels.
Our colleagues in Italy and Canada have learned how to engage the existing co-operative movement in substantive co-operative development to make real change occur in their domestic economies. I hope that the US movement will find the way to forge a partnership with public institutions to do the same. The International Year of Co-operatives is an opportunity to rebrand co-operatives for the next decade, and it provides us with an opportunity to build such partnerships.
Paul Hazen, ICA board member
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