The United Nations General Assembly has declared 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives, highlighting the contribution of cooperatives to socio-economic development, particularly their impact on poverty reduction, employment generation and social integration. With the theme of “Cooperative Enterprises Build a Better World”, the Year seeks to encourage the growth and establishment of cooperatives all over the world. It also encourages individuals, communities and governments to recognize the agency of cooperatives in helping to achieve internationally agreed upon development goals, such as the Millennium Development Goals. -U.N. IYC Webpage Introduction
It’s about time. Finally, there is light being shown on a methodology which has for too long been relegated to the very back pages of economic and organizational development. Like one of its cousins in the U.S., employee ownership, cooperativism has the potential to create sustainable and meaningful change for organizations and individuals alike, and the U.N. declaration hopes to advance that awareness around the world. I know that we will be taking note with our partners in Nicaragua.
The themes are entirely consistent with the focus and methodologies that Winds of Peace has employed over the past year, in particular:
Cooperatives are not a panacea or even a simple way of organizing an economic enterprise. In fact, when done with excellence, coops are a more complex way of doing business. There is a demand for more and better communication among the participants. Participants come to expect more information about the causes-and-effects of their business, decisions are more frequently made by participant teams rather than one individual, participants expect to have a greater “say” in the business, the organizational configuration often more closely resembles a circle than a triangle, and coops as a result sometimes respond more slowly to changing circumstances. But when done with excellence, coops can promote business growth, learning, entrepreneurial skills individual development and accelerated wealth creation faster than more traditional forms of ownership/management. It’s why the U.N. has taken such a visible stand with its declaration. And it’s why Winds of Peace has provided increasing support to the coops of Nicaragua. The good news is that we know what the excellent practices consist of and that they can be learned and replicated anywhere.
Read the advantages cited by the IYC in its description of coop strengths:
- Cooperative enterprises build a better world.
- Cooperative enterprises are member owned, member serving and member driven
- Cooperatives empower people
- Cooperatives improve livelihoods and strengthen the economy
- Cooperatives enable sustainable development
- Cooperatives promote rural development
- Cooperatives balance both social and economic demands
- Cooperatives promote democratic principles
- Cooperatives and gender: a pathway out of poverty
- Cooperatives: a sustainable business model for youth