By Balu Aiyer
60 youth from across Asia Pacific, Europe, and America will gather for the First Youth Summit in Bali, Indonesia from September 19 to 24. I am very excited about this workshop and the opportunity to engage with young co-operators (will also help me feel younger!).
When I ask youth wherever I travel – do you know about cooperatives? The first response I get is, what? I am sure this is true of many adults (though, readers of this post will be more enlightened). When I ask them whether they would like be part of an organization they own, have a voice (equal to anyone else), share in profits, get lifelong training and education; their interest perks up. The question which follows is, aren’t cooperatives small in scale and mainly rural? Their eyes widen when I say, just the top 300 co-operatives have a turnover of $2.6 trillion dollars, that would rank them as the sixth largest economy in the world. To get them more excited, I throw in that FC Barcelona is a cooperative! On the rural question, I ask about how they feel stuck in day-to-day traffic, be it in Bangkok, Jakarta, Manila or New Delhi? Not very much! Then the question comes, aren’t cooperatives only in traditional sectors. The young never give up!
We thought it best the young themselves answer the above questions and share their experiences starting or being part of cooperatives. Not just traditional, but from across a range of sectors. The Youth Summit will feature the following speakers. Richard Bartlett of the New Zealand based cooperative, Loomio Co-operative Limited. Rich, an engineer turned coop activist serves as Loomio’s Director of Autonomy (yes, that’s a real title!). Teepee Gile, is the founder member of Philippines’ first artists led co-operative, RedRoot Multi-Purpose Co-operative. She and the team at RedRoot work in the areas of print designs, website programming, 3D modeling and animation, social media marketing and audio-visual presentation. Farmer Sangay, describes himself as – a farmer from Bhutan, a crazy philosopher, an agricultural activist, a movie actor, writer, entrepreneur and founder of the Happy Green Co-operative (not surprising coming from a country that measures it well-being through Gross National Happiness). Sébastien Chaillou is the President of “Solidarité Etudiante.” France’s first national level student owned and led co-operative develops services for students on campuses and creates an enabling environment for co-operative entrepreneurship. Solidarité Etudiante promotes an economy Human Service; breakaway thinking from traditional consumerism and individualism lies at the core of this co-operative. François Hastir has served as Vice-President, then President of the Fédération québécoise des coopératives en milieu scolaire (COOPSCO), the second largest federation of school-based consumer co-operatives in the world, after University Co-op in Japan. These and other dynamic and enterprising leaders should provide the Summit participants enough motivation to look at co-operatives in new light.
The response to the Summit has been enthusiastic. We have youth from Australia, Bhutan, China, France, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Maldives, Mongolia, Nepal, New Zealand, Pakistan, Philippines, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Timor Leste. The Summit is not going to be just sitting a listening (even if it is the young speaking). Bali is known for its forested volcanic mountains, terraced paddy fields, beaches, religious sites, retreats and bars. The philosophy underlying Bali is, Tri Hita Karana; which translates to the, “three causes of well-being,” These being, harmony among people, harmony with nature, and harmony with God. In essence, close to cooperative values. The Summit participants will get to experience traditional living, Kecak dancing (watch and perform), cycling along the paddy fields and white water rafting. In short, most of what Bali has to offer, except the bars (at least not on our dime!)
Coming back to the young and their questions. How about consulting and venture funding? I suggest they visit the site of the International Summit of Cooperatives where leading consulting firms have written on the merits of cooperatives. By the way, the Summit in Quebec City, Canada is a great place to interact with cooperators from across the world. On the funding, cooperatives are self-help based, accessing venture funding is not the primary interest. But, we agree that ideas need to be funded. The Summit participants have been encouraged to come with their Co-operative Pitch, present to the audience, and be judged. We hope to take the ideas to our members and secure funding.
Organizing a Summit requires funds and resources. While the participants are paying their own air fare and the registration fee (subsidized), our members have generously contributed through their time, sweat and money. We are grateful to the Zizz Convention Hotel, Bali with the support of the Kubu Gunung Credit Union, Bali; the All China Federation of Supply and Marketing Co-operatives, Angkasa, Malaysia; Buldana Urban Credit Co-operative Society Ltd., India; Kopindo and Dekopin from Indonesia and the European Union under the “Co-operatives in Development – People-Centred Businesses in Action,” grant to ICA,
More to come after the Summit!