Co-operatives United – a mission to Manchester
Derek Walker, Chief Executive, Wales Co-operative Centre
I had no idea what to expect travelling up to Manchester for Co-operatives United, the global event that marks the end of the International Year of Co-operatives 2012. With a mix of conference, workshops and exhibition space, the best description is probably a party conference combined with a trade fair but on an international stage. Thousands of delegates are here from all over the world.
There is a huge amount on offer. My focus is on uncovering new ways we can continue to grow the co-operative sector in Wales. It is a one-off opportunity to learn about co-operative success stories around the world and bring back lessons to Wales in the same way that the founders of Wales Co-operative Centre did following their visit to Mondragon over thirty years ago.
Activities that I’ve been interested in have included a workshop on new economic development and lessons from the Evergreen Co-operatives in Ohio. Other highlights include the opening ceremony and a key-note speech from Pauline Green, President of the International Co-operative Alliance and Monique Leroux, Chief of Executive of Desjardins, the large co-operative financial business in Canada; the gender forum when Polly Toynbee will speak; and a workshop about co-operative councils.
The Wales Co-operative Centre is all over this conference! We are jointly hosting a Wales stand, where successful Welsh Co-operatives such as Calon Wen, Dulas and PrimePac Solutions will seek to do business with other co-operatives. We are supporting a workshop about Mondragon, sharing learning from a recent return trip. And a good number of our staff will be in Manchester soaking up ideas and making new contacts to inform our future strategic priorities.
Co-operatives are fundamentally about people coming together to achieve goals collectively and to resolve common problems. And that is what Co-operatives United is about too, on a global scale.