Modern Pioneers – Dame Pauline Green, International Co-operative Alliance
Over the last two weeks, we’ve been running the ‘Modern Pioneers’ campaign for Co-operatives Fortnight. The campaign was inspired by the Rochdale Pioneers, who are among the forefathers of the co-operative movement, while promoting the strength and diversity of the co-operative sector in Wales.
To close the campaign, we’re delighted to bring you a special guest blog post from Dame Pauline Green, President of the International Co-operative Alliance. Today is also International Co-operative Day:
“I love the Modern Pioneers photograph! What a great way to combine tradition and today. The co-operative movement moves on, as the presence of three women in the recreation of the original photograph of the Pioneers shows. I can also see the range and diversity of co-operatives represented large and small, energy to community shops, worker co-ops, and co-op consortia – really nice work.
And it’s so great that this has been done in Wales. I feel a strong affinity to Wales and to its co-operatives after serving on the Welsh Government’s Commission on Co-operatives and Mutuals all during 2013. I really hope that the co-operative movement in Wales will grow. There is a strong tradition of co-operative activity in Wales, and a strong community spirit that lies at the heart of the people of the Welsh valleys and the global co-operative movement, that provides the inspiration for it to succeed. The Modern Pioneers representing the leadership of Welsh co-ops should be an inspiration to others to build a stronger co-op presence in Wales and help create much needed jobs and strengthen community cohesion. The time is right for this work. In Spain, 10,000 jobs were created by worker co-ops in the first four months of this year, and the whole worker sector has grown by 37% over the last few years – all this during a time of real and deep economic crisis in the traditional sectors of the Spanish economy.
You know finding jobs is crucial to so many, particularly the young in so many countries at the moment. Job seeking was what brought me into the co-op movement in a serious way in the first place. I had always known about the Rochdale Pioneers since early days at school, and I had taken my children to the Woodcraft Folk when they were small, and even been a Folk leader myself for a short time. But I really got involved when I was lucky enough to have my CV taken seriously by the Co-operative Union’s Parliamentary Office when I was seeking to get back to work after having my children. I applied for many jobs before the role as Research Officer for the Co-op Union came up and I was interviewed and got the job. So I felt a great deal of sympathy when I met a young woman at Co-operative Congress on the 26th June. Rhiannon Colvin and a group of unemployed friends got together and started a co-operative called Altgen. Its objective is to find work for unemployed young people and it’s doing such a great job. The same weekend I helped to launch the first student housing co-operative in Birmingham – another great group of motivated and committed young co-operators who are not striving to be the leaders of the future, they are leading now – and it’s so refreshing to see.
The International Co-operative Alliance is determined to make the most of the next few years, particularly not to let the dust grow under our feet since the International Year of Co-operatives. We have been driving progress on the ‘Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade’ which sets out the movement’s ambition to be the most sustainable model of business, the one most preferred by people, and hence the fastest growing by 2020. This is an ambitious, but exciting agenda and there has been much progress. Amongst the most prominent is the launch of the new co-operative marque. A global identifier that will bind co-operatives across the world, build our identity and visibility. When we launched the marque in November 2013, we hoped to have co-operatives using it in 100 countries by 2020. By the 30th of June this year successful applications had already been made by 68 countries – the latest being Swaziland – hope you have got yours Wales? It is available to all on http://www.identity.coop. And whilst you are filling in the application form for the marque you can also apply for your .coop domain name – free for the first year. That way you will be part of the global co-operative identity campaign – the marque to show that you are part of the global co-operative movement, and a .coop domain name to give visibility to your identity online.
This is a good time to be a co-operator. The movement across the world is building, there is a growing demand for a fairer, more just economic system. Co-operatives can make a significant impact on some of the most intractable problems to face the world, from embedding grass roots democracy through the vehicle of democratically owned and controlled enterprises, to the advocacy of our model of business that puts people at the heart of its decision-making and not the red blooded rush to maximise profits, to massive engagement in climate change enterprises, bringing sustainable practices into all our work, and using new technologies to bring our unique legal and financial structures to a wider audience.
Thank you to the Wales Co-operative Centre for being so brilliant and have a good International Co-operative Day 2014.”