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International Summit of Cooperatives to Focus on Innovation

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[photo courtesy International Summit of Cooperatives]
This year’s International Summit of Cooperatives is expected to shed new light on the innovative capacity of the cooperative business model. Ahead of the October summit, Co-operative News spoke with Summit Organizing Committee Executive Director Stéphane Bertrand for this story:

Designed to create a global forum for cooperative leaders, academics and experts, the biennial International Summit of Cooperatives will examine how cooperatives can provide innovative solutions for the big challenges facing the world.

This year’s summit will focus on five main themes: developing cooperative and mutual enterprises; economics, financing and capitalization; employment; food security; and health and social care services.

Stéphane Bertrand, executive director of the summit’s organizing committee, said the themes were chosen by a panel of 60 managers, presidents and young people involved in the cooperative movement, as well as by academics.

“The inaugural 2012 edition of the summit aimed to raise awareness of the movement and its scale,” Bertrand said. “In 2014, we want to show the innovative nature of cooperatives and their ability to adapt to different economies.”

The Second International Summit of Cooperatives is set to take place from October 6 to 9 in Quebec. According to Bertrand, the event is aimed at cooperators and cooperative managers, helping them to improve the management and performance of cooperatives while connecting them to new clients and markets.

The summit will also strive to show that cooperatives are essential for tackling some of the biggest challenges faced by humanity, such as food security, access to health services and job creation.

Last year, the World Co-operative Monitor revealed that more than 32 percent of the top 300 cooperatives are agricultural or food co-ops. The cooperative enterprise model is also starting to gain more influence within the health sector. Bertrand explained how in the U.S., the Affordable Care Act led to the creation of more than 40 health cooperatives.

“The model is very relevantin the health sector there is a great future ahead for cooperatives,” he said.

Bertrand thinks cooperatives have also proven to be more resilient during the financial crisis, having managed to maintain jobs, unlike other enterprise models.

Summit delegates will also discuss the financing and capitalization of cooperative enterprises.

Over 3,000 people are expected to attend the summit, along with more than 250 speakers. The summit has already published a list of speakers due to attend the event, but is expected to release more names in the following weeks.

Participants at the event will also have access to an exhibition at Quebec City Convention Center where cooperatives, companies and associations will showcase their products. Exhibition participants from the banking, finance, retail, health and social care services, housing, agricultural, forestry, and mutual sectors will aim to build new trade relationships, network and raise profiles.

“The expo is an excellent opportunity for co-ops to showcase their products and expertise,” Bertrand said.

He added that the summit was also a chance for cooperators to engage with other sectors, as 5 percent of participants would come from outside the cooperative movement.

Prior to October, organisers are expected to host more than 40 pre-summit events, which, in Bertrand’s view, are just as important as the official debates because they will enable delegates to talk about other topics that are not covered in the five main themes, such as energy technology, marketing performance and branding.

Bertrand also launched an appeal to cooperatives from around the world, encouraging them to enable their young members and employees to attend the summit in Quebec. “It’s an investment in their training and the future,” he said.

Click here to learn more about the summit.

—Editor’s note: NCBA CLUSA CEO and President Mike Beall will moderate an October 7 panel at the summit on the role of cooperatives in creating jobs and heightening productivity, and NCBA CLUSA COO for International Development Amy Coughenour is a panelist for Forum 19, “Family Farming: A Food Security Solution,” on October 9.

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