In December of 2021, Dr. Ann Hoyt headed to Seoul, South Korea, to participate in the 33rd World Cooperative Congress. The Congress brings together more than 300 cooperative federations and organizations from 109 countries. The conference this past year worked under the theme “Deepening Our Cooperative Identity,” where the conference focused on the current COVID-19 crises and held discussions aimed to deepen the cooperative identity. Dr. Ann Hoyt brought back immense knowledge that will help GHC-SCW work towards being Better Together for everyone.
By Dr. Ann Hoyt, GHC-SCW Board Chair
Early last December, 500 brave souls from around the world got vaccinated, boosted and tested to stand up to the pandemic and attend the 33rd World Cooperative Congress sponsored by the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA). An additional 1500 people joined the conference online. What, you might ask, would generate such a high level of international participation in a cooperative conference. It was an opportunity to explore how to live the values and principles that are the shared identity of the cooperatives throughout the world.
ICA is the global steward of the internationally accepted Statement of Cooperative Identity, which describes cooperative businesses’ values, principles, and definitions. The goal of the Congress was to focus the cooperative movement on exploring and deepening its identity by “examining its values, strengthening its actions, committing to its principles and living its achievements.” The statement combines fundamental moral and ethical values and principles that guide all cooperators when we need to make difficult decisions, and it is the essence of who we are.
Martin Lowery, the Chair of ICA’s Identity Committee and the force behind the Congress, has explained, “there’s something unique about people who are attracted to the cooperative enterprise that doesn’t show in any obvious way; it shows more in the subtlety of [their] relationships. There’s a sense of wanting to collaborate, a sense of kindness, a sense of caring for one another…. There’s a commonality there, a commonality of humanity, of a sense of belonging and caring for one another that one doesn’t always find in society.”
In focusing on our identity, the Congress was informative and inspiring. We learned of the many opportunities to increase inclusivity throughout our co-ops; we have increased needs for culturally relevant education and training regarding our cooperative identity in various formats; and climate change demands a new socio-economic model that lies in multilateralism and cooperation. These and other themes were consistent with the nearly 100 year ICA commitment to fostering peace. That is, not only ending overt violence but creating communities of cooperation and integration, reconciliation, and equality.
To quote one of our speakers, “The time for talking is done, and the time for action is now.” And to quote a wise teacher, “I wish we could learn to love ourselves less and our children’s future more.”
This is our moment!
You and read more about the Congress at https://icaworldcoopcongress.coop/stories/
You can find the Cooperative Identity Statement at https://www.ica.coop/en/cooperatives/cooperative-identity