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Can co-ops help drive global recovery? Quebec City to host international co-op conferences.

In 2008, cooperative financial institutions in the United States were hurt, but did not require the massive bailouts that many private sector lenders needed. Unlike some financial institutions that received bailouts but then sharply cut back on lending, most cooperative financial institutions around the world kept right on lending.

Indeed, credit union and cooperative bank deposits grew--increasing their ability to lend--as people sought trusted places for their savings. Cooperative share values did not collapse because, in part, they are not traded in marketplaces where the desire is for quick profits; rather, co-ops are focused on long-term member and community needs.

The fact that the cooperative sector of the global economy has performed better than the investor-owned sector during the past four years should not be surprising. If the output of the world's cooperatives were represented by one country, that country would be among the G8 nations. The output of the world's 300 largest co-ops alone would create the ninth largest national economy.

This is a business model that works all over the planet.

Waking the sleeping giant

Yet, the cooperative model is too often a sleeping giant. How can we wake the giant? How can we gear up the cooperative economy so that it can help more of the world's people, sooner? The need to spread knowledge about how cooperatives work is urgent, global and growing.

What do cooperative leaders need to know about economics? What will reduce the likelihood of new or existing cooperatives from failing? What will spur cooperative economic growth?

These are the kinds of questions that cooperative leaders from around the world will face at the Imagine 2012 International Conference on Cooperative Economics, this Oct. 6-7. It will be immediately followed by the International Summit on Cooperatives, Oct. 8-11; its theme is "The Amazing Power of Cooperatives." Both events take place in Quebec City, Canada. Co-hosts are the International Cooperative Alliance, the Desjardins Group (Canada's largest financial cooperative group) and the international Master of Management, Co-operatives and Credit Unions (MMCCU) program, based at Saint Mary's University in Halifax, Nova Scotia.


Imagine 2012 will host a global convergence of cooperative and credit union directors, senior managers, officers, young leaders and other participants. They will be exposed to the work of 15 specialists on the cutting edge of economics.

Many assumptions and beliefs about cooperative economics will be challenged at the conference. New ideas will surface; new questions will emerge. Participants from around the world will take away concepts, analyses and observations that can be developed into a universally accepted discipline of Cooperative Economics.

Thomas Homer-Dixon, chair of Global Systems for the Centre for International Governance Innovation at Balsillie School of International Affairs in Ontario, is one of the presenters at Imagine 2012.

"In a world that now seems perpetually on the edge of an economic abyss, nothing could be more important than this. Imagine 2012 will explore practical and sorely needed alternatives to current conventional economic models, theories and practices that threaten our children's future," Homer-Dixon says.

Tools can help global recovery

Such a set of broadly accepted tools could put cooperatives in the driver's seat of a new global economy. For this to happen, cooperative leaders must step back and question many of their most deeply rooted assumptions and beliefs about economics.

"Imagine 2012 could not have come at a better time," says Nelson Kuria, CEO of the 40-year-old CIC Insurance Group of Kenya. "For 50 years, the African continent has been the guinea pig for various types of economic models that have failed dismally. The world's poor people don't need sympathy and pity. Rather, they need the type of empowerment that true cooperatives facilitate through bringing the majority of the marginalized population into the mainstream of economic activity."

Coordinating the Imagine 2012 conference is Tom Webb, who retired this year from his post as program manager of the MMCCU program (for more information on it, visit: "Imagine the global influence of a widespread understanding of economics focused on meeting human needs sustainably, not just on wealth creation," Webb says. "Imagine world-class economists mingling with leaders of the world's ninth largest economy to shape better approaches to understanding and analyzing local, national and global economics. Imagine this group of leaders coming together to identify ways to use the cooperative business model to build a better world."


For more information visit: www.imagine2 012 .coop.

Editor's note: Tom Webb contributed to this article.

By Jane Livingston, Cooperative communications consultant
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Author:Livingston, Jane
Publication:Rural Cooperatives
Article Type:Conference news
Date:Jul 1, 2012
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