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     Gung Ho Newsletter No.95-96
Add Time :2011-07-12      Hits:2876

International Day of Cooperatives


89th ICA International Co-operative Day
17th UN International Day of Cooperatives
2 July 2011)


"Youth, the future of cooperative enterprise"

This year's theme highlights how the cooperative model of enterprise can successfully empower youth.

It links to the celebration of the United Nations International Year of Youth, which encourages dialogue and understanding across generations and promotes the ideals of peace, respect for human rights and freedoms, and solidarity.




International Co-operative Alliance









89th ICA International Co-operative Day

17th UN International Day of Cooperatives
2 July 2011

"Youth, the future of co-operative enterprise"


The theme for the International Day of Co-operatives 2011 highlights how the co-operative model of enterprise can successfully empower youth. It links to the celebration of the United Nations International Year of Youth, which concludes in August 2011, just prior to the launch of the United Nations International Year of Co-operatives 2012. The Year of Youth encourages dialogue and understanding across generations and promotes the ideals of peace, respect for human rights and freedoms, and solidarity.


The International Day of Co-operatives addresses the need for all co-operative stakeholders to promote the participation of young people in the co-operative movement. Too often young people are not aware of the co-operative model of enterprise; they do not learn about co-operatives in school, as co-operatives often do not figure in school curricula. Young people also may not realise that the products and services they use are provided by co-operatives.


Yet, co-operatives provide young people opportunities that address their practical and strategic needs. They offer them a model of enterprise to create their own businesses. They offer the opportunities to be employed with enterprises that address young people's concerns for more democratic, responsible and ethical business operations.


At a time when social media connect young people to an extent never seen before, co-operatives are seeing unprecedented opportunities. The co-operative is a model that embodies collaborative forms of action so appealing to this emerging generation.

Co-operatives provide opportunities to young people to gain professional employment experiences, to further their education and provide capacity building, encourage participation in decision-making in co-operatives or form their own co-operatives.

ICA's engagement with youth is long-standing. The ICA Board co-opted its first youth representative in 2003 to participate fully in the discussions of the Board, and in 2008 the ICA formalised the election by the ICA General Assembly of a youth representative as a board member.

Additionally, ICA has an active Youth Network, which aims to:

  • help young co-operators from different countries to connect and to share experiences and ideas;
  • provide an environment where young co-operators can learn more about the wider co-operative movement;
  • involve young people from outside the movement through education and support;
  • empower young co-operators to engage with the rest of the movement to both raise the profile of youth issues and to ensure the youth perspective is presented during wider discussions.

As part of its priorities for the International Year of Co-operatives 2012, ICA seeks to engage greater numbers of youth in the co-operative movement. ICA is organising an artistic competition open to young adults all over the world with the purpose of promoting the values and principles of co-operation among the youth: the Coop'Art competition. Participants will be able to submit their projects through a dedicated webpage from November 2011 to May 2012 and the award ceremony will be held in Manchester in November 2012. Any person between 16 and 35 years-old can participate. There are three different categories for the competition: music, video and photography. The aim is to promote the principles of co-operation in a way attractive to young people to raise their awareness about the co-operative movement worldwide.

On this International Day of Co-operatives, the ICA calls on co-operators throughout the world to engage young people in the co-operative movement and to invest in their future leadership.







UN Secretary-General's Message for 2011 International Year of Cooperatives

Ban Ki-moon


The theme for this year’s International Day of Cooperatives, “Youth, the Future of Cooperatives”, highlights the enormous value of engaging the energy and drive of young people.

In the wake of the global financial and economic crisis, youth unemployment is at an all-time high. Expanding opportunity through youth entrepreneurship is one way to address this challenge. The cooperative model enables young people to create and manage sustainable enterprises. Cooperatives are underpinned by the pooling of financial and human resources, technical knowledge and business skills. Furthermore, their member-driven structure roots them in communities, encouraging socially responsible businesses that meet local needs.

Through their distinctive focus on values, cooperatives have proven themselves a resilient and viable business model that can prosper even during difficult times. This success has helped prevent many families and communities from sliding into poverty. Cooperatives have also continuously provided reliable access to credit and other financial services for many small business holders. Moreover, cooperatives have done so while promoting self-reliance and creating stability in the markets in which they operate.

Throughout this year’s observance of the International Year of Youth, decision makers around the world have stressed the importance of including young people at all levels of the development process. The active inclusion of young women and men in social and economic development helps reduce social exclusion, improve productive capacity, break cycles of poverty, promote gender equality and raise environmental responsibility.

As we move into the International Year of Cooperatives, which will be officially launched this October, I invite young people to explore the benefits of pursuing cooperative enterprise and other forms of social entrepreneurship. At the same time, I encourage the cooperative movement to engage with youth, in a spirit of dialogue and mutual understanding. Let us recognize young women and men as valuable partners in strengthening the cooperative movement and in sustaining the role of cooperatives in social and economic development.



The logo of 2012 - International Year of Cooperatives


The United Nations has released the logo for the 2012 International Year of Co-operatives.

Description of the logo

The logo of the International Year of Cooperatives 2012 evokes the definition of co-operative enterprises as autonomous associations of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social and cultural needs and aspirations, through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise.

Based on the slogan of the year, ‘Cooperative enterprises build a better world’, the logo features seven persons working together to lift and support a cube. The cube represents the various projects goals and aspirations upon which cooperative enterprises are built, and the achievements that can be attained. The gender neutral figures represent the people factor central to the co-operative model, and there are seven of them, to represent the seven principles of the cooperative movement, i.e. voluntary and open membership, democratic member control, member economic participation, autonomy and independence, education, training, and information, cooperation among cooperatives, and concern for community.

As illustrated by the logo, these seven principles work together to allow co-operative members to achieve the goals and desires that they would not have been able to attain through their individual efforts.






Isabel Crook


Soon after the setting up of the PRC, the Gung Ho movement and ICCIC were both closed down. Thirty years later. With Deng Xiaoping’s “Reform and Opening Up,” Rewi Alley, Chen Hansheng, Lu Guangmian and others asked permission to re-establish Gung Ho cooperatives. This was granted in 1983, and this was followed by a rapid growth in cooperatives. Some time later Rewi complained bitterly that in fact most of the newly sprung up coops were not coops. The problem was that with the Deng reforms, small private enterprises were encouraged. However many entrepreneurs feared that the policy might change and they would be branded as capitalists so they set up ventures which they called “cooperatives.” To tackle this problem, Rewi and his Chinese colleagues asked that the government allow ICCIC to be revived. This was granted in 1987, and as former supporters of Gung Ho cooperatives, David and I were on the list as members.


Some time in the 1990s I became a member of the executive and became personally involved in this effort to find an effective way of promoting coops up to the International standards.  

However forty years had passed and only two of our experienced old organizers remained.  One of them, Fu Bin. had a serious heart condition. Nevertheless she attended our meetings regularly even when (I am sure) the doctor would had insisted that she stay at home. The other was Que Bingguang who was doing a good job in Gansu. His method was to visit a coop and stay there for a week or so, talking to the members about the nature of cooperatives and how they were getting along.  He encouraged them to bring up any problem they had, but the problems they brought up were economic ones.  For example our soap coop was losing its buyers. Que took same samples to Lanzhou, to have them analyzed and discovered that there was one essential element missing.  He returned with the required supplies, and in due course the coop-brand soap became popular again. However when it came to discussing management, members were very hesitant to say anything. Que would tell them where he was staying and to drop in if they wished to. So things were moving along in Gansu.


Here in Beijing we were feeling our way. In 1994, with the approach of the 1995 World Women’s Conference in Beijing, some of us on the executive and the staff - Lu Wanru and others - decided we ourselves should start organizing women’s coops in a nearby counties. The Women’s Federations were eager to improve the economic conditions of women, and welcomed us to organize women’s coops.  But first they wanted us to win the support of the County government. We were invited to a dinner with the county leadership.  And we won their warm support - despite the fact that one such dinner, one of our members, an ardent feminist, accused the county head himself of being a male chauvinist!


These women’s cooperatives taught us much. We had one coop that was flourishing because a member had a special skill and she was willing to train up the other members.  Before they were fully trained, however, the woman’s husband told her she had choose between him and coop.  Regretfully she had to choose the husband.   Lesson:  we need to promote understanding of coops throughout the village community, and especially among family members.


A second case was that of a coop producing special type mushrooms for a highly profitable export to Japan. The coop flourished for a while, but soon many entrepreneurs got in on this profitable trade, with the result that the price collapsed. Lesson: we have to have a better understanding of the market.


In a third case, a coop had set up a workshop to produce - I forget what - but it burnt down. How this happened was never made clear.  There was already another workshop in the same product in the village - but there was no evidence of sabotage. Lesson: we need a system for insuring coop property.


These were the early days. In due course we promoted two excellent organizers on our staff - Guo Lina and Yuan Yinghua. While working in Jilin Province, they were particularly pleased with two coops, so members of the executive went up to see them. 


The first one had been set up by the local doctor in order for members to solve his fellow villagers lack of money for education for their children, for sickness insurance and pensions for the elderly.  As a result every family in the village joined. The village income came mainly from raising pigs. So this became a pig-raising coop, and with collective purchases and sales, much labour was saved and much better prices.  But our two organizers, who had been living in the village and noted that there was little in the way of culture or entertainment - so they had set up singing and dancing groups - which livened village social life.


Our executive sent up a group to check out these successes.  As we had come from Beijing, the county head and a few of his companions accompanied us to the village.   As we were approaching the village we saw the road was lined with men, women and children, singing and dancing and waving banners to welcome us. 


We then all crowded into the home of the doctor, and our members started asking questions.  These were not answered by the doctor himself, but by volunteers from the floor, with people eagerly breaking in to add their opinions. The county head was so impressed that when we returned to the provincial capital he reported that the village was just like “back in the old days when the relations of leaders and the people were like ‘fish in the water’.”


The second cooperative was entirely different but equally successful. It was headed by an enthusiastic, charismatic woman leader. The provincial leadership decided that cooperatives should be widely promoted throughout the province, and decided this woman should take a leading role in this endeavour. We left Jilin with a feeling of pride and accomplishment. Some time later some of our members returned. They found that the doctor’s coop had suffered a setback and that the woman leader was promoting coops, but no longer of the Gung Ho model. Lesson:  hard-won victories in a new an unfamiliar terrain need ongoing attention and consolidation.


We, the executive of ICCIC, received valuable international help. In the early days, visits to the Mondragon Movement in Spain an important, though I never went.  As I recall the most important lesson we learned was that the necessity of on-going “education” - not just training but broadening one’s understanding and outlook.


Later on it was the Canadian Cooperatives Association that gave us invaluable support and training - for a period of 6 years or more. One important lesson we learned was how to approach problems through collective discussion assessing our strengths and weaknesses; and the advantages and threats posed by the situation we were facing. The method was called SWOT, for short. 


Great steps forward have been taken since I retired from the executive ten or more years ago.   When I was on the executive many of us thought of coops as being genuine or not. At one point we sent out a team into the field to assess each of our cooperatives. It took some months and the report showed that most of them had one failing or another. This was discouraging to us and to the cooperative.  But now we have a new approach: the “Ladder” - a ten-step approach to becoming a full-fledged cooperative. A co-op may be only on the 2nd or 3rd rung, but it can be given guidance on how to climb higher. This positive approach has replaced the negative one.

I treasure these memories of ICCIC’s efforts to carry forward the old Gung Ho spirit of cooperation:  “Each for all and hard work” and congratulate the current executive and secretariat for their vision, hard work and great accomplishments since I retired.


Let’s hold a grand celebration of coop day on 2 July, and International Cooperative Year in 2012!


Copyright: International Committee for the Promotion of Chinese Industrial Cooperatives
Address: Room 206, Library Building, Beijing Bailie University, No. 1 Shuangqing Road, Beijing 100085 CHINA
Tel 0086-10-84623495        Technical support: FreeEyes