Communications (1997)

This document has been made available in electronic format
by the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA)
July, 1997
(Source: ICA Review, Vol.90 No.2 - Annual Report 1996-1997, pp17-22)

Report by Mary Treacy

Four -Year Strategy
In 1996 all ICA Departments as well as the Regional Offices
were requested to prepare four-year strategies. The 
Communications field is developing at such a rapid rate 
that such long term plans are difficult. The Department 
therefore developed a strategy document outlining the 
general direction of new projects such as project,
targeted TV Strategy, stressing the need for such plans 
to remain flexible and fluid in their implementation 
and emphasising that they should be supplemented by 
special projects to respond to changing needs. 

Within the four-year strategy all components of the 
Communications programme are designed so that they can 
interconnect and facilitate multiple use of the same 
information. For example, publications can be made 
available on the internet or in multimedia form. 
The television video news releases can provide audiovisual
material for use in multimedia or on the Internet. 
Databases can be provided in interactive format and 
so on and so forth.

A resume of the four-year strategy, as well as articles 
on several of the new Communications Projects, is 
included in the Review of International Co-operation, 
Volume 3/1997. The full Strategy Document 
is available from the ICA Secretariat.

The Strategy was presented to the ICA Board in 
Kampala in April 1997 where the following decisions were taken:

1.The Board agreed that the drafting and adoption of a 
Corporate Communications Policy for the whole organisation 
should be one of the organisation's priorities and 
recommended that the first draft of such a policy be 
presented to the Board in the Spring of 1998.

2.Taking advantage of the recent decision and funding 
obtained on Statistical Data Collection for the European 
region, the Board recommended that a comprehensive 
database be set up with the help of information consultants. 
The database should incorporate the basic information needs 
of the ICA Secretariat, as well as its members and its 
specialised bodies, and should be made available 
via the Internet within one year with the support of 
information consultants.

The Board stressed that the development of databases was 
a priority which should be backed by adequate 
financial resources and recommended that 
the Development Department, in consultation 
with the Regional Directors and the Communications 
Department, should put together project proposals In
 order to attract resources for the development of 
databases in Africa and the Americas.

The ICA Secretariat and Communications Committee were 
requested to investigate member interest for the creation 
of a new working group within the Communications 
Committee of the ICA. The working group would be 
referred to as the Working Group on Trade and 
Communications Network Technology. 

In addition to the English edition of the ICA News, 
a Spanish version of this publication was introduced 
in 1996. This is translated and printed by INTERCOOP 
EDITORIA COOPERATIVA LTDA, an ICA member organisation 
from Argentina. In 1997, a French issue has been introduced 
and has been well received by the Francophone members of ICA. 
The French version is translated and published in Geneva.

Four issues of the ICA Review (including this Annual Report)
 have been issued during the reporting period. The 
Spanish issue of the Review continues to be published 
LTDA in Argentina. The English edition is available on 
microfilm from Xerox-University Microfilms, 300 North 
Zeeb Road, Ann Arbor, Michigan 48106, USA. 

Additionally, the department has commissioned Johnston 
Birchall from Brunel University and author of  
"Co-op, the people's business" to write a book on the 
international co-operative movement which will be 
published by Manchester University Press and released 
at the General Assembly in September. The department 
and other staff members provided research and technical 
assistance to Mr. Birchall during two visits to 

Targeted Television Strategy
The first video news release (VNR) was produced by World 
Television and released to coincide with the International 
Day of Co-operatives. The four-minute news release 
shows how co-operatives can improve the lives 
of ordinary people and stresses the considerable 
contribution which agricultural co-operatives make 
to world food security, emphasising that, in 
addition to providing employment, co-operatives also 
empower women and are schools for democracy. The VNR, which 
was shot on location in Kenya, was sent to major news 
agencies with additional footage to enable them to make 
their own documentaries on co-operatives. The footage 
will also feature in the ICA's corporate video which will 
be produced later in 1997 and early 1998.  The department 
is presently investigating possible issues or organisations 
to be featured in the second VNR 1997. 

Database Development
In January 1997, staff from the Communications Department 
met with representatives in charge of database development 
from each regional office to agree on a common platform for 
database development and discuss how to improve co-operative 
statistics in the different regions. Subsequently, 
an information consultant was hired to work with the 
information task force at the Geneva Office to set up a 
database which will respond to the various information 
needs of all ICA Departments and Sectoral Organisations. 
This work began in May with the drafting and preparation
of a detailed questionnaire which was mailed to the 
Co-ordinators of the ICA European Statistical Project in 
July 1997 and will be mailed to all other ICA member 
organisations during the month of August. 
Funding has been provided by the European Union 
for the collection of data from European co-operatives. 
The final database will be made available to interested 
ICA member organisations on diskette and will also be 
made available in searchable format on the Internet.

As the project aims to collect information on all 
co-operatives, including those not affiliated to the 
ICA, the collection of data from the other ICA 
regions, especially from developing countries, will 
be an enormous task requiring additional funding. 
In the coming year, the Development Department 
will be looking for funding for the other ICA regions, 
beginning with Africa. The questionnaire will 
eventually be made available in interactive format 
on the ICA Web Site and it is hoped that this will 
attract additional information from co-operatives
in countries having wide access to the Internet.

Although this project will require substantial resources, 
there is general consensus that the results will 
enable co-operative leaders and economists to analyse 
trends and make informed decisions based on 
accurate statistics. 

Research and Documentation 
The Department received visitors to the ICA Secretariat 
and provided documentation to researchers who in 1997 
were working on such projects as a co-operative 
dictionary, which will be published in 1998, and 
doctoral theses. The web and gopher sites have also 
been frequently consulted by teachers, researchers, etc. 
The rapid expansion of electronic information and the 
possibility of publicising the ICA and co-operatives 
through the Web Site has lead to an increase in 
information requests and this especially from the 
younger generation. 

UN/ICA International Co-operative Day
The International Co-operative Day Message, entitled 
"The Co-operative Contribution to Food Security" was 
sent to ICA members and other key organisations in 
all of the ICA official languages.

A press pack commemorating the International Co-operative 
Day/UN International Day of Co-operatives was prepared 
and circulated to ICA members, UN organisations and 
regional offices, the co-op press, international media, 
non-governmental organisations and government ministries 
dealing with co-operation. The pack contained promotional 
materials on the ICA and its partner organisations 
(COPAC, UN, IFAP, FAO, ILO Co-operative Branch, NCBA) 
the Co-operative Day Message, the Statement of the 
Co-operative Identity, ICA Logo Standards, and information 
on new publications and the ICA Web Site.

The above-mentioned video news release on co-operatives 
and food security was planned to coincide with the 
Co-operative Day and sent to all major TV news agencies, 
ICA Board members, regional offices, and 
selected partner organisations.

Internet Development
The ICA Web Site has recently been reorganised to 
facilitate navigation through the increasing amount 
of information while keeping visitors informed of 
their location within the site. The site now contains 
four separate sections as follows:

The ICA - containing information concerning 
the InternationalCo-operative Alliance;

Co-op Info - containing information related to the 
co-operative movement world-wide;

Outreach - containing information related to the 
Internet, to the Co-operative Gopher, to Newsgroups, 
to relevant business sites and international organisations;

New! - this section contains new information, including 
a site called Co-ops for Kids, which is to be launched 
in September 1997. It is intended to introduce children 
and young people to the co-operative movement. 

The ICA site also contains information in other 
languages accessible through a flag on the home page, 
or at the top of each language page. The Web Site 
currently has basic pages in English, French, Spanish and
German and this will be extended to include information 
in Portuguese, Swedish, Italian and other languages.

A search engine has also been installed so that the 
site can be interrogated using key words or concepts. 

The Department has also continued to develop the 
Co-operative Gopher Site in collaboration with the 
University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives in 
Madison, USA. Further information on this site will be 
included in the ICA News, No 3/1997. 

Services to Members and Specialised Bodies
The Department continued to provide services to ICA 
members and specialised bodies including the provision 
of information, publications, photos, the up-date and 
dissemination of information sheets, the posting of 
information on members and specialised bodies on the 
co-operative gopher, and the provision of visiting cards 
and stationery for specialised bodies. 
As part of the department's service to specialised 
bodies, web pages have been set up on  all specialised
organisations and committees. These pages can be accessed 
at the following address:

More specifically, the ICA designed a Web Site and searchable
database for the Research Register on behalf of 
the Society for Co-operative Studies (UK). The pages 
can be accessed at the following address : and the Research 
Register at:

The department also designed web pages for the 
University of Leicester co-operative management 
courses and the Director of Communications participates
in the Plunkett Foundation Yearbook Editorial Board. The 
department also participates in the various task forces 
which have been set up at Head Office, providing imput 
to various ICA activities including the organisation of 
meetings. In addition the Department provides secretarial 
assistance to the Research Committee and the ICA 
Communications Committee. 

A new service is being offered to ICA members during 
the next few months; the department will set up web 
pages on its member-organisations and make these available
on the internet, with links to their own web site 
if they have one.

The Department has been increased from 2.5 persons 
in 1995/96 to 2.9 people in 1996/1997 to correspond 
with an increase in the department's activities which 
have been expanded to include documentation, research, 
library and archives and database development. The Head 
Office is assisted on a part-time basis by Pushothaman 
Nair from the New Delhi Office, who is responsible for 
preparing documentation for the Co-operative Gopher. 

During the reporting period the department has continued 
to participate in the Smith Junior Year Abroad Programme 
and has welcomed two part-time interns Heather Atlef 
from January to July 1996, and Alexis Gendron from March 
to June 1997. Additionally in 1997 we were also lucky 
enough to have part-time assistance of an MA graduate, 
Hazel Wilcox from January to July 1997. A full-time intern, 
Rachel Gorney, originally from Oberlin College (USA), will 
be working with the Communications Department from July 
to mid-October. Care is taken to ensure that interns 
leave the ICA with additional technical skills to help 
them in their future careers, as well as an in-depth 
knowledge of our movement and ideals. 

The Communications Department has also been assisted 
by several volunteers who have worked with the ICA via 
the internet. The interns and volunteers and the increased 
use of the internet, have enabled the Department to respond 
to the ever-increasing demand for information on 
the ICA and the movement worldwide.

Future Developments
Providing services to members and disseminating the 
co-operative message as widely as possible will continue 
to be the main objectives of the Department. During the 
coming months work will continue on developing the web site 
and setting up two new groups within the ICA Communications Committee, 
in collaboration with the University of Saskatchewan, in 
order to take advantage of the new communications technology 
currently becoming widely available. The two issues which 
will be investigated by the new groups are Communications 
and Trade and Communications Technology in Co-operative 
Education. Byron Henderson, Communications Director of 
the University's Centre for the Study of Co-operatives, 
is currently seeking funding for the financing of a 
pilot project on Technology and Co-Operative Education for 
the Central and South American region. Database development 
will also be a top priority in the next few years as will be 
the production and dissemination of video news releases on 
the co-operative movement. A Corporate Communications Policy 
will be prepared for presentation to the 1998 Spring Board

In order to better serve our members, specialised bodies and 
the general public, the Communications Department will 
continue to work with interns and volunteers and to 
work with like-minded organisations on issues of 
mutual concern.