Report of the Special Workshop on the ICA Co-operative Identity - From Theory to Practice (1997)

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This document has been made available in electronic
Format by the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA)
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Dec., 1997
(Source: Co-op Dialogue, Vol.7, No.3, Sept-Dec.1997,
pp.14)

Report of the Special Workshop on the ICA Co-operative
Identity - From Theory to Practice
held in Jaipur, India on August 17 to 21, 1997
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A special workshop held in Jaipur last August brought
together over 50 participants from across Asia to discuss
how co-operatives in the region have put co-operative
principles into practice.

The workshop heard from academic experts and shared the
experiences of the participants.

Dr. Ian MacPherson, Dean of Humanities of Canada's
University of Victoria, pointed to the need to examine
the interaction between three spheres  members/community,
management and structure  and how they influence
co-operative identity.

Director of the Unit for Member-based Organisations at
Leicester University, Dr. Peter Davis, discussed the need
for professional value-based management in co-operatives.

Following presentations by the participants, break-out
sessions allowed a deeper examination of how co-operative
identity has been put into practice within the region.

The discussion revealed a consensus that the ICIS is not
a rigid framework and will allows a flexible interpretation
of principles to accommodate the diversity of the region.
The identity statement covers three spheres, taking into
account a fourth aspect which involves the relationship
between the state and the movement:

1.  Members and community:
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Co-operatives should meet members' needs in a systematic
and inclusive manner. Co-operatives should expand the
possibilities for co-operative action to informal groups
such as self-help, women and youth groups.

Co-operatives should devise mechanisms for providing
information to and consultations with members and
prospective members. Co-operatives should work towards
enhancing members' understanding and appreciation of the
nature of economic participation and democratic control.

In the light of changing environment, the distribution of
powers between the General Body, Board and Management
should be reviewed and should in all cases be understood
by all.

Co-op business should be conducted ethically and with due
regard to co-operative principles and values. External
experts should be included in the board, when and where
appropriate.

Members should recognise the importance of electing board
members with sufficient business know-how. An effective
implementation of the principles and values pre-supposes an
understanding of the constraints and problems hindering the
application of ICIS.

2.  Relations with the government:
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Co-operatives should sensitise and initiate a dialogue with
political leaders to create an understanding and
appreciation of the ICIS. Co-operatives should work towards
the incorporation of ICIS in the school curricula.

Relationship with governments will vary from country to
country, but should at all costs avoid creating a culture
of dependency.

Structures:
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Given the changing socio-economic environment today and
the increasing need to be cost-effective, co-operatives
should be open to create and renew organisational
structures. Search out new economic opportunities,
which provide additional and improved services for members
and at the same time conforming with co-operative values.

Translate and incorporate co-operative principles and
values into the commercial transaction of co-operative
organisations (i.e. responsible marketing strategy). Select
and develop value-based professionals for co-operative
management.

Personnel management policies be devised in such a way as
to ensure cross-fertilisation between professionals from
within and without. 

Create strategic alliances with other business
organisations, preferably co-operatives, so as to
strengthen co-operative business without losing sight of
co-operative values.

Subsidiaries of co-operatives should not be in conflict
with the ICIS and co-operatives should take steps to
control the subsidiaries so that the profits go back to
their members.

These initial guidelines will be presented for adoption at
the October 1998 ICA Regional Assembly for Asia and the
Pacific in Seoul, Korea.