Co-op youth kindle the movement's flame in Indonesia (1997)

This document has been made available in electronic format
by the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA)
Oct, 1997
(Source: Asia-Pacific Co-op News, Vol.4, No.3, Jul-Sept. 1997, pp.11-12)

Co-op youth kindle the movement's flame in Indonesia
By Shannon Dumba

(Young people don't know their own limits. Because of this, they
are able to achieve the impossible time and again.)

This idea, articulated by author Pearl S. Buck, aptly describes a group of
young people who gathered to discuss co-operatives recently in Indonesia.
Youth from the Indonesian, Japanese, Philippine and Canadian
co-operative movements met at the Youth in Co-operatives conference
held in Yogyakarta, Central Java in late August. 

The conference was organized by Kopma Universitas Gadjah Mada
(Kopma UGM), a Yogyakarta university co-op, and the Indonesia
Co-operative Development Assistance Program (INCODAP), a
development partnership between the Canadian Co-operative
Association (CCA) and five Indonesian co-op federations. The
gathering was unique in that it included an international exchange
which saw two Japanese, one Filipino and five Canadians travel
to Indonesia to share their co-operative experiences and learn from
those of others.

"We're here to help light the fire about why it's important to be a part
of the co-operative movement, about the co-operative philosophy,"
explains Sharifa Riddett, one of the Canadian participants and a member
of the New Advisors Committee for United Farmers of Alberta. This
co-operative flame was kindled within both the Canadian participants
and the Asian participants.

"I feel like I have something to offer, something to teach them, something
to learn. It's wonderful," exclaims Kyla Avis, a participant from
Saskatchewan and a Program Assistant for the Saskatchewan Co-operative
Youth Program. 

"I'm taking back a newly found, regenerated interest in co-operatives and a
feeling that I can actually do something, a feeling that we accomplished
something here." 

The conference certainly generated ideas for Ahmad Ma'ruf , Chairman
of the Kopma UGM. Ma'ruf has been involved with INCODAP both
through the conference and through a co-operative youth exchange to
Canada in July 1997. These experiences have had a profound effect on
Ma'ruf's co-operative philosophy and on the organization of the Kopma

"I try to apply what I've learned about Canadian co-ops to our Indonesian
co-op, especially what I've learned about the co-op principles and
organization," he explains. "Co-ops in Indonesia are very, very different
from co-ops in Canada. Indonesian co-ops are generally not very
democratic. We apply that principle at Kopma UGM."

Isabelle Chiasson, an Acadian participant from New Brunswick involved
in co-operatives as a volunteer, believes that examining the differences
between the two country's co-op movements can lead to improvements on
both sides.

"The exchange is really important," she explains. "If  we don't get out of
our own country and see what's going on in other countries, the co-op
movement just stays as it is and never changes.  

"It's an exchange - an exchange of ideas, information, ways it could be
done," she continues. "That's the main reason for looking at the
differences. Not to impose how they should do it because we think it's
better, but to see the differences so that we can change things in our
own country."

The conference included presentations by co-operative youth from
various Indonesian co-ops and the Japanese, Filipino and Canadian
delegations. The Canadians provided information about how Canadian
co-ops are getting youth interested and involved in the movement. 

Kara McLean, a senior staff member with Manitoba's Youth Co-operative
Leadership Seminar and Ms. Avis discussed co-operative youth camps
and seminars.

"We try to focus on sparking an interest in what a co-op is and how
they work," Ms. McLean explains to an attentive audience. "We teach
leadership, co-operation, communication, global development,
community, individualism and the co-op model and philosophies."

"The aim is to contribute to the personal development of youth and
encourage their active involvement in community and co-op
organizations." Ms. Avis adds.

Ms. Riddett gave a presentation on youth involvement with Canadian
co-operative boards. "The young members lose interest in the
co-operatives because they don't have a sense of true ownership,"
she asserts. "In order to give youth a stronger voice, some Canadian
co-operatives have directed the Boards of Directors to designate a
place on the Board specifically for youth."

Francois Juneau, a co-operative development officer for Conseil de la
Co-operation Ontario, originally from Quebec, drew on his extensive
involvement with university co-operatives as a founder, Director and
member to discuss their organization and structure. 

"I think that was a good experience to share with the people here,
considering that there are already a lot of university co-operatives for
students," Mr. Juneau says. "We're trying to share ideas.... see what
new ideas can improve on models, our own models, in Canada and here
in Indonesia." Representatives from 13 of Indonesia's more than 50
university co-operatives participated in the conference. Mr. Juneau found
he was able to relate to their experiences.

"It seems that people are focusing on creating a type of a network,"
he explains. "That's what we did with student co-ops in Canada. We
created a network for the purchasing of, for example, computer material.
I think they're aiming for that type of network in Indonesia and I think
it's very good. It will give them one stronger political voice which I
think is important."

Another model of interest to youth, the Canadian worker co-operative,
was discussed by Ms. Chiasson.

"I think co-operatives can offer a lot to youth." she explains. "As I said in
my presentation, through worker co-ops in Canada, the co-op vision or the
co-op phenomenon can be used by students for summer jobs and
permanent jobs. There are not that many jobs and the unemployment
rate is high so the co-op vision can do a lot for youth."

Each Canadian participants stressed the importance of involving youth
in the co-operative movement.

"The way I see it right now, there are very few links between generations
in the Canadian co-operative movement," explains Mr. Juneau. "The older
generation involved in the co-operative movement is soon going to leave
that movement and there is no youth involvement. If we want the
co-operative movement to exist in 20 years, we've got to involve the
youth. We've got to create links between generations."

The rest of the conference schedule creatively encouraged participation.
Discussion groups offered delegates the opportunity to create their own
practical action plans for increasing youth interest and involvement in

A tour of co-operatives in and around Yogyakarta gave participants insight
into the Indonesian co-operative movement. And, a cultural evening
provided an occasion for all to experience some of the many and varied
Indonesian cultures, as well as, the Filipino, Japanese and Canadian
cultures. The way in which these youth integrated overcoming the
challenges presented to them in terms of language and culture made this
conference a huge success. Co-operative movements in Indonesia, the
Philippines, Japan and Canada all face challenges. If this conference is any
indication, it might just be today's youth who meet and overcome those
challenges, perhaps even the "impossible" ones. 

Through INCODAP's Youth Program, CCA and its five Indonesian
partner co-operatives are working to enhance the role of youth and
regenerate the leadership in the Indonesian co-operative movement.

*	Shannon Dumba is a participant in CCA's Youth Experience
International,  funded by HRD Canada. She is completing her work
placement as a Communications Officer for INCODAP.