The United Nations declared 2012 the International Year of Cooperatives.
UN international years are declared to draw attention to and encourage action on major issues. The International Year of Cooperatives was intended to raise public awareness of the invaluable contributions of cooperative enterprises to poverty reduction, employment generation, and social integration as well as to highlight the strengths of the cooperative business model as an alternative means of doing business and furthering socioeconomic development.
The year was launched at the UN in a program in October, 2011, shortly before New Haven’s Elm City Market, a co-op, opened its doors with 750 members. The market’s membership has grown in the last year to over 1710 today.
In November the UN held closing ceremonies for the Year of Cooperatives, which included a short film festival. The seven winning films raise awareness about cooperatives – what they are, and what they do – and encourage support and development of cooperative enterprises by individuals and their communities. Each of the films also highlights at least one of the 10 key messages of the International Year of Cooperatives:
- Cooperative enterprises build a better world.
- Cooperative enterprises are member owned, member serving and member driven
- Cooperatives empower people
- Cooperatives improve livelihoods and strengthen the economy
- Cooperatives enable sustainable development
- Cooperatives promote rural development
- Cooperatives balance both social and economic demands
- Cooperatives promote democratic principles
- Cooperatives and gender: a pathway out of poverty
- Cooperatives: a sustainable business model for youth
You can view the films here. I suggest starting with the 2 minute short, “What’s to Love About Food Co-Ops,” produced in the US by the National Cooperative Grocers Association, which playfully describes the many reasons why you should be a Co-Op member.
The film’s message, in short, is that co-ops sell a wide range of healthy food and are good for the local and regional economy. As a member of a new co-op myself, I can attest that being a member of a co-op has tangible and personal economic benefits.