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Co-operators pay tribute to Ian MacPherson

09 Jun 2014

Ahead of their research conference in Pula, Croatia, co-operators paid tribute to Ian MacPherson, a Canadian scholar and co-operative activist who died on 16 November 2013 at the age of 74. 

Dr MacPherson was chair of the International Co-operative Alliance committee that revised the Principles in 1995 and also received the Rochdale Pioneers Award in 2005. He helped create the Canadian Co-operative Association and was the co-founder of the Canadian Association for the Study of Co-operation (CASC). His great work over the last few years was focused on the revision of the Co-operative Principles in 1995 and the promotion of the Co-operative Peace Institute.

In 1976, he joined the faculty of the University of Victoria and later served as chair of the history department. From 1992 to 1999 he was the university’s Dean of Humanities and stepped down from that position to found and head the B.C. Institute for Co-operative Studies, since renamed the Centre for Co-operative.

Jean-Louis Bancel, president of Crédit Cooperatif and board member of the Alliance, said he first met Ian MacPherson in 1995 when the current co-operative principles were adopted.

“I had the pleasure of meeting and working on numerous occasions with Ian MacPherson, using his expertise in research in areas like of co-operative education, co-operative principles and peace,” he said, adding that Dr MacPherson had a great capacity to look at the changing world and see how co-operative values could remain permanent while adapting to the present.

“I can tell you that Ian has been till the very last moment very active and present on working on redrafting the principles. I remember well that we continued to work via videoconferencing and we had a conference two weeks before he died.   I can say that for me he is a very important person for the Co-operative Movement.”

Eudes de Freitas Aquino, President of Unimed do Brasil, also got the chance to work with Ian Macpherson.

“Along with other co-operators, I had the opportunity not only to know, but also to familiarise myself with Ian MacPherson, an exuberant figure, dedicated to co-operation, that helped draft numerous principles that exist within global Co-op Movement.

“One of these important tasks that I can mention was revising the co-operative principles, an activity crucial to our functioning to which he dedicated, as always, with tenacity and had great results. He was an expressive and brilliant character, extremely co-operative. We owe a lot to Ian MacPherson.”

Martin Lowery, executive vice president of NRECA, spoke very highly of Ian MacPherson, saying the Movement had lost a true leader.

“Ian reinforced even more importantly the idea that a holistic approach to understanding the value of co-ops in any economy is really critical to recognising why our future needs to have a broad inclusion of co-operatives in every country around the world. Thank you, Ian, for everything that you did in your career and a great career – it was totally focused on the importance of co-ops. We really appreciate what you did and we will carry it forward to the best of our ability."

President of the International Co-operative Alliance, Dame Pauline Green praised Ian MacPherson for his great contribution to the global Co-operative Movement.

She said: "Everybody in the Co-operative Movement across the world knew the name of Ian MacPherson, even if they didn't know the man. I was priviledged enough to know the man. And he was of course the person who headed up the committee that revised the Rochdale Principles, which are so important to the whole global movement. He was leading that drive to revise them and modernise them in 1995 and then 10 years later he won the Rochdale Pioneers Prize, which is the highest honour that the global movement can give to any person.

"Of course his great gift was the revision of the principles in 1995, but he was also a very considerable scholar - wrote lots about the Co-operative Movement and one of the greatest and most lasting, enduring things that he was doing when he so sadly died was to help develop a peace initiative, a peace institute for the co-operative movement. He believed with passion that co-ops were and are instrumental in bringing cohesion and peace to communities because we work together for the best value and the good of the community and that in itself is something that drives cohesion, co-existence, peace and end to conflict."

Photo: Ian MacPherson, (c) University of Victoria, Canada