India welcomes the International Conference on Cooperatives in the Changing World of Work

10 May 2018

More than 200 delegates met in Kozhikode, India, for the International Conference on Co-operatives in the Changing World of Work (29 Apr - 1 May 2018). Over three days, academicians, researchers, policy-makers and cooperators from around the world examined how cooperatives are evolving in the changing world of work. Delegates were welcomed by Dr Kulbhushan Balooni, Director at Indian Institute of Management Kozhikode, India. "I am honoured that our institute has been selected as the host for this renowned conference. Having so many leaders from over ten countries is something we are very proud of. We can learn from each other,”, he said.

Dr Thomas Isaac, Minister of Finance, Government of Kerala, told the audience: “We can never say enough about how much the movement contributed to a better world of work. In fact, the cooperative movement has always been destined to remain a modern movement, always at the forefront of promising social and economic innovations and bringing positive changes in communities and societies across the world of work.”

The global event features key speakers Dr Simel Esim, head of the ILO Co-operatives Unit in Geneva and Mr Balu Iyer, Regional Director at International Co-operative Alliance (Asia-Pacific) who gave a global outlook on economic, social, and environmental changes in the world of work, with a focus on the labour cooperative movement in India. Lead organiser Uralungal Labour Contractor’s Co-operative Society Ltd. was represented by chairman Mr Rameshan Paleri who discussed the contributions of labourers in creating their 93-year old legacy and successful diversification of the cooperative in recent times.

On 30 April, the conference was opened by Ms Reema Nanavaty, an Indian social worker, known for her humanitarian services as the head of Self-Employed Women's Association of India. "The Global Commission on Future of Work of the International Labour Organisation will be bringing out a very strategic and action-oriented report on the Future of Work that aligns with the Sustainable Development Goals at the ILO’s centenary celebration", said Ms Nanavaty, a member of the Global Commission on the Future of Work.

Dr Mridul Eapen, from the Centre for Development Studies, Trivandrum, said the world of work is changing, with significant implications especially for women who have been disadvantaged not only as a percentage of the workforce, but also in terms of being largely crowded at the bottom of the labour hierarchy.

The  last day saw opening remarks from Prof. Trebor Scholz, of New School, United States. "Beyond following the shift of labour markets to the internet, this is also about data ownership and the prospects of meaningful interoperability between cooperatives,” he said “There are 100 million coops with roughly 1 billion members worldwide. Combining the ICA principles with the opportunities of digital technologies opens the door to new business models and will attract new generations to the idea of cooperativism.””

India's first ever Coopathon was organised on the first two days of the conference with support from the ICA-EU Partnership, IIM Kozhikode, Kerala Startup Mission and UL Technology Solutions, to promote the involvement of youth and technology. Over 20 teams competed for cash prizes of up to INR 60,000 and a chance to be mentored by some of the best incubators in the region. Over the course of the 48-hour event, 24 participants worked on challenges faced by the regional cooperative movement.

The aim of the Coopathon was to have four multi-stakeholder teams of up to five members (with academicians, researchers, policy-experts, cooperators, incubators, technology enthusiasts etc on each team) deliberating on the shortlisted problem statements. Contestants sat in groups which were assigned mentors and discussed the statement of the problems. Two parallel tracks, one with eight teams and the other with 16 teams, had an intensive discussion with experts from the field. The participants were seriously engaged with their statement of problems and the mentors helped them move forward by clearing their queries on the spot.

The winning ideas were a smart shoe designed to track employees for attendance management, artificial intelligence for environment detection to empower people with visual disabilities, and a cooperative Uber-style application to improve access to basic services. You can watch a brief snapshot of the proceedings of the Coopathon in this video, made by teams of Kerala Start-Up Mission and ULTS.

Read the Common Minimum Understanding of the participants of the conference to enhance the role of cooperatives and collectives, in meeting the challenges of the changing world of work, and in addressing the mega drivers of Future of Work such as technology, demography, climate change and globalisation. This link also contains thematic reflections made by some of the prominent speakers at the Conference who have contributed to the ILO Inception Report on the Future of Work.  For photographs and presentations from the Conference please visit