Over 50 young people from 13 different countries met in Chuncheon, a city northeast of Seoul (Republic of Korea) ahead of theWorld Cooperative Congress, for a three-day workshop organised by the ICA Global Youth Network, in collaboration with Korean hosts, Coop Pan.
Themed “Connecting and Inspiring Youth through Cooperatives”, the event took place on 26-28 November and was sponsored by the Gangwon Province and City of Chuncheon.
Chuncheon mayor, Lee Jae-soo, officially welcomed participants to his city, which is home to 200 cooperatives. “It is no coincidence that you are here,” he told them, explaining that in the Republic of Korea, Chuncheon is known as the ‘Cooperative City’.
A cooperator himself, Mr Jae-soo was involved in local retail and food cooperatives in his youth. He said he drew inspiration from the MONDRAGON Corporation in Spain and pledged to continue to support cooperatives.
During the three-day event, the ICA Youth Network launched Cooperative Spring, a youth toolkit, which features case studies of successful youth cooperatives. Participants split in groups to discuss the toolkit and worked together to explore creating or improving their own youth cooperative based on the toolkit’s findings.
“It is not a ‘how to start a co-op’ toolkit, it is deeper, it aims to help those at any stage,” said Emily A. M. Lippold Cheney, the author of the publication.
“We intend to continue to expand the toolkit and treat it as a living record of coop youth philosophy and practice,” said Sébastien Chaillou, the chair of the ICA Youth Network.
The toolkit was funded through some of the funding remaining from the International Summit of Cooperatives. Marie-Josée Paquette, executive director of Conseil québécois de la coopération et de la mutualité also attended the three-day workshop. She praised young cooperators for being “unique, passionate and inspirational” and said the Quebec movement would continue to support youth initiatives.
The workshop also included updates from the winners of the #coopyouth Replication Project, who answered questions about their business model. Launched in February 2020 to help both existing youth cooperatives and groups of young people who wish to create a youth cooperative, the Youth Replication Project granted up to €10,000 (£8,500, US$11,300) to nine groups of young entrepreneurs to develop their project, from Zimbabwe, Cameroon, Philippines, Brazil, Guatemala, Indonesia, Turkey, Poland and Argentina.
Projects from the Americas were presented by members of the ICA Youth Network Executive Committee, Tatiana Pardo Peñuela for Americas (member at large), Alireza Banaeifar for Asia-Pacific (member at large), Ana Aguirre for Europe (VP for Europe) and Hilda A Ojall for Africa (VP for Africa).
Ana Aguirre said: “The goal of the Replication Project was to create a network and support system to empower youth to become cooperative entrepreneurs. We tried to show that when you give youth the power, youth respond. We expected 50 projects and we received 150 applications. There are people around the world that are ready to be empowered.”
Youth delegates also learned more about the structure and all the activities of the ICA Youth Network from global and regional youth representatives.
Hilda Ojall, Vice President (Africa) of the ICA Youth Network, said: “We need to make the cooperative movement vibrant, we need to make it cool, we need to connect with each other. It is not by chance that during this pandemic we are all here and engaging in one way or another. We can take this time to reflect on the cooperative values and what we want as an identity for young people in the co-op movement.”
Participants heard about local cooperatives including KYSC, the Youth Cooperative Federation of Korea. KYSC President, Lee Doo-young, provided an overview of the cooperative sector in Korea, which includes 19,597 cooperatives, 371 of them youth-led.
Participants also learned about iCoop Korea’s work on tackling plastic waste and CoopY’s youth-centred education, research and consulting initiatives; and FARMND’s efforts to create opportunities for youth in rural areas.
The three-day workshop ended with a tour of three local Korean cooperatives: JUMO Cooperative, Around the World on Two Wheels Social Cooperative, and Gangwon Forest Cooperative.