What came out of the Research Conference and Law Forum?

17 Dec 2021

Two preparatory events took place ahead of Congress – the ICA Cooperative Research Conference and the 3rd International Forum on Cooperative Law, from 28 to 30 November 2021. Delegates gathered in Seoul and online to hear conclusions from both events which will feed into discussions around “Deepening Our Cooperative Identity” at the 33rd World Cooperative Congress.

ICA Cooperative Research Conference 

The ICA Cooperative Research Conference had 190 papers submitted on the topic of Cooperative Identity. Of those, 80 people participated in Seoul on the ground, with 50 in-person and 100 online presenters contributing over the course of the conference. Chairperson of the ICA Committee on Cooperative Research Sonja Novkovic described the response they had received as “remarkable”.

Key takeaways from the session were shared by Ms Novkovic as well as by four young scholars who had been acting as rapporteurs across the conference sessions. The young scholars shared insights across four key areas: cooperative identity, cooperative innovation and entrepreneurship, cooperative global commitment and the cooperative identity and the SDGs. 

In her summary, Ms Novkovic fed back “clear calls for leadership” within the cooperative sector from the research community, particularly on the issue of climate, as well as a call to go beyond the SDG and ESG frameworks. She highlighted a need for coops to be “critical where criticism is needed,” and show leadership in this area, to influence global efforts to “measure what matters.” Ms Novkovic concluded with a recommendation which called for the creation of a forum for cooperatives to exchange experiences in the arena of climate change and measurement, which she is hoping the UN Research Institute for Social Development will be a partner on.

Abstracts from the research conference will be published online, and some of the conference contributors will be invited to submit to the Review of International Co-operation.

3rd International Forum on Cooperative Law

Chairperson of the ICA Committee on Cooperative Law, Hagen Henry, gave a summary of the 3rd International Forum on Cooperative Law. Mr Henry explained that the conference had revolved around two main topics: the relationship between the cooperative identity and cooperative law and the harmonisation of cooperative law. 

On the relationship between the cooperative identity and cooperative law, Mr Henry highlighted the importance of the ICA Statement on Cooperative Identity, saying that cooperatives “living and practicing those principles has an influence on whether we have or do not have an emerging public cooperative law.” 

On the subject of how to harmonise the interpretation of the cooperative principles through cooperative law, Mr Henry laid out five recommendations he himself had put forward: to integrate the issue of law into the thinking on cooperative identity; to recognise that the ICA Statement on Cooperative Identity is legally binding; to use the ICA’s resources through its Law Committee and Director of Legislation Santosh Kumar; to integrate the issue of cooperative law into the training of lawyers; and to overcome the sectoral divides seen in cooperative law.

Those who presented to the law conference and others will be given the opportunity to submit work to the Journal of Co-operative Law.

Consumer cooperative specialist Ann Hoyt, who chaired the session, ended by stressing the importance of recognising that the papers examining cooperative identity and the presentations and conversations heard during these two events “are a beginning to a much longer conversation and discussion among cooperators throughout the world.”