With an overarching theme of “Integration that Generates a Social Change,” the 3rd Cooperative Summit of the Americas was held from November 2 – 7 in Cartagena, Columbia. 1600 participants attended the event with the goal of promoting integration among cooperatives and to strengthen ties with other stakeholders toward social change broadly sought in the Americas.

The program was oriented around 4 main themes: social cohesion, transformation of society, internationalization and identity and new society and co-operative outlook.

In her speech, ICA president Dame Pauline Green noted that in the face of global environmental changes, the political leadership is not reacting. She argued that co-ops must become leaders for social environment sustainability.  Quoting The Blue Print for Co-operative Decade, she reminded participants of the stated goal of the international co-op movement to become the fastest growing form of enterprise by 2020 and tied that goal to implicit social and environmental leadership.

Professor Pablo Guerra from Uruguay noted the current economic system is unsustainable over the long run. After providing an overview of great co-operative thinkers of the last 200 years, Guerra promoted the idea of a dominant co-op economy overtaking the current free market model. This notion was clearly appealing to everyone present that co-ops must be an agent of social and economic change.

Although Canadian participation was limited, Jean-Pierre Girard presented in a workshop on health care co-ops where the International Summit of Co-operatives survey on co-ops and mutual in health and social care sector was been presented.

The Declaration of the 3rd Co-operative Summit of the Americas recognized the political and social challenges of the global economic model. The hope is that partnerships can be built with other sectors of civil society, transforming conditions affecting society through extending the use of the co-operative model.

(A special thank you to Jean-Pierre Girard for providing a report on the Summit of the Americas)