What we learned in Paris

The time to transition into the future is now!

The Global Innovation Cooperative Summit took place in Paris, on the premises of La Fédération Nationale du Crédit Agricole, from September 26 – 27, 2022. This was our first in-person event, after the pandemic halted our plans in 2020. However, keeping true to our mission, we hosted four 90-minute online summits, attended by for a total of 3000 participants from 90 countries. This therefore demonstrates the appetite of cooperatives and mutuals for such an international event.

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gics paris 2022

The year 2022 offered us the opportunity to tackle the major theme: New Times – New Challenges and we brought together 55 panellists, speakers, and facilitators representing all sectors from 15 countries, online and in-person.

Over 150 participants gathered in Paris, and over 30 online. They were from Canada, Brazil, Brussels, United States of America, United Kingdom, Denmark, Iran, Finland, France, India, Japan, Portugal, Spain, Kenya, Democratic Republic of Congo, and Republic of Korea.

Diversity was well represented

We took the challenge to hear more from the youth. Ten of our panellists were under 35, some were in their 20s, and they provided a fair and frank reading of the environmental and socio-economic reality.

Each panel included less experienced young leaders with big ideas with more experienced cooperative leaders who have an impact on emerging global issues. Interesting exchanges and discussions emerged, and everyone loved it!

We all agreed that working together in a cooperative way is THE WAY to get back on track to build together a more inclusive, diverse and plural economy.
gics paris 2022
gics paris 2022
Among the 55 persons on stage, 26 women served as panellists, speakers or facilitators, providing gender parity on stage.

From this interesting mix of age and gender, 14 panelists contributed their expertise on innovation to major transitions in the areas of society, energy or environmental, digital, generational and leadership.

gics paris 2022


Look at the world differently

Panelists were invited to discuss what it would mean to look at the hard truths and taking the necessary steps quickly correct mistakes. The technological innovations are available, and ready for implementation.
As an example, IFFCO Chairman Dileep Sanghani shared that IFFCO has launched its innovative product Nano Urea which will help reduce the need to use conventional chemical fertilizers – which can be harmful to the soil, by 50 percent.
Rose Marley, CEO of Co-operatives UK, also highlighted that while other types of businesses are waking up to the need to protect the planet and human health, cooperatives are doing even more, by empowering people through democracy.
It is this way that cooperative members can regain control of the decisions that are made about their well-being and that of their environment.
gics paris 2022
gics paris 2022

Societal transition: What will our businesses look like tomorrow?

The enterprises of tomorrow will need to focus not just on short-term profit but above all on their sustainability.
Antonella Noya from OECD stated that co-ops align their economic, social, and environmental objectives and help communities to engage not only economically, but also socially.

Energy transition - Integrating a cooperative response in circular economy strategies AND Cooperatives in the race for the climate challenge

Rafael Ziegler, Director of the Alphonse and Dorimène Desjardins International Institute for Cooperatives, HEC Montreal, stated that innovation has not always been positive. Sometimes it’s accidental, sometimes to meet a need, and sometimes destructive, as evidenced by the escalating problem of climate change. But cooperatives have a strong role to play in enhancing circular economy strategies
gics paris 2022
For example, Brazil’s Revolusolar, is helping communities to reclaim affordable and renewable energy by training under-served communities how to install solar panels to reduce electricity bills by 30%. At Sollio, Canada’s largest agricultural cooperative, has overcome the major challenge to balance the need to expand production capacity to feed a booming worldwide population and, at the same time, to mitigate the impact on the climate change. The International Cooperative and Mutual Insurance Federation (ICMIF) has committed itself and its members to a roadmap to cope with the SDGS. The progress on this map would be illustrated in publishing benchmarks. For Shaun Tarbuck, CEO of ICMIF, there is no more time to transition… it is time for actions.
gics paris 2022

Promote the cooperative brand

The cooperative model has an identity, so cooperatives must distinguish themselves from other forms of business.
Panelists from DotCoop, Scoop Ethiquable, iCOOP, aroundtheworld.coop, and OCB, gave convincing examples but stressed that we must also demonstrate that we can meet the needs of consumers while respecting our cooperative values. Since the population is constantly renewing itself, we cannot take for granted the cooperative image.
Being cooperative also means continuously and consistently explaining, educating, and informing our members and the population on our cooperative difference.

Never too late to act on the SDGs

The challenge is immense, and cooperatives are already playing important roles in meeting the SDG goals. Contributions and actions at the local levels have been in place for decades before the SDGs were established. OCDC elaborated that its members consist of cooperative development organizations whose entire strategy is focused on addressing SDGs at the community level. Cooperatives Europe President also stressed that the culture of cooperatives have always been to address problems at the very local levels. The UN DESA representative reminded attendees that the responsibility is with the co-ops to meet the needs of the communities but meeting the SDG goals should be implemented at the national level. In moving to contribute to the SDGs, cooperatives can work locally as frontline fighters of the green transition and social transformation.
gics paris 2022
gics paris 2022

Survival kit to rebuild the world

In the style of a television “game show” a scenario was presented to engage the audience and the panelists in an interactive session on how they would rebuild a world that has been destroyed by human actions. Each panelist presented the one thing they would bring with them to this new world, to rebuild a community that can grow and thrive. Sarah Jensen, the youngest panelist from Greencastle Housing Cooperative proposed to bring a pack of seeds to this new world, to grow food and resources, and to build community by using this opportunity to teach everyone how to work together. Tanguy de Gromard, the panelist from éthi’Kdo in France, would bring a book titled Savoir Revivre, written to teach communities how to live off the land, in nature. Aditya Yadav from India’s IFFCO, would bring a 500ml bottle of Nano Urea, an innovative fertilizer that can nourish the earth in a sustainable manner, and Anna Aguirre from Tazebaez in Spain would bring with her the constitution of the Ausolan worker cooperative, to serve as the foundation for a new cooperative community.

Digital transition

gics paris 2022
gics paris 2022

We know that cooperatives include in the use of digital platforms in their operational and business strategy. Even if they are still quite new platforms are there to stay as a new entrepreneurial way of doing business and can help to better understand members’ needs.
As an example, Smart’s platform shares members’ resources and entrepreneurial risks to provide to each of them with sustainable working conditions. However, there is not a single business model to run platforms.

In different parts of the world, they can operate differently. Platforms can help cooperatives to connect and develop to compete with the platforms run by the multinationals. But as Greg Dinsdale, president, and CEO of LBMX Inc in Canada put it, we must keep in mind that nobody is going to come to a platform because it’s a co-op platform. Customers will come because it adds value or solves business problems. Moreover, we have also to consider that the big GAFAM’s (Google, Apple, Facebook, Amazon, and Microsoft) platforms are not adapted to the work and realities of cooperatives, even worse they could detrimental.

From fields to fork – and fork to field

This diverse panel covered a wide perspective on field to fork and the immense challenge of feeding the planet now and in the future. Panelists represented consumer cooperatives in Finland and Japan alongside various forms of producer cooperative organizations from Scotland, France, and Portugal. Common to all is the importance of ongoing, aggressive action to innovate amidst the “single brutal truth” of the climate crisis, generational change in farming, and changing consumer expectations, said Bob Yuill, Deputy Chief Executive, SAOS, Scotland. The purpose-driven and people-driven nature of cooperatives allows agriculture to thrive while maintaining community, ownership and intelligent use of data by farmers and consumers. It’s also allowing collective action towards regenerative agriculture and precision, and opportunities for deep relationships and connections between producers and consumers.
gics paris 2022

Generational and leadership transition

Inmaculada Buendía-Martínez, Associate professor, University of Castilla-La ß, reveal that to attract millennials, the salary paid by cooperatives must match other enterprises. However, at the same salary, millennials choose cooperatives rather than another type of business. Nonetheless the lack of awareness around cooperatives is one of the biggest challenges to attract and keep millennials. As a young leader, Conor O’Neill from MidCounties, United Kingdom said, the message needs to be short and clear, and the intent must be real. Strong and positive leadership from managers in the cooperative is an attractive way to bring new employees in. Sylandi Brown, a young leader serving as OCDC’s Communications Manager, stressed that a good boss should be a good leader. For Guy Cormier, President and CEO of Desjardins Group, Canada, being a good leader is being connected with your team, always learning from each other, and keeping close to the different branches of your organization to see how people help each other.

What keeps our leaders going?

For Doug O’Brien, CEO of US co-op apex NCBA-CLUSA “Principle six (cooperation among cooperatives) is our superpower.”
And that in very endangered times, cooperation among cooperatives, working together through local, national, regional, and international structures is a very effective and power tool. Mirai Chatterjee, chairperson of SEWA in India stressed that during times of crises, co-ops showed us a way out of a hole, and that we must continue to rebuild but with social protection, especially for women. Phil Ponsonby, CEO of Midcounties in the UK reminded us that cooepratives demonstrate that they look out for people – especially during times of crises, and we must continue to work together. Thierry Blandinères, CEO of Invivo, France, is motivated to be a strong leader, by having a good team who works together for a better future. Paulo Jorge Teixeira, President of Portuense Cooperative in Portugal believes that inter-cooperation is very important and that there is no need to reinvent the wheel to solve global problems. Christine Bergeron, CEO of Vancity Canada stated that collaboration is important because we all must succeed.
gics paris 2022
gics paris 2022


At the Cocktail Dinner hosted by Coop FR (the national gathering organization of French cooperative enterprises), the atmosphere was exciting, full of conversation, and there were many exchanges of innovative ideas.

It was only the beginning.
We will build on our learnings and continue to bring you together and use the superpower of inter-cooperation (Principle-6).

Together we can really make a difference. Our next event will take place in Montreal on September 27th – 29th, 2023, at the premises of HEC Montréal with the collaboration of the International Institute of Cooperatives Alphonse-et-Dorimène-Desjardins with the support of Canadian cooperative movement gathered in Co-operatives and Mutuals Canada.

Now it is time to act!


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