Cooperatives Year in Review

Looking Back at 2012, the International Year of the Cooperatives
Posted by: 
Sarah McKinley

The United Nations designated 2012 the International Year of the Cooperatives (IYC) with the theme of “Cooperative Enterprises Build a Better World.”  Tapping into a growing interest in cooperative business models, the goal of the IYC was to encourage the global growth and establishment of cooperatives all over the world while also recognizing the contribution that cooperatives already make to their communities, through poverty reduction, employment generation and social integration. 


Cooperatives are a for-profit model that helps build community wealth by providing workers an ownership stake in the enterprise. These businesses also help stabilize local economies by democratizing wealth and more effectively anchoring capital. Looking back at this successful Year of the Cooperatives, we highlight a few of the many useful resources created for spreading cooperatives to communities across the globe:


Released by the International Co-Operative Alliance this new book showcases the resilience and success of co-operative businesses.  Author Kate Askew tells the stories of co-operative businesses across the globe to demonstrate how they prosper even in the face of great crisis – from economic decline and natural disaster to war and humanitarian crises.  Highlighted stories include the work done by co-ops in Japan after their devastating earthquake as well as the successful cooperatives in Mondragon, Spain.  The book is intended to be an educational tool, used to raise awareness in schools, universities, libraries and in communities about the benefits of the co-operative enterprise model.  


The National Cooperative Business Association has released a new public policy toolkit that provides cooperatives, credit unions, trade associations and other stakeholders with a variety of resources for developing awareness and advocacy among public officials.  The purpose of the toolkit is to advance favorable public policy at the local and regional level for cooperative development.  A key component of the toolkit is a guide to help cooperatives to work with locally elected officials and agencies in developing policies to further cooperative development.  


Published by the Center for Community Change, this guide for community organizers provides a broad view of the benefits of worker-owned cooperatives and shows how they align with the goals of grassroots organizing groups. Author Nina Daskur demonstrates how cooperatives uphold the principles of solidarity and democracy that are the foundation of community organizing, and are especially relevant in the current economic and political climate. Intended to lay out both the advantages and challenges of a co-operative business model, the paper profiles worker-owned cooperatives in four different service occupations that are typically characterized by low wages –home health care, child care, food service, and housecleaning –and identifies useable mechanisms that organizers could undertake to help advance alternative ownership in communities.


To find out more about the United Nation’s International Year of the Cooperatives, check out