What role do co-operatives play in international development?

Co-operatives play a key role in international development, according to research published by a coalition of European co-operative organisations active in development.

The Cooperatives Europe Development Platform (CEDP), which is composed of 10 members, found that co-ops help promote capacity building, training and education worldwide. Furthermore, CEDP members rely on network building and strengthening to build trust between the partners and the local community. The research document, Good practices in international cooperative development, is part of the ICA-EU Partnership framework and was led by Cooperatives Europe, The Co-operative College, Coopermondo-Confcooperative and Kooperationen.

This report shows CEDP members have wide-ranging experience of international co-operative development, from planning stages through to evaluation across 74 countries and within a wide range of sectors from agriculture and banking to tourism, environment and energy. In around 50% of projects, CEDP members said they partner with other co-ops.

The report’s authors said there is a distinction between ‘traditional’ international development and international cooperative development. They said: “International co-operative development is an enterprise tool that fosters economic, social and environmental sustainability. International co-operative development workers share collective business skills and practical co-operative approaches with their co-operative partners in developing countries to create wealth and reduce poverty in a sustainable way.”

They add: “Co-operative development moves away from a more paternalistic approach of some international development projects merely based on aid, and focuses on developing people’s capacity to work together to strengthen livelihoods, build communities and improve the infrastructure to support this activity.”

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