Our clients take all shapes, sizes, and corporate forms. Some are sole proprietors who provide business-to-business services, others are government departments or large industry players that serve a wide constituency, while others yet are writers for whom we clear out cluttered copy.
The list goes on and includes the co-operators. These companies follow a business model that is not new, but is rapidly gaining new, receptive audiences and respect worldwide. Even the United Nations deems the co-operative movement important enough to name 2012 the International Year of Cooperatives.
Former U.S. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright addresses the International Summit of Cooperatives in Québec City
By John R. Laing
“Co-operatives like to say that they are helping to build a better world. But what does that term—a better world—actually mean?”
Madeleine Albright is small in stature, but a giant on the stage of the Québec Convention Centre, talking with animation and passion to her audience of 2,800 co-operators from around the world. She is the keynote speaker at the first ever International Summit of Cooperatives, and today she is making a strong case for both women’s rights and their place in the co-operative movement.
Albright tells us that developing nations can thrive only when they begin to remove barriers against women. “But appalling abuses against women are still being applied. Some people say that this is a cultural situation and nothing can be done about it. But I say these are criminal acts, and it’s high time we put a stop to them.”
She goes on to list a number of problems facing our next generation—how to create meaningful jobs, how to penetrate the wall that still believes humans are not responsible for global warming, how to control an economic process in such a way as to stop the bursting bubbles that cause so much social damage.
“There are many theories around what actually caused the global meltdown in 2008,” she says, “but every one of them leads to a singleculprit— greed. Co-operative businesses cannot afford to play these reckless games, and that’s why the global co-op industry did not need bailouts.”
On the subject of world divisiveness, Albright is very clear: “The biggest divide between us is not rich versus poor. It is not black against white, or a clash of religions. The biggest divide is between those who are eager to learn and those who think they know it all. We are not born with prejudice; bigotry and contempt are taught. The challenge for our leaders is not to try and reduce or eliminate diversity, because that’s impossible. The challenge is how to manage it.”
"The biggest divide between us is not rich versus poor. It is not black against white, or a clash of religions. The biggest divide is between those who are eager to learn and those who think they know it all."
Albright talks about small co-operatives—little groups of people who band together in a common purpose for mutual benefit. She remembers a visit to a particularly vulnerable and violent Nairobi Kenya slum market, with hundreds of vendors displaying their wares on rickety tables or blankets spread on the ground. “They are desperately poor, and one in five suffers from HIV or AIDS. Yet even under these conditions, all the merchants have come together and donate 15 cents a day into a fund. That might not sound like a lot of money to us, but for many of them, it’s a choice of doing without food.” Over time the fund has grown to $250,000 and is being used to provide micro loans to businesses in the community.
Returning to the subject of women, Albright tells us: “You know, there was a time when our leaders were telling us that the world was flat, and that the sun was a chariot being drawn across the sky. There was a time when we were told there were weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. And there was also a time when we were told that women were the weaker sex.”
She looks across at her male host from the luncheon sponsor PwC (PricewaterhouseCoopers). “I hate to say this looking at you,” she says, “but women make much better cooperators. I’m not saying that all women do, but I think there must be a special place in hell for women who don’t cooperate!”
She receives a standing ovation.