Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Can co-operation save the nation in 2012?

2012 is the United Nations International Year of the Co-operatives which might not sound where the party is at, but trust me, it is. More timely even than the Olympics, this celebration comes just as the world has woken up  hungover – wearing an 'Absolute capitalism corrupts absolutely' T-shirt.

With this in mind, I have just read a stunning piece from my friend and fellow Transition Institute board member, Ed Mayo. Ed is Secretary General of Co-operatives UK and so you would expect him to defend the art of the co-operator but this article, 'Making life more meaningful', explains in lyrical tones why the nature of society is truly defined by the principles of mutual and not exclusive gain.

I am a fan of New Year’s resolutions for the same reason that I like going to church sometimes, even though I’m not even a teensy bit religious. I participate in these things because I think symbolism is essential to a thoughtful, constructive and therefore successful life. Moments of reflection and the idea that people can set the direction of their own moral compasses is an idea I try to share, especially with our children.

So, my NYR is to spend 2012 looking for and hanging on to the things that are really important, not just to me, but everyone.

2012 is going to be a year when we will be celebrating excellence in competitive sport through the spirit of the Olympics, which is founded on the philosophy of co-operation, of bringing nations together, sharing the language of sport and celebrating in one another’s successes, not just our own.

This year is also going to see some big changes for social enterprise and SEL. To ensure the year ends well for all concerned, I am going to spend 2012 asking myself the big question: what really matters here?

That is why I love Ed’s take on a meaningful life, because he asks us to think about the true nature of wealth creation: what is it for? Through co-operation, he shows us how we can generate financial profit that acts for the benefit of all, not just a few greedy buggers in their steely towers. He dispels the urban myth that competitive behaviour is the driving force of a successful society and points to the £9.4 billion created last year by employee-owned businesses and £16.1 billion from those owned by their customers. Instead Ed offers us a vision of a global village where feast is not followed by famine because those that have accept the benefit of sharing with those who do not, who in turn remember this when they are called upon for support. In Ed’s world what goes around, comes around.

That's the kind of world I want to live in too, which is why being part of co-operative social enterprise really helps me to look and look again about what really matters.

I think 2012 will see a growing numbers of wealth-creating businesses that share ownership and profit proving Gordon Gekko was wrong. Like King Lear and Fred the Shred, these figures of tragedy demonstrate that the cult of self has only one sorry end, ironic eh? So I say roll on a year of co-operating.


  1. Very good blog. I think as people experience real hardship and worries, added pressure will be on firms to show their socially responsible side.

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