Young European Co-operators Network
Oct 30, 2015
Scholarships presentation, Fondation Desjardins, 2014
Question 1: What is your vision for the future of the co-operative movement? What role do you see youth playing in achieving that vision?
I believe in the power of cooperation and in the capacity of our movement to contribute to the resolution of the most pressing global issues. The world we live in is complex, globalized and marked by issues such as food security, climate change, market volatility, unemployment and increased social inequalities. Strong of a global network of a billion members and our local, regional and national networks the world over; the cooperative movement has the power to make the world a better place, both at the local and global level. I strongly believe that cooperatives should lead the way in responsible and sustainable development, in social and financial inclusion, in women empowerment, in the fight against climate change and in job creation. Youth and education have always been among my core values. At Desjardins, under my presidency, we put in place numerous initiatives to foster youth participation in our democratic life as well as to promote cooperation among young people. In 2013, we held an important congress with the objective to increase representation of women and youth among our elected officers. Today, almost 40% of Desjardins’ 5 000 elected officers on our various boards are youth and women.
In addition, Desjardins Group is highly committed to academic achievement and encourages young people to reach their goals. It fulfills its cooperative vocation through financial assistance plans for students and through the Desjardins Foundation by offering scholarships, excellence awards and other forms of financial assistance. For example, we put in place an internship program for university students, a young director’s program through which we support and encourage youth participation at all level of Desjardins’ democratic life, and we offer financial support to many Quebec universities. We also launched the university Institute Alphonse et Dorimène Desjardins dedicated to cooperative research and education. As founder and president of the International Summit of cooperatives, I ensured we had a program especially designed for young cooperators to which some of you may have even participated. True to my values, young cooperators are central to my platform for the Alliance. I strongly believe that in order to achieve the ambitious vision I have for our movement; youth have to be fully engaged. It is undeniable that young leaders contribute to the vitality of the movement and that they have a vital role to play in influencing and helping cooperatives adapt to an ever changing world and to new technologies, in targeting emerging markets and sectors, and contributing to the growth of our movement. As president and CEO of Desjardins Group, I believe it is my role to provide the right conditions to attract and foster the development of young cooperatives leaders. I intend to do the same as president of the Alliance as I believe the future of the cooperative movement rests on our capacity to engage and attract young leaders.
Question 2: What would you like it to achieve under your presidency? What kind of world do you think co-operative businesses should be working together to create?
My commitments as president of the Alliance are clear:
I undertake to lead a cooperative alliance engaged with its members and at their service : - The power of cooperation can only be enhanced by working together at all levels and regardless of borders, types and sizes of cooperatives. For that, we need to stimulate member’s engagement and democratic participation and improve communications amongst ourselves. I believe the bottom-up approach, where cooperatives at all levels , from all sectors and sizes are engaged, is fundamental to build a true cooperative and collaborative economy.
I undertake to pursue, more than ever, the Alliance leadership role on the international stage in representing the cooperative movement:
- International lobbying and representation efforts will help increase recognition and spread the cooperative model in order for our movement to become a key player in developing economic and social public policy.
- As social responsibility is imprinted in our DNA, cooperatives improve the social and economic well-being of individuals and communities. For cooperatives to be able to position themselves as obvious solutions to the world most pressing issues, we have to bolster our international presence and make our voices heard.
- I also believe we have to put more emphasis and efforts in education, sustainable development, and succession to help prepare the next generation of cooperators.
I undertake to lead an Alliance that supports the growth and development of cooperatives around the world: - Working on our brand recognition is key to the growth of cooperatives in the world. - Growth of our movement will be facilitated by supporting R&D and by being a leader in the development of new cooperative sectors that offer solutions to today’s economic and social issues such as health, food security and financial inclusion. - The Alliance must be a catalyst for the growth of the cooperative movement and for job creation.
Facilitating multi-sector business partnerships, stimulating and highlighting cooperative entrepreneurship, creating networking spaces (B2B), sharing best practices and developing new tools for intercooperative trade, financing and capital are essential levers we need to develop.
Simply put cooperatives businesses should work together to create a world guided by principles of social responsibility, sustainable development and social and financial inclusion. As president of the Alliance, my program aims to achieve a stronger level of engagement from members, stronger youth participation, and progress in terms of sustainable development.
Question 3: What three practical things you will you do under your presidency to promote, empower and support young co-operators, and ensure an intergenerational transfer of knowledge and resources?
As I believe in young leaders, I have dedicated part of my platform to ensure that young cooperators around the world are given all the tools and opportunities to grow and take their place in our movement. Concretely, I plan on implementing the 3 following initiatives: 1. The cooperative business model is not taught widely enough, particularly in higher education institutions, is not the subject of systemic research and is not really promoted as an entrepreneurial venture. As president of the Alliance, I intend to promote the teaching of the cooperative model at all levels and promote research in order to stimulate and highlight cooperative entrepreneurship; 2. I intend to facilitate international internships and mentoring opportunities to promote cross-sectoral intercooperation as well as cooperation between large and small cooperatives and young and experienced cooperators; 3. I also intend to set up new communications platform such as the creation of networking spaces (B2B) to increase meeting opportunities, sharing of best practices and developing new tools; 4. I intend to provide young leaders with opportunities to work at the Alliance and other cooperatives to develop an international experience ; 5. I intend to support and further develop the Alliance youth network launched last year and provide them with the conditions necessary to thrive.
Any final comments? (optional)
I want to thank you very much for the opportunity to share my views with you. I am a person of action and concrete results and I am delighted to see young cooperators such as the Young European Co-operators Network get organised and involved in the Alliance presidential campaign. This is a true testimony of the vitality of our movement.