ILO COOP participates in the first Robert Owen Academy Annual Lecture

The first Robert Owen Academy Annual Lecture on “Post pandemic community - regeneration through co-operative multi agency partnerships” took place virtually on June 12, 2021.

News | 30 June 2021
The Robert Owen Academy Annual Lecture was organized by the Marches Hive, a centre for cross sector regeneration, including community, cooperative, mutual and social enterprise in the Marches region in the West Midlands of the UK.

ILO COOP manager Simel Esim joined the event as one of the three speakers

to provide a global perspective along with James Alcock, CEO of the The Plunkett Foundation and Phil Beardmore, Secretary and Director, Community Energy Birmingham.

Ms Esim started her talk by noting the pioneering role Robert Owen played in the development of the cooperative movement. She indicated that his teachings and actions to advance education, worker control, and eliminating middle men are still relevant today as they were then.

She mentioned that, since the event was taking place on June 12, the international day against child labour, it was worth highlighting that Robert Owen was also vehemently against child labour in the textile factories, forbade it in his own factories and worked to raise awareness on the elimination of child labour in the industry and beyond.

She underlined the strong relationship between child labour and cooperatives as 60 percent of child labour is found in agriculture, and this is also a sector where cooperatives are prominent. Hence cooperatives can act as critical conduits toward elimination of worst forms of child labour in agriculture.

In the remainder of her presentation she recounted the ways cooperatives have stepped up to support their workers, members and communities globally with a specific emphasis on gender equality and informal economy. She concluded highlighting the importance of recognizing cooperatives and the wider social and solidarity economy organizations as key social and economic actors in the emergency response but also as long term partners for improving resilience in their communities.

Mr Alcock from Plunket Foundation shared the experiences of his organization in supporting community businesses and the challenges these enterprises had to navigate during the COVID19 pandemic. He noted that there are around 700 community owned businesses around the UK with another 400 in the making. These community businesses are inclusive and participatory in nature and are resilient for the long term.

Phil Beardmore from Community Energy Birmingham talked about a series of good cooperative practices emerging from the West Midlands. Among them he mentioned the New Leaf Cooperative which supports people with criminal convictions to find work and the Stirchley Cooperative Development project that is building a new cooperative housing and space for three local worker cooperatives. In relation to financing, he provided the example of Community Shares model.

The annual lecture series concluded with a discussion on issues related to replicability, cooperative to cooperative cooperation including between the