How did ILO COOP celebrate its centennial in 2020?

News | 04 December 2020

ILO’s Cooperatives Unit was established through a decision of the third session of the ILO’s Governing Body in March 1920, one year after the foundation of the Organization. The first Director of the ILO, Albert Thomas was key to the establishment of the unit. He thought that the ILO should not only concern itself with conditions of work, but also with the condition of the workers and it is in the form of co-operation that this idea can best be realized.

The centennial of ILO’s Cooperatives Unit came soon after the ILO Centenary Declaration for the Future of Work, that was adopted in June 2019, called for promoting an enabling environment including for cooperatives and the social and solidarity economy (SSE). It also came amidst a global COVID-19 pandemic outbreak that was a public health crisis that had far reaching social and economic implications.

Our original plans for centennial of the Cooperatives Unit included a cooperative fair, a film festival along with a series of face to face meetings culminating in a big international symposium. With the global pandemic, we had to confine ourselves to holding a series of virtual events and activities including webinars, interviews, slide shows, online publications and finally an international symposium.

Webinars: We started the year by holding a series of webinars highlighting key areas of work on cooperatives and the wider (SSE). The first of these webinars was the official launch of the centenary and took place on the birthday of the unit, March 23rd. There were four other webinars on gender equality, climate action, forced displacement and SSE and the future of work.

Interviews: We launched an ILO COOP 100 Interview series which featured past and present ILO colleagues and partners who have engaged with the ILO's work on cooperatives and the wider (SSE). We conducted more than 30 interviews with cooperative practitioners, researchers, and leaders from around the world, where they reflected on their past and present experiences and thoughts on the future of cooperatives and the SSE in a changing world of work.

Slideshows: In March 2020, we launched a call for photos toward a series of ILO COOP 100 Photo Exhibitions to commemorate ILO COOP 100. The photos underwent a selection process. The submitted photos were turned into ten virtual photo exhibitions (on SDG 2, SDG 5 and SDG 8, care provision through cooperatives, three cooperative principles, and three regions). These are shared as slide shows through the ILO COOP webpage and social media channels.

Bios of ILO COOP Chiefs: In order to pay our respects and gratitude to all those that came before us, we also featured bios of all the 11 chiefs of ILO COOP that were appointed by ILO Director Generals across the century. This starts with Georges Fauquet and Maurice Colombain to Thiecouta Sidibe and Adoum Maurice Hél-Bongo.

ILO COOP 100 video: To mark the occasion of ILO COOP 100, we worked with Blake House Filmmaking cooperative to produce a short video that marks the past, present and future of the engagement of the ILO with cooperatives and the wider SSE in advancing social justice and decent work.

Special Retrospective Issue of APCE: For more than a century now, research published in the Annals of Public and Cooperative Economics, published on behalf of the International Centre of Research and Information on the Public, Social and Cooperative Economy (CIRIEC), has been a key resource in promoting the work of cooperatives and wider SSE. ILO COOP and CIRIEC came together to bring about this special retrospective issue on “Cooperatives and the ILO over 100 Years: A selection of 12 Articles”, which was launched and celebrated during the ILO COOP 100 Symposium.

Articles in the ILR: As ILO COOP marks its centenary this year, the International Labour Review (ILR), a peer-reviewed multidisciplinary journal of international scope on labour and employment studies, is celebrating its centenary in 2021. Across the years, a number of articles on cooperatives were featured in the issues of the ILR. We featured these 30 articles on cooperatives that were published in the ILR between the 1920s and the 1980s on our website. Some of them reflect on conceptual issues around principles, definitions and classification of cooperative institutions, their legal and economic status, and relation to welfare of workers. Four were written by earlier ILO COOP Chiefs, Georges Fauquet and Jean Orizet, who were visionary thinkers on cooperatives and the wider SSE.

International Symposium: To celebrate the 100th anniversary of its Cooperatives Unit (COOP), the ILO organized “Cooperating for Social Justice and Decent Work”, a two-day international symposium. Over a thousand people followed the symposium online. We have made the summary of the symposium, the programme, bios of the speakers and chairs, video messages, session specific write ups, presentations, and recordings of the two days in English, French, and Spanish are available here.