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Active Youth Involvement Key to Co-ops’ Growth

PASAY CITY -- Three speakers at the recently concluded 13th National Cooperative Summit urged the more than 4,000 co-op leaders in attendance to actively involve the youth in their organizations.  Among the reasons they gave are convincing enough:  ensure long-term viability and relevance of co-ops in the society where they operate.


First speaker was Ms. Thea Handumon of Paglaum Multi-Purpose Cooperative in Paglaum City, who also serves as a Director of MASS-SPECC.  She gave the youth perspective of the next 100 years of cooperatives in the Philippines.  She said the Philippine educational system, specifically the K to12 system, focuses on lifelong learning for inclusive growth.  She emphasized that youth must be included and are given “21st century skills” like skills in  information, media and technology, communication, career and life, entrepreneurship, and middle level skills development.

Cooperatives must not be left behind, and should aim to “mold future efficient and effective leaders.”

She provided statistics that illustrate how millennials think:
•    Innovation is essential for business growth – 78%
•    Describe themselves as “innovative” – 62%
•    It’s OK to make a profit from an innovation that benefits society – 95%
•    My organization encourages/rewards innovative people – 2/3
•    I want to work in an innovative organization – 66%
•    I work in an innovative business – 60%
•    Leaders in the organization where I work encourages ideas and sharing regardless of seniority – 26%

In summary, millennials born in the 90s are reshaping the workplace.  They want something fresh, and think differently from the Generation X and the Baby Boomers.

One of the failures of co-ops is that their leaders cling on to power, do not train anyone, and later find themselves alone after their colleagues die.  Ms. Handumon was emphatic: “If you start something and you fail to involve young people, it will surely fail!”

So how are co-ops to involve the youth and raise the next generation of leadership?  For starters, Handumon suggested co-ops to partnering with the NATCCO Network in implementing the Aflatoun Program.  Under Aflatoun, a co-op partners with local schools.  The NATCCO Network’s Aflatoun team trains teachers how to include in the curriculum the UN Rights of the Child, their responsibilities, financial literacy, and entrepreneurship.  

Children will then be encouraged to set aside money daily, which is placed in a special account in a laboratory cooperative overseen by the “mother co-op.”

The Aflatoun Program is currently implemented by 120 cooperatives all over the country, reaching 212,326 children in 829 schools, generating savings amounting to P107.1 Million.  This was made possible by training 6,649 teachers.
Handumon  strongly recommends that co-ops have a Youth Rep in the Board, just as she herself is a Director of MASS-SPECC, the premier co-op federation in Mindanao . . . in her early twenties!

Keynote Speaker Balu Iyer, Chairman of the International Cooperative Alliance in Asia-Pacific was elated with the presentation of the youthful Handumon.  He said: “At the third International Summit of Cooperatives held in Quebec earlier this month, the youth urged that when we have events, we should not have separate events for youth but integrate them in the agenda in all the events.”

Then he congratulated the Youth Team from Lamac Multi-Purpose Cooperative in Pinamungahan, Cebu that attended the Youth Summit in Bali, Indonesia in September.  The delegation was led by Justine Limocon, and won top honors for their “Pitch” on Youth Engagement in Organic Farm Tourism which is being done in Lamac, a small municipality 80 kilometers from Cebu City.

According to Iyer, co-op leaders can learn from young people: “The Youth Summit showed the interesting ideas youth have to form cooperatives in developing agriculture incubators (to support migrant workers with skills), solutions for migrant workers, catering services (targeted at workers), transport systems, student housing, e-waste recycling, mobile fish vending vans, performance art collective, and more.”
Iyer quoted Dr. Verghese Kurien, the father of the Indian cooperative movement: “We must build on the resources represented by our young professionals and by our nation’s farmers. Without their involvement, we cannot succeed. With their involvement we cannot fail.”  

The third speaker to emphasize youth involvement in co-ops at the13th Cooperative Summit was NATCCO Chief Executive Officer  Sylvia Paraguya.  She spoke on the agreements at the2015 Youth Co-op Congress in Batangas City and the 2015 Finance Cluster Congress in Tagaytay City.  

In the beginning, she wanted to survey the crowd and asked participants aged less than 30 years to rise.  Less than 100 stood up out of the more than 4,000 participants.  So that’s about two-percent of the participants.  Paraguya expressed alarm over the situation: “I hopein the next summit, there will be more!”

Next, Paraguya asked the participants whose co-ops have laboratory co-ops to rise. Less than twenty.

Co-ops with Youth Representatives in the Board? Less than ten.

“Obviously, there is not enough youth in this crowd! If I ask those below 25 to raise their hands, there would be much less!” she lamented.

To boost youth participation, she presented the Call to Action in the 2015 Youth Congress:
1.    Youth sit in the board of primary and other levels
2.    Co-ops teach entrepreneurship to youth
3.    Integration of youth development in coops and LGUs
4.    National association of junior cooperators
5.    Co-ops in educational system

“Mass-Specc, NATCCO and Victo all have youth reps in the Board,” she said.
 

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