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Millennials Own Stage at Co-op Leaders Congress

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY – In Filipino culture, young people are told to listen to their elders.  But at the recent 16th Co-op Leaders Congress held at the Limketkai Luxe Hotel, it was the other way around.  
 
Millennials comprised most of the speakers and the more than 700 leaders listened with interest.  
 
First to speak was Aflatoun Saver Mikael B. Balag, who shared how Aflatoun has made him confident.  This year's “Kidnote Speaker, Balag of MSU-IIT MPC Coop Academy, shares how Aflatoun was able to help him understand financial education and save. At the age of 10, he now has P28,000 in his savings account.
 
Further, he encouraged co-ops to continue training and exposing the youth through Laboratory Cooperatives and the Aflatoun Program for a more sustainable future.
 
After the “Kidnote Speaker” was the “Keynote Speaker”, Ms. Gulbahar Okuyan who is the Business Development Officer of the World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) based in the United States.  She gave the participants a global perspective: “Without planning with or for the communities, you cannot guarantee sustainability.  This is something co-ops excel in.  This movement we are all a part of mobilizes local resources, empowers members, and leads to a sustainable economy.”
 
Gulbahar also promoted the Kaya Payment Platform: “Here in the Philippines, members can pay their utility bills through the Kaya Payment Platform!  All a co-op member has to do is sit at home, push buttons on their cellphone screen to pay bills.”
 
The following day, right before the General Assembly, Social Entrepreneur John Xavier Francia spoke on "Making the Cooperatives a Place for the Millennials."  For starters, he defined millennials as “people who reached adulthood in the early 21st century – born in the 80s and 90s.”
 
Francia warned against generalizing an entire generation as there are 1.8 billion millennials all over the world.  
“Eventually,” he said, “they will take up leadership positions.”
 
Francia is Executive Director of Social Economy Action Research Foundation and Program Director of Bayan Academy’s BEST Program: Bayan Educational Systems & Technology. 
 
Mikoy is recognized in his school as a natural leader.
 
In her Closing Remarks, Vice Chairperson Marie Dee Belagan said co-ops must cater to the needs of the younger generation, noting that many of the speakers at the Leaders’ Congress are youth: “Today, we just heard from two speakers – ang babata nila! (They are all so young!)
 
“Mikoy gave us his inspirational story on how his co-op, through the Aflatoun Program of NATCCO, changed him from an ordinary kid into really extraordinary.  And he is not alone.  There are other Aflatoun kids there whose lives have been changed for the better and they are now savers.  They are confident about their future!”
 
Belagan appreciated Ms. Okuyan of the World Council of Credit Unions, “who gave a global perspective about the cooperative movement and what direction we should take.  There are some here who may be surprised to know that the cooperatives – tayong lahat (all of us) – are a worldwide movement.  We are enterprises that make a better world.”
 
She reminded the leaders that “We’ve Only Just Begun!”: “Tomorrow, we have more exciting activities – particularly the General Assembly where we will decide the directions that our Network will take.  And after that, more discussions on Millennials, Integration, and Technology through our Kaya Payment Platform.”
 
NATCCO CEO Sylva O. Paraguya listed down the agenda for the General Assembly and Leaders’ Congress: Integration, the signing of the Contractual Solidarity Agreement, the young in the cooperatives, digitalization of co-op services, entrepreneurship for women, and farmers.
 

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