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Bill to discard 'archaic' co-operative laws enters parliament - Wed, 08/01/2014 - 15:17

Legislation to combine the law governing co-operatives has entered the House of Lords.

Lord Newby, the spokesman for the Treasury in the Lords, presented the first reading of the consolidated bill in parliament. The second reading, which allows time for debate, is due on 13th January.

The government-sponsored Co-operative and Community Benefit Societies Bill 2013-14 consolidates law relating to co-operatives, community benefit societies and other societies registered under the Industrial and Provident Societies Act 1965.

In its response to the government consultation on the bill, Co-operatives UK welcomed the opportunity to "simplify the language, modernise archaic requirements, and do away with references to obsolete legislation".

The bill is expected to complete its passage through parliament before summer.

• Read the full consolidated bill below.

Member news: Changes at the top of GEMA, France - Wed, 08/01/2014 - 11:30

The Executive Committee of French member organization, GEMA, (Groupement des entreprises mutuelles d’assurance), met on the 12 December 2013 and a number of decisions were made regarding the future of the organization and over who would hold certain key positions in the senior level of the organization. GEMA is the Professional Union of mutual insurance companies. GEMA represents and defends the mutual point of view on behalf of its member organizations, all of whom are insurance mutuals, at a national and European level.

The Committee announced that it would be recommending Pascal Demurger, Director of MAIF, as the new President of GEMA and therefore successor to Gérard Andreck of Macif who is currently in the role. This change is due to take place at the GEMA General Assembly in July 2014 in Paris.

The Committee also put forward Patrice Forget, HR Director and General Secretary of the Covéa Group, for the post of Vice-President of GEMA. Mr Forget was due to replace Etienne Couturier from 1 January 2014.

Finally, the Committee decided to recruit Arnaud Chneiweiss, the current deputy Director General of Matmut, as successor for Jean-Luc de Boissieu in the post of General Secretary. Mr Chneiweiss will join the Group from 1 January, 2014, and will become General Secretary from 1 July, 2014.

This year, 2014, is a very important one for GEMA as they are celebrating their 50th anniversary and the organization is very proud of its long history of serving and representing mutual insurers across France since 1964.

10 Ways to Democratize the Economy - Mon, 06/01/2014 - 19:39

Top image: Caitlin Regan. Cross-posted from Gar Alperovitz.

The richest 400 Americans now own more wealth than the bottom 180 million taken together. The political system is in deadlock. Social and economic pain continue to grow. Environmental devastation and global warming present growing challenges. Is there any path toward a more democratic, equal and ecologically sustainable society? What can one person do?

Co-operative Group appoints first independent director and governance review chair - Thu, 12/12/2013 - 15:17

Paul Myners has been appointed as the Co-operative Group’s first independent director, and will also act as Chair of the Governance Review into the society.

Labour’s former City Minister and life peer, Lord Myners has joined the Group board immediately and will earn £1 a year for his role.

Two additional independent non-executive directors are expected to be appointed, according to the Group, which said in a statement that it will “further enhance the mix of skills and experience” of its board.

Lord Myners, a former Chair of Marks & Spencer, said the society is at a “crucial point in its development” that has a “proud history”. He added: “Right now it faces serious challenges in terms of business performance and ensuring that the right governance is in place to deliver in the interests of all its members and customers.”

His remit as Chair of the Governance Review will be to look in-depth at the co-operative’s democracy and to investigate how the Board is constituted and chaired. Commented Lord Myners: “Together we will make sure the Co-operative Group can realise its significant potential and properly capitalise on the huge opportunities ahead.”

Lord Myners is the former Chairman of the Low Pay Commission and previously undertook a review on governance of mutuals for the Treasury.

Co-operative Group Chair Ursula Lidbetter said the appointment “marks a significant strengthening of our ranks”. She added: “We have made it clear that we need to modernise and to embed the very best standards of corporate governance – while also ensuring that the voices of all our members and customers resonate through the business. Paul is ideally placed to oversee that work given his extensive experience across business and public life.”

Euan Sutherland, Chief Executive of the Group, added: “He brings significant and valuable experience across a number of fields and will be a great asset as we work through the final stages of the recapitalisation of the Bank and move to take the wider Group to the next phase of its development.”

ICMIF and member donations to South Africa’s MAD CHARITY reach $100,000 target - Thu, 12/12/2013 - 14:26

A month ago today the ICMIF team arrived back in the UK after the ICMIF Biennial Conference 2013, Cape Town, South Africa (6-8 November, 2013). The event had record attendance numbers, with over 280 delegates from 47 countries, and from 85 ICMIF member organizations, having attended the event. Before the event took place it was announced that the MAD CHARITYᵀᴹ (Make A Difference) would be the official 2013 ICMIF Conference charity. Before the Conference had started ICMIF and member organizations had already raised more than $50,000 for the charity. The total amount of donations now stands at $100,000 which was the target set by ICMIF CEO Shaun Tarbuck in advance of the event.

During the Conference keynote speaker Francois Pienaar shared the vision of the MAD CHARITY which is to create educational opportunities for academically talented young South Africans from financially less privileged backgrounds. It also has the goal of promoting both literacy and environmental awareness in young students throughout South Africa. In the words of the late Nelson Mandela: “Education is the most powerful weapon which can be used to change the world.”

To date, MAD has supported in excess of 2 000 youngsters on the MAD Education Programmes.

How ICMIF members got involved

Many member organizations found ways to help make Francois’s vision a reality. Some members made sizeable cash donation on behalf of their organizations, others made smaller personal donations.  The forthcoming issue of ICMIF’s Voice magazine will feature more information on those organizations who were involved in making donations.

ICMIF has pledged to send a MAD CHARITY student on our popular Advanced Management Course (AMC) and further cash to help sponsor a student for a year. ICMIF members, Folksam, Sweden, and Engage Mutual, UK, have also donated a period of work experience at their respective organizations for the learner who attends the ICMIF course.  In an earlier news story we also shared details of NTUC Income’s donation of a number of laptop computers to the charity.

Auction at the Conference

During the farewell dinner an auction was held for a number of unique items and delegates were invited to submit bids for the pieces. These included:

  • A Donald Greig Bronze Sculpture – Leopard Log
  • Autographed Rugby World Cup Winning Captain’s Memorabilia
  • Pamela Stretton Work of Art Titled: Madiba

Nelson Mandela and the co-operative movement's fight for freedom - Thu, 12/12/2013 - 12:46

As the world mourns the passing of a man whose life was dedicated to the type of inclusive society co-operators would describe as “the co-operative commonwealth”, it is worth reflecting on the impact that he and the struggle against apartheid had on the co-operative sector.

I, like many others of the post-war baby boom generation, had my values shaped by the horrors of the Vietnam War and our growing awareness of the brutality and injustice of apartheid. During the 1970s, working for the then London Co-operative Society, I had the privilege of getting to know some of the many ANC exiles in London whose children were active members of the Woodcraft Folk.

The 1970s saw growing calls for co-ops to boycott South African goods. In 1977, the TUC approached the Co-operative Union seeking their support in a week-long boycott. Later that year, the Co-operative Press Annual Shareholders Meeting passed a resolution calling for the Co-operative Press to discourage further advertisements for South African produce. Stan Newens MP, then the President of the London Co-operative Society, declared, “There is no future for racialism”, and called for the press to start talks with the CWS on wider action.

The debate continued into the 1980s. Resolutions were debated at members’ meetings in many co-operative societies. While some argued for “consumer choice” and warned of the potential damage to trade, including editorials in the News itself, pressure grew inexorably. In 1985 CRS and CWS went further. CRS stated “From today therefore CRS will no longer stock any produce from South Africa”. CWS announced that it would take further steps to eliminate all remaining trade with South Africa, adding that since 1978 it had been seeking alternative sources of supply.

The following week a letter in the News included the statement: “Co-op membership has really still got meaning. I am proud to belong to the first large retailer in the British Isles to have taken this action against apartheid.”

Other societies followed, with Scotmid and Oxford, Swindon and Gloucester among the first to ban South African goods in response to member pressure.

This solidarity action from the Co-operative Movement was a logical development, building on earlier efforts to help establish co-operatives engaging all the communities in South Africa. The first known co-operative society in Africa had been established in Cape Town as early as 1865, just two years after the formation of the CWS. It asked the newly established CWS if it could supply goods, as well as maintaining correspondence with Sam Ashworth at the Rochdale Pioneers Society on its constitutional framework.

In the early 20th century, the Simonstown Co-operative Society, serving the town that had developed around the British Navy base, was thriving. In 1934 an article in the CWS internal publication, The Link, reported on “native co-operation in South Africa”. It “drew a gloomy picture of the condition of the natives”, adding “the most hopeful sign however was the growth of the co-operative movement amongst the natives”. Sadly, that initial development of co-ops among the black population was suppressed as apartheid became entrenched in the post-war period.

Co-operators shared the excitement when Nelson Mandela was released from his 27 years in prison in February 1990. One of the early Co-operation in the Curriculum conferences was taking place at the Co-operative College that weekend, and the whole conference adjourned to watch the TV footage as Mandela made that famous walk from prison.

The next issue of Co-op News included a statement from Pauline Green, then Labour and Co-operative Euro MP for London North, now President of the International Co-operative Alliance. Welcoming the release, she stated: “We must not lose the battle in our euphoria about this one release, important as it is. We must keep up the pressure until all political prisoners are released, and most importantly we must continue the fight for a complete and absolute end to the whole evil system of apartheid.”

The editorial in the News under the title Still Not Free reflected on the earlier debate inside the consumer movement about whether or not to stock South African goods, and the position taken by many societies to offer South African goods alongside those from other sources, with the line that the consumer should make the choice.

The News’s position by then was firm, stating: “This has never been a tenable position; if it were, the Movement’s stores would now be selling ozone harmful aerosols and other environmentally damaging products alongside those deemed to be environmentally friendly. On ‘green’ issues the movement had taken the view that its duty is to lead the consumer down the sensible path, and this is the course all societies should have followed on South African goods.”

Perhaps that is one of the everlasting legacies for the Co-operative Movement of the struggle against apartheid. It started to make co-operators and co-operatives aware that they needed to live up to their values, and that means being prepared to make difficult choices.

Soon after, in 1992, the International Co-operative Alliance initiated the debate on Co-operative Values in a Changing World and how the Movement lived up to its ideals became centre stage for the whole movement. Issues such as the struggle against apartheid are defining moments in these processes.

Today Nelson Mandela’s legacy is far more than a free South Africa. It is also the knowledge that social justice and equality are inalienable rights and cannot be withheld from people indefinitely. As South Africa struggles to overcome the legacy of apartheid and build a more just society, perhaps the greatest contribution that co-operators can make is to pledge to help in any way they can in building an inclusive co-operative sector in South Africa today.

Read more: My story: How co-operators led a South African boycott in support of Mandela

My story: How co-operators led a South African boycott in support of Mandela - Thu, 12/12/2013 - 12:42

June 14th 1964. It was just over two weeks before my 14th birthday and I didn’t have a care in the world.

Some time that day, or in the next few days, my father remarked he was amazed that Nelson Mandela hadn’t been sentenced to death and would have to break rocks on Robben Island for the rest of his life. He expressed the view that this was outrageous and it was really all because he was black and wanted to be treated as equal.

This aroused my interest. Who was this black man and where was Robben Island? I began a lifelong interest in Mandela, the anti-apartheid movement and South Africa – and saw the Co-operative Movement play its part in the fight.

For my part, I wrote letters to influential people or went into greengrocer’s shops, filled my basket with South African goods and queued up. When I got to the till I asked the country of origin of the fruit and, told it was South Africa, I tipped the basket up so the fruit rolled everywhere and said: “Oh no, I can’t buy fruit from a country that practises apartheid,” and walked out.

I got banned from many stores for doing this. The one place I didn’t and couldn’t do it was at the Co-op because the Movement was in the vanguard of the boycott: that is one of the things I am most proud about.

Sanctions hit South Africa hard and as world condemnation grew, the hardline stance softened and Mandela and his fellow prisoners were moved to Pollsmoor Prison and then the more relaxed Victor Verster Prison, until he was freed in 1990. His stance for the rest of his life was reconciliation. He didn’t want revenge – not even on those who treated him badly on Robben Island.

For millions of South Africans, Mandela is the Father of the Nation. Everywhere, buildings, roads, bays and bridges are named for him; there are statues everywhere. To billions around the world he is an icon of tolerance and forgiveness, of peace, reconciliation and fortitude.

The most emotional experience of my life was visiting his cell on Robben Island. I was so proud to meet one of his fellow prisoners, Ntozelizwe Talakumeni, who, when he found out I was part of the Co-operative Movement, thanked me for the role we played in the boycott of South African goods. I’ve visited Liliesleaf Farm in Rivonia, Johannesburg, where most of the ANC leadership except Mandela were caught; his old home in Soweto; and the Apartheid Museum in Johannesburg.

Mandela restored a marginalised country to a place in the world with the minimum of bloodshed and terror, and his example should be taken up by all world leaders where factions need to at least learn to live in some sort of amicability. RIP, Nelson Mandela, go and join your departed ANC comrades – most of all Ruth First, Joe Slovo, Walter and Albertina Sisulu and Oliver and Adelaide Tambo. Your spirit lives forever.

Elaine Dean - Thu, 12/12/2013 - 12:41

Elaine Dean is Chair of the board of Co-operative Press and director of Midlands Society.

Organisation:  Co-operative News

Macrotour - Wed, 11/12/2013 - 16:49

Macrotour is a cooperative active in the tourism and cultural sector in the region of Jaen (Spain). It was created in October 2013 by young cooperators in the same area to attract tourist to visit the cultural heritage of this southern region of Spain, located in the eastern part of the autonomous community of Andalusia. Jaen is one of the lesser known provinces of Spain compared to the heavily tourist-oriented coast, it has four national parks, and many other protected natural areas. The (...)


Why we’re to blame when our leaders fail us - Tue, 10/12/2013 - 15:06

A lot of media coverage has been given in recent weeks to an ex-chair of a national ethical bank, and it strikes me as interesting for a couple of reasons that you might not expect –
1) what finally ‘tipped the balance’: this is someone who’s expenses claims on the boards of several charities where they served as a trustee were seriously questioned over the years, and who’s Council computer they used in their duties as an elected councillor were apparently found to contain images that would breach most company’s IT usage policies... but it was only after they were ‘caught’ buying (not taking!) drugs that they were ousted: both as Chair of the Bank and as a Minister of the Church.
Does this mean that as a society we have a scale of (un)ethical behaviours that we’re prepared to accept? (probably - I've written about how pornography is more ethically acceptable than tobacco before...)
2) And given the above, how were they allowed to keep holding (and gaining) the positions of power and authority that they did?
And these questions get me thinking about how they were able to fall so far – why did no-one intervene sooner or spot warning signs?
I think it may be something to do with the way we treat and support those in authority: the higher up an organisation you rise, the less support you have available and offered to you.
For example: think about volunteering for a charity, or being the shop-front worker in a small business – there’s clear induction to make sure you know what you’re doing, regular check-ins to see if everything’s going well, and lots of legislation to make sure that employers are properly looking after you. But become a Director or a Trustee and all that seems to vanish... there are few formal inductions or reviews at the Board level in private, social and charitable enterprises I've walked alongside over the years – and this is echoed by the Charity Commission who've found that the majority of complaints they investigate are due to governance failings, and the need in the private sector over the years to introduce Codes of Conduct for Directors.
So – as the troubles of an ailing bank are heaped upon one person who succumbed to human weaknesses, do we really only have ourselves to blame when we've set them up with no means of helping to support them do the jobs we're asking and expecting of them?

Member news: CLIMBS works with Philippines Insurance Commission to help Yolanda victims - Tue, 10/12/2013 - 10:31

The Insurance Commission (IC) in the Philippines, working together with industry stakeholders, has recently approved and implemented the program “Agarang Proseso, Benepisyo ay Sigurado” to address the Yolanda victims’ urgent need for any immediate relief that is available.

“In furtherance of its mandate and to provide an even much faster relief to Typhoon Yolanda victims, the Insurance Commission is pushing for quicker insurance claims processing,” said a representative of the Commission. One of the microinsurance providers working closely with the Commission is ICMIF member CLIMBS General Life and Insurance Cooperative.

“With the joint efforts of all industry stakeholders, Agarang Proseso has established on-site Claims Action Centres (CAC), namely: CLIMBS General Life and Insurance Cooperative CAC in Tacloban City, CLIMBS CAC in Ormoc City and CLIMBS CAC in Cebu City,” the statement added.

According to the Commission additional CLIMBS centres were also to be set up in Tacloban City and at Tacloban City Hall as early as possible in December.

The IC will also observe how Microinsurance providers process payments after catastrophic events. The IC has called upon the industry players to process and release payments to the affected insuring public without the necessity of an actual claim being filed.

“The Insurance Commission is seriously entertaining the possibility of requiring insurance providers to release insurance proceeds to covered “Yolanda” victims without relying mainly on traditional documentary proofs and notices of loss,” the IC said. This is very similar to the response of ICMIF member organizations in Japan to the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami in 2011 when helping their members/policyholders.

The Commission has made extensive discussions on “satellite imaging” and “crisis mapping” as basis for the payment of property insurance proceeds, instead of the traditional and actual documentary proof and professional adjustment.

“Ongoing coordination with the industry stakeholders is being made to ensure proper and prompt actions of all concerned,” the IC said.

As of 9 December, the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council reported that the death toll is 5 934, with 1 779 still missing. The cost of the damage is in excess of $720m.

Semana Santa em Santiago!!! - Fri, 06/12/2013 - 18:30

ICMIF Microinsurance Simulation: Four successful training events in Africa and Asia - Fri, 06/12/2013 - 12:30

In the space of five weeks, ICMIF has run a total of four microinsurance workshops in four different countries, on two very different continents. The four microinsurance workshops have had a total of 73 participants from 48 different organizations and 26 countries. During the training events the participants used the ICMIF microinsurance simulation which has developed by ICMIF and which taps into decades of experience from ICMIF member organizations who are already providing microinsurance. The microinsurance simulation enables participants to “learn microinsurance by doing” and the training gives people the knowledge and confidence to face the challenges they will experience when running real life microinsurance schemes.

On October 21-22, 2013, the first training course took place in New Delhi, India, supported by IFFCO TOKIO General Insurance Company Ltd and facilitated by Mike Ashurst, VP Training and Reinsurance, ICMIF, and Kumar Shailabh, Executive Director at Uplift Mutuals, India. Kumar said, “The workshop was really good and participants particularly liked the new format as the room was divided into demand and supply side. This new format, which was interactive and dynamic, pushed participants to be strongly involved into each decision they were taking.”

Our second microinsurance training event took place in Cape Town, South Africa on 4-5 November and took place immediately before the ICMIF Biennial Conference. The event was facilitated by Denis Garand, CEO of Denis Garand and Associates, Mike Ashurst and Zani Muller, Researcher at CENFRI, South Africa. Aliciah Motsoane of the National Funeral Directors of Lesotho Association shared her opinion about the training: “I found the workshop fantastic and the learnings I got will be very helpful for my organization in Lesotho and the other organizations I am representing”.

This was immediately followed by a Microinsurance Key Performance Indicators (KPI) Simulation Workshop on 6-8 November, 2013 in Jakarta, Indonesia.  This event was organized by the ICMIF Microinsurance team together with other members of the Microinsurance Network, ADA, BRS & GIZ.  This was the first time this specific workshop had been run and the ICMIF microinsurance simulation tool was again used by participants to monitor and improve their results and help understand how the microinsurance key performance indicators should be used. Robert Kuloba of the Insurance Regulatory Authority (Kenya) provided his feedback on the training:  “I have participated in several workshops over the last few years but I have found this particular workshop very interesting as it helps to build a case for us to understand where we are in terms of taking care of the [microinsurance] target groups”.

The final ICMIF Microinsurance Workshop of 2013 was organized with the Malaysian Insurance Institute (MII), and took place on November 18-19, 2013 in Kuala Lumpur. Noralia Binti M. Fadzilah of Takaful Ikhlas (Malaysia) was one of those taking part. “Since I work in the Takaful industry, I have learnt a lot about the operations but thanks to the workshop, I have received a lot of knowledge and information on microinsurance and I will share them with my management team to see if they can be implemented,” she said.

For more information on the training event, please contact Marine Guais (Assistant Manager, Development at ICMIF) at

Worldwide data - Wed, 04/12/2013 - 18:40

CICOPA's annual reports on worldwide data collection on worker, social and artisans' cooperatives.

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