(Photo: Alliance president Monique Leroux with Christine Lagarde, Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund)
Alliance president Monique Leroux, representing the International Co-operative Alliance at the World Economic Forum, sends her observations as the event draws to a close.
Monique Leroux: “The forum’s speakers emphasize that financial inclusion is critical to achieve stability, not only in emerging economies, but also in developed nations. A striking finding is that 73% of the world is financially excluded. Exclusion and inequality cause major societal issues like black markets and violence. As pointed out by Joseph Stiglitz at the forum: GDP is not a good measure of economic performance, but it is a good measure of well-being. Financial inclusion is the basis to be recognised in society. It empowers people and is the basis for self-help, a dignified and sustainable way forward. Co-operative banks and credit unions play a significant role in improving financial inclusion and they should increase their global reach.”
Inequality extends beyond personal finance. In education in particular, barriers need to be removed and inclusion encouraged. The best way to deal with inequality is to empower people. Again, co-operatives are an important tool - empowerment is about self-help.
Digital technology is a growth enabler, in that it allows to increase our personal and business reach, and that it enables global communications. Digital technology due to its popularity with young people holds unique opportunities. Young entrepreneurs have to enjoy proper network connections to develop their projects and to contribute to the economy. Co-operatives are a tried and trusted model to achieve this. Co-ops provide young people and entrepreneurs with a basis to engage in society and in the economy.
“At the forum”, says Monique Leroux, “I have witnessed many discussions about a "purpose" which organizations should have - to succeed, grow and evolve. I like to point out that co-operative businesses have a sense of purpose embedded in them – it’s in our DNA, and we should capitalize on it to accomplish our missions. The co-operative marque and the .coop domain are essential co-operative marketing instruments to stand out, to express our common identity and to signify the unique sense of purpose which connects co-ops.”
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