As the United Nation's International Year of Co-operatives draws to a close, the cooperative world is looking forward to an undeniably exciting future. The cooperative business model is growing faster than ever before, and is aiming to be the world's fastest-growing business model by 2020. From British grocery chains to Ethiopian coffee plantations to multinational businesses, co-ops throughout the world are demonstrating that it's possible — and profitable — for employees to own and manage enterprises.

The International Cooperative Alliance has just released its "2020 Challenge," an ambitious set of goals. By 2020, the ICA wants to see co-ops as:

  • The acknowledged leader in economic, social and environmental sustainability
  • The business model preferred by people
  • The fastest growing form of enterprise.

To make it happen, they've created a Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade (2011-2020). Two years in, there's already been significant headway — thanks in great part to the United Nations, which brought attention to the cooperative sector through the International Year designation.

"This international year has seen the global co-operative movement come together in a way which was previously unimaginable. Now our challenge is to build on this hard work in a way which garners results. We now are in a position to cement our business model in markets worldwide,” said Dame Pauline Green, ICA President.

"It's not something that will happen on its own," said Charles Gould, ICA Director-General. A Planning World Group has been formed with leaders of some of the world's biggest cooperatives. They'll work on the national and international level to change policy and increase membership, promoting co-ops as one solution to some of the biggest issues facing the world today:

  • Environmental degradation and resource depletion
  • An unstable financial sector and increasing income inequality
  • A growing global governance gap
  • A seemingly disenfranchised younger generation.

The Blueprint for a Cooperative Decade proposes that co-ops are a better business model for our future because they create more individual engagement, more productivity, and more sustainability — economic, social and environmental. Can cooperatives change the course of an increasingly troubled world? We've got eight years to give it a go.

How are you involved in the cooperative movement? If you're not, a great way to begin is to start buying from natural food coop near you.  Even better, start a coop. Learn how to start a worker coop here and housing coop here.

Here's Charles Gould talking about the Blueprint. Find out more at



Jessica Reeder


Jessica Reeder

Jessica Reeder is also known as The Hun. She's totally into DIY, sustainability and counterculture. The Hun is the cofounder and managing editor of Love and Trash, and