Is cooperation the key?

The Convergence Festival, which this year explores the value of cooperatives in solving economic and social challenges, kicked off this week. Across the country events are being held where you can explore the methods and systems behind co-ops and the huge value they can have for society and the environment.

Any enterprise – for-profit or not-for-profit – set up by a group of people for their mutual economic or social benefit can be considered a co-op. There are 3 million people in Ireland who are already members of cooperatives. Credit unions account for 2.5 million of these. But from financial co-ops to food co-ops, there are another 5,000 around Ireland providing various services. The co-operative model now, as much as ever, can play a significant role in the economic recovery of this country as well as fostering innovation, providing sustainable livelihoods, contributing to the regeneration of local areas and helping to strengthen the resilience of our communities.

This year is the 20th Convergence Festival and it is being held across Ireland from October 19th to October 30th. Convergence is a sustainable living festival that Cultivate have curated since 2000. This year’s theme for the convergence festival is cooperatives and how they can play a role in sustainable living. The festival will deal with issues such as can a community co-operatives provide sustainable livelihoods, how can local co-operatives strengthen the resilience of our communities.

The festival will provide 21 workshops, facilitated conversations, field trips and conferences organised by different co-operatives, or organisations promoting co-ops. These events will build on Ireland’s rich tradition of cooperatives and the current interest in; community ownership; co-housing; social enterprise; renewable energy co-operatives; co working; community owned pubs and shops; buyers clubs; artist and food co-ops; and the emerging collaborative economy.

“We’re just trying to show that there’s something happening here that could actually be a lot more sustainable,” said Davie Philip, one of the event’s organisers, who also works for the cooperative Cultivate. The aim of the festival, Philip said, is to get people to move from having an interest in co-ops to taking action.