Community Finance – Community Development: what Australia can learn from Asia’s Credit Co-ops

workshop coop

Some CoopWorkshop notes

A recent CoopWorkshop, initiated by Cardijn Community Australia, in association with Earthworker Co-operative and Uniting Church in Australia (Victoria and Tasmania) was held on Saturday the 6th of July, the international day of the co-operative.

It was a packed two hours. Some Workshoppers have already wanted to move to action and involvement – with some proposals for future work in the CoopWorkshop in-box being reviewed right now!

What follows is a brief report on proceedings – with related links for Workshoppers and others to review.

There was recognition that there were different experience levels in the room, and that some of the topics were new to people. The CoopWorkshop is keen to build on the energy of the day and work on new learning opportunities to build the co-operative economy.

A Meetup group has been established for Workshoppers to get together in the future.

Highlights of the workshop

Paul Sinappan

Paul Sinappan

Paul Sinnapan Savriamuthu from Malaysia, was in inspiration to all who attended, and we learnt much from his ‘barefoot co-operation’ that crucially combines both social and economic action for community development.

Like Paul, all the speakers showed great integrity and insight in their areas of cooperative work for the common good:

  • Jacques Boulet talked about the need to disrupt from the outside – this is what drove him to establish Borderlands Co-operative and OASES Graduate school. With other co-operators he built something outside the system – an alternative to ‘university grocery stores’.
  • Sarah Taylor of White Circles talked about a community in Nepal that she is working with. This vision of an interrelated, cooperative and holistic community has much to teach us in the often disconnected developed world.
  • Kevin Vaughan talked about rolling up his sleeves to start a no interest loans scheme to assist asylum seekers in need. What an impact his community development work has had. Kevin talked about his No Interest Loans Scheme getting so big that Good Shepherd had to take it over.
  • Cate O’Dwyer talked about the real personal and community-building nature of credit co-operation – where members who had more resources in the Fitzroy and Carlton Community Credit Co-operative cross-subsidised those with less; and where people working at the co-op know members by name. The Co-operative that Cate talked so passionately about is now with bankmecu – we wish them all the best – and hope the co-operative community-focus continues.
  • Race Matthews talked about the need to think about the need for laws that help us as communities cooperate across a range of areas; including in the sphere of finance. Race is well regarded for his masterpiece on the co-operative movement (focusing on the Mondragon community of co-ops in Basque Spain), Jobs of Our Own.

Our facilitators

Our wonderful facilitators for last part of the CoopWorkshop – Murali Maheswaran and Jo Scott – were graceful practitioners in the art of bringing out the best from a large and diverse group of Workshoppers. We thank them for their assistance.

More links

Here are some supplementary links and contacts that Workshoppers requested on the day:

Special thanks

Special thanks to David Moloney from Cardijn Community Australia (who opened the CoopWorkshop) for initiating this event.

Antony McMullen, 9 July 2013