Conclusion: First-Next Step

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This toolkit is a marker along a collective path of cooperative thought and practice; one made by youth at a pivotal time in world history, and one that is relevant to all generations of cooperators. While there is some inherent criticism of some of the steps and paths taken to date by previous generations in the toolkit, it honors the work and intentions of cooperators throughout the history of the movement. It is the responsibility of every generation to critically assess the state of cooperativism in the world, and, following, what role they are called to play in the evolution of cooperativism and human development. “Between the past, where our memories lie, and the future, where we keep our dreams, we must face the present, embracing the duties imposed on us by our circumstances. [...] Having a sense of responsibility means no more and no less than considering oneself totally irreplaceable for the task with which one has been entrusted” (Arizmendiarrieta, 1999, 30). 


The contemporary global CoopYouth Movement felt responsible for articulating its cooperative philosophy and practice via this toolkit, and, accordingly, it offers an exacting interpretation of the Cooperative Identity from the perspective of young people who have grown up amid increasing nation-state violence, astronomical wealth disparity, deadly health pandemics, and a global climate catastrophe. While the situations that shape the current coopyouth worldview is exceptionally dire, it is not new; previous generations were witness and party to the evolution of many of these ills over the past many decades. Some of those previous generations were told the same thing contemporary youth are consistently told when calling out these dangerous trajectories - that it’s “complicated,” that it’s “not that bad,” and they’ll “understand when they’re older.” “But at times, one gets to thinking that all these efforts to tell us that things are complex, and that we do not understand them, is a cover for a desire to leave the world the way it is” (Arizmendiarrieta, 1999, 29). 


We understand that situations are as dire as they seem. We understand the tendency to adopt positions of complicity in the face of frightening political and economic power or the opportunity to benefit from those same powers. We understand that it is overwhelming and, at times, seemingly futile to take any steps to address the challenges collectively being faced by humanity. This toolkit acknowledges and embraces the enormity of the human predicament in the 21st century, and then humbly offers specific next steps for youth and non-youth alike to take in moving in the direction of a possible future. These first-next steps include actions as seemingly miniscule as how best to foster leadership in your cooperative peers, as well as calls for broad scale change across the Cooperative Movement; such as the unconditional redistribution of wealth from the disproportionately resourced to the marginalized and disempowered (e.g. poor, youth, Global South). This toolkit also takes an important step - though not for the first time - of recentering critique in cooperative discourse, though in a manner that immediately provides solutions for how to address the circumstances. “Let us not brag of being mature and progressive people unless each and every one of us acts with due reflection and seriousness” (Arizmendiarrieta, 1999, 30).


The “first-next step” concept was introduced in the “Words Mean Things'' section to orient cooperative practice as a humble first-next step in humanity’s striving towards a world free of coercion and oppression. This concluding invocation of the concept is to position this toolkit as the first-next step of the Cooperative Movement’s present moment, a moment that will very quickly be replaced by countless future moments. We urge cooperators in future moments to take their responsibility to perpetuate cooperative discourse seriously, to articulate the practice implied by their unique interpretation of cooperativism, and acknowledge this and past work by critiquing, amending, and improving it. “Cooperativism is not something we should live out as if what is accepted and settled at a given moment were unchangeable. Rather, we should be open to it as an experimental process in which modifications that contribute to updating the means can and should be adopted, while safeguarding the nobility and worthiness of the high ends being pursued” (Arizmendiarrieta, 1999, 56). 


One of the key contributions of coopyouth to cooperativism via this toolkit is a reminder of the importance of the individual. Interestingly, Millenials and Gen Z are generally often critiqued for being narcissistic and obsessed with self-image, particularly in the context of social media culture that harms young people by encouraging them to commodify themselves. However, the benefits of a more self-focused culture has been a return to understanding how important an individual’s health and happiness is to collective wellbeing. As cooperativism is a first-next step in humanity’s striving towards a better world, and this toolkit constitutes a first-next step of present day cooperative practice; a similar pattern is evident in the relationship between cooperative personhood and cooperative practice in community. The philosophy and practices shared in this toolkit, while focusing more directly on sharing first-next steps for cooperative enterprises, direct us to the ultimately more important and impactful practice of cooperative humanism. While cooperativism is a collective endeavor, the actual first-next step in every aspect of cooperative work is always individual. “Our own personal evolution and the evolution determined by everything around us, our relationships and coexistence with others, the degree of integrity, seriousness, responsibility, and initiative consolidated through organizational arrangements and experience itself, are new factors that can prompt us to once again review everything about the organization, to better serve the humanist goals we have set” (ibid, 56). Our individual striving to become more cooperative humans will always lead us into better relationship with others, which - in turn - supports our personal development, as well as that of society. Coopyouth assert the primacy of people by their focus on mental health, a rejection of professionalism, calls to empower the marginalized no matter the financial cost, alongside a range of other ethics and activities. “First people, then cooperatives” (ibid, 14).


In order to sustain the lineage of coopyouth thought and practice into the future, young cooperative practitioners are encouraged to submit their own commentary on and examples of good cooperative practice to be incorporated into the toolkit. As such, CoopSpring: A CoopYouth Toolkit can continue to support and represent global coopyouth wisdom further along the collective path of cooperative development. Through this publication and work, the contemporary CoopYouth Movement endeavors to inspire a tradition of sustained discourse on cooperative philosophy and practice internationally among youth and non-youth alike. It is through critique, discussion, and skill sharing that cooperators refine and progress cooperativism. Such reflection is absolutely essential to the integrity and sustainability of a global social movement endeavoring to eradicate poverty, eliminate oppression, and build a better world.