Introduction: What It Is & How To Use It

a coopyouth toolkit handstyle




This toolkit was envisioned by the Global Youth Network of the International Cooperative Alliance. It was formally commissioned as a handful of other coopyouth research projects, outlined in the full “What Came Before” section of this toolkit, were being conducted throughout the Cooperative Movement. That collection of research, while youth were involved, observes the Coopyouth Movement from the outside, by presenting facts and figures describing the movement at-large. Cooperative Spring: A CoopYouth Toolkit is distinct from those endeavors in that it is a document about cooperativism and cooperative practice, generally, from the perspective of coopyouth. This toolkit is not a step-by-step guide to start a cooperative, as many of those already exist. Rather, it is a living reference guide for youth cooperators at various stages of cooperative practice, exploring key issues that face youth while starting, maintaining, and developing their cooperatives.


The use of “spring” in the toolkit's title is, first and foremost, a reference to the Arab Spring and other youth-led social movements that affiliated with the Arab Spring during the beginning of the 21st century. The various Springs around the world marked a period of increased global unrest in response to endless war, expanding wealth disparity, racial oppression, climate catastrophe, and nation-state violence. Many of those involved in building the Coopyouth Movement were also participants in Spring actions and resistance activities in their home villages, cities, states, and countries. As a result, the philosophy and practices found in this toolkit represent cooperativism taking action to both build a better world through cooperative development, as well as to cooperate in the necessary task of broad-scale social transformation.

Additionally, “youth” is often considered to be the “spring” season of one’s lifetime. After a winter of childhood in which most are protected and nurtured by family or community structures, the spring of youth marks the time when many are entering into the world for the first time as individuals able to make their own decisions about the course of their lives. Relatedly, this contribution of thought by coopyouth to a more than century long lineage of recorded cooperative philosophy is akin to a spring feeding a waterway. Cooperativism can be well understood as a river - which is simultaneously as old as it is new. It remains dynamic, persists across time and material obstacles, easefully takes in additional flow, and will dry up without a spring source. Ian MacPherson, whose words are included throughout the toolkit, wrote the following - “the rich and diverse traditions of the movement, the subtleties and potential of its philosophies, need to be reconsidered and reapplied by each generation. The sooner young people are involved, the sooner they begin to consider for themselves how the Cooperative Movement should be adjusted for their times, and the better it will be for all” (1998, 252). Cooperative Spring: A CoopYouth Toolkit is intended to be a reinvigoration of cooperative thought and practice, ultimately of use to all generations of the Cooperative Movement - past, present, and future.


The toolkit consists of two main elements; an exploration of cooperative philosophy from the coopyouth perspective that draws from existing documents, and an exploration of cooperative practice using information gathered through a year-long series of interviews with coopyouth around the world. More specifically, the opening sections of the toolkit orient the contemporary expression of coopyouth philosophy in a longer lineage of cooperative thought, as well as contextualize it within the spate of recent research on coopyouth -

  • a methodology, "How We Did It," explains how the firsthand narrative contributions from coopyouth were gathered for this toolkit;
  • a literature review, "What Came Before," includes a selection of cooperative philosophy from the last century, all known coopyouth reports from this century, and all accessible texts of coopyouth statements issued at various international events over the last decade; and
  • a glossary-style breakdown of key definitions and concepts, "Words Mean Things," that together constitute a coopyouth worldview of cooperativism and its application.

The remainder of the toolkit is comprised of eleven separate key issue sections that arise in the course of cooperative practice. Most of the eleven key issues were identified prior to conducting interviews, so were used to shape the questions asked. Four additional issues were evolved during the course of interviews with coopyouth from around the world. The key issues are as follows:

Each key issue section is split into three portions, beginning with a general summary of the issue that highlights unique ways in which the issue impacts youth. The solutions and strategies coopyouth employed in the context of those issues and the challenges they may present are included next. In closing, each key issue section briefly discusses two to four other key issues outlined in the toolkit that are correlated with the issue. Throughout these sections, there are many explicit references to other parts of the toolkit, making it easy to navigate the document from any starting point.


Reading through the cooperative philosophy sections delineated above, first, would provide a solid foundation for approaching the rest of the sections that focus on cooperative practice. Thereafter, each key issue chapter can be read according to each reader’s needs and interests. For example, when a cooperative is considering expanding by bringing on new members, they can take time together to read through and discuss relevant sections such as “Membership Transition,” “Education & Training,” “Cooperative Culture,” and “Cooperative Development.” Using the issue summaries and example responses from other coopyouth as conversation starters to initiate their expansion process, rather than just getting down to business and drafting public announcements and scheduling interviews, the cooperative is far more likely to approach the process in a way that truly meets their needs and is, following, more assured to be successful.

While hard copies of this toolkit will be made available, its existence as an online resource allows for the document to remain dynamic and for future contributions to be made. Specifically, additional solutions and strategies evolved by coopyouth can be submitted via an online form and incorporated into the toolkit. Over time, this toolkit can serve as a living registry of global coopyouth ingenuity and insight.