With cooperatives, you are never alone and neglected: Alireza Banaeifar
Alireza Banaeifar is the International Affairs Manager at Iran Chamber of Cooperatives (ICC). With an educational background in business administration, he believes that a cooperative economy is most effective and sustainable due to its attention to the need of the society and also the solidarity among its members. He says, ‘With cooperatives, we are able to recover from generation gap, wealth inequality and also climate change.’
He is the Vice Chairperson of International Cooperative Alliance Asia and Pacific Committee on Youth Cooperation (ICYC). Presented below is a talk with him about the role of youth in co-operatives.
You could have done your business and earned more. Why did you choose the co-operative sector?
The idea behind the co-operative way of working is to use the maximum potential of everybody in the network. With cooperatives, you are never alone and neglected, but strong and in connection to the most relevant resources. I believe this is the reason why people in cooperatives are not able to leave the network and go look for higher returns.
You are working as a vice chairperson of ICA-AP Committee on Youth Cooperation from two and half years. What is your understanding about cooperatives?
When I joined the cooperative movement in Iran, it was still a bit unclear for me the goals and the ideas behind the movement, but the more I got involved, and the more time spent there, I could see that cooperatives are a well-established platform, specifically for the youth to stand on and echo their voice.
In my understanding, it’s not about the existence of opportunities, but about the way we approach them and how we get benefit off them. Youth are the ones who are able to help the cooperatives and this movement to get a better position in the global discussions for the future.
What is your contribution to the youth of Asia pacific?
The team of the ICYC and I are trying to bring attention and recognition to the committee. We believe the most important factor for this committee to get to its deserved place is that members, organizations and countries value this committee and nominate their representatives and also support their members to have a better output and keep this cycle moving.
The recognition then will lead to better planning and also better position for the youth of the region to take part in the decision making roles and responsibilities inside their organization and countries.
Why are young people not attracted to the cooperative sector? What they want from here, please give your opinion?
I think the main reason is the general mindset that as they are young, they need to work in any platform to earn as much as possible without even paying attention to the environment, global conditions and also their peers.
I think it’s the duty of the schools and universities to encourage their students that earning is good but not the only important criteria. The important things are the connections we bring to our network and surrounding to have an added-value result.
What is your contribution for policy making under ICA-AP Youth Committee? Are you satisfied with the implementing cooperative policy?
At ICA-AP, we are constantly working with the AP regional office to include youth in their policies for the future, and to raise the attention to the youth. We have been receiving a huge and special attention to the youth by the officials of the AP and this is indeed highly appreciated. I think it is never enough and we should never be satisfied of the things we receive for the movement and keep struggling to get better and better for the next generations to come.
What would your main agenda be to promote the youth especially in the Asian context?
The main agenda would be education and training for the youth who are working and living in the cooperative movement. With better knowledge and also sharing it, we can definitely promote the real image of the youth in cooperatives of the region.
Do you think Youth should be a majority in ICA Board? What should youth do to go to ICA board?
Due to the importance of youth in the movement, now we have a representative of the youth committee at the board. This is good, but not enough at all. Youth must be present and effective in the decisions of the board and we should do whatever needed to increase the number of youth board members. We should also ask countries and organizations to make the necessary actions in advance, so that they could have candidates for the board elections among youth.
What is your role in Iran Chamber of cooperative (ICC)? Could you please explain your country’s cooperative situation?
I am working as the international affairs manager of Iran Chamber of Cooperatives. We are working as the apex body for all the cooperatives in Iran which exceed the number of 94000 cooperatives with more than 14 million people as their members.
In Iran, cooperatives have a special position in the economy of the country and are playing an important role in different economic and social positions.
How are you (ICC) working for promotion of the grassroots level cooperative? Could you please give some example?
We at the ICC along with the ministry of cooperatives in Iran have special long term plans of activities to encourage cooperatives to develop and extend their activities. We are also targeting youth and newly graduates to encourage them to set up cooperatives to pursue their business and social goals.
What would be your main priority, if you are elected to the ICA board as a representative from Asia region?
In the new world that we are living, especially during and after pandemic, we see the importance of networking and also digital world. We saw that only businesses capable of adapting themselves to the new needs of the society could survive and we saw bunch of businesses fade in a period of months.
So, the more we see the future needs, the better we can plan ahead. For me the most important factor is cooperatives to become digital and have a better networking opportunities. Through networking, we can easily find the needs of other countries and organizations and we can plan for the trade between cooperatives, or as I call it C2C trade.
Where is your stand in co-operatives values and principle?
Definitely, cooperation among cooperatives. This is something that should get more attention by the ICA and to make cooperatives as united as possible to bring the real solidarity and unity among members. So that the need for one, becomes the need for all, and the same for benefits and challenges.
What do you think cooperative should look like? Are the cooperatives working in the basis of values and principle right now?
Cooperatives need not to change their identity or appearance, but to look at their inside. To put the needs of their members ahead of their own and to find solutions which will work for years and years.
The next, is to increase the expertise in activities and services being provided to the society, so that the society will always choose a coop product, because it’s better, cleaner, healthier and of course cheaper.
What is the role of c-operatives to achieve SDG goal targeted by United Nation? What should co-operatives do in order to achieve SDG goal?
I think it’s one of the most important responsibilities of the cooperatives in general and specifically in each country to help nations and people be more aware of the society that they are living in, to have a responsibility towards the climate change and also families and children. The only best platform to follow these goals are cooperatives, because they grow from their members and they have the largest and widest network from the biggest cities to the farthest rural areas.
Are there possibilities for cooperation between Iran and Nepali Cooperatives?
At ICC, we always appreciate the cooperation with other countries and organizations. We believe this is the only way we can keep our activities up to date and our members in a very satisfactory level to engage them with the best success stories.
What would be your role for cooperation between Nepal and Iran cooperatives?
I will definitely do whatever required to set up the connection and follow the needs of both organizations to find business and matching opportunities and to keep the interactions between both countries alive and fruitful for all, including members, organizations and countries. Because I certainly believe we, as the humans, are by instinct connected and dependent to each other, but it’s important to find the connection line and strengthen it.