By Alex Shieh, edited by Sng Ler Jun
Taking place in Sabah, Malaysia between 27 and 30 July, the recent International Co-operative Alliance Asia Pacific (ICA-AP) Youth Summit, provided a glimmer of hope as it brought together more than 200 young minds from diverse co-operative movements across the region with a common goal: to reignite the spirit of cooperation among today's youths.
In his opening address, ICA-AP’s regional director Mr Balu Iyer acknowledged that the progress of yesteryears has impacted our planet, but is hopeful that the collective co-operative movement, empowered by youths’ involvement, can make a change.
At the forefront of this summit was Mr Zaiwin Kassim, the Chairman of Sarawak Innovative Youth Coop in Malaysia, who, with charisma and conviction, addressed a critical issue plaguing the co-operative movement—the lack of understanding of co-operatives among the youths. Mr Zaiwin pinpointed the role of social media, particularly TikTok, in fostering a culture of self-centeredness. In a world where flashy likes and viral trends dominate, young people often prioritise personal gain and appearance over collective well-being.
Mr Zaiwin emphasised the urgent need to educate young minds about the value of cooperation and the concept of sharing. He acknowledged that co-operatives must be forthcoming when engaging youths, in particular letting them know the pronounced benefits of joining a co-operative from the get-go. The key, he suggested, lies in identifying a common ground, such as the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), where everyone can benefit. By aligning co-operative principles with the broader global agenda, co-operatives can bridge the gap and inspire youth participation.
Criss Ang: Deploying technology for better healthcare
Representing Singapore at the summit was Mr Criss Ang from NTUC Health Co-operative. Mr Ang shed light on the transformative power of digitalisation within co-operatives. At NTUC Health Co-operative, the co-operative harnessed technology to enhance both the quality of products and operational efficiency. An excellent example of this innovation is the use of sensors on beds to monitor the movements of patients prone to falling. This proactive approach allows for early intervention, ensuring the well-being of patients while also increasing the productivity of healthcare workers.
The success of NTUC Health Co-operative's digital initiatives underscores the positive impact that technology can have on co-operatives. It's not just about streamlining operations but also about delivering higher-quality services to patients. Mr Ang is also a graduate from the Emerging Leaders Programme (ELP) by the Singapore National Co-operative Federation (SNCF).
The participants visited a campus co-operative to gain insights into its daily operations, witnessing firsthand how these organisations function and serve their members. Additionally, as part of their commitment to sustainability, they planted trees—an act symbolic of their dedication to nurturing the co-operative movement, much like planting the seeds for a better future. Mr Ang together with Ms Cheryl Ng, nother ELP graduate, from Love Empowered Co-operative took part in the sustainability activity.
The presence of these young co-operators at the ICA Asia Pacific Youth Summit 4.0 demonstrates their dedication and commitment to the co-operative movement. In a rapidly changing world, the co-operative movement must evolve and adapt. It is up to all of us, young and old, to nurture and embrace this spirit, forging a brighter future for the society and the movement.