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Cancun Occupied

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Starting on November 16 and continuing for 2 days, 2,000 grassroots organizers from 78 countries occupied Cancun. They requested an audience with Mexican President Calderon and got it. The UN's Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon also addressed the group via a recorded video, as did the International Labor Organization's Director-General Juan Somavia.

As with all Occupy camps, discussions were central: Sam Graham-Felsen, President Obama's Chief Campaign Blogger, led a discussion on how to effectively use social media; Philippe Cousteau, environmentalist, journalist and filmmaker, led a discussion about how to use the power of this large group for the greater good.

How and why did this gathering get such attention?

For one thing, these grassroots organizers had created cooperative enterprises that, if considered together, would be the ninth largest economy in the world: $1.6 trillion in annual turnover. One-hundred million people are employed by these companies, ones that don't trade on any stock exchange and care equally about people as they do about profits.

Cooperative enterprises are experiencing a resurgence, repeating the We/Me cycle that peaked in the 1930s and 1970s. It's a trend we are excited about as it promises a more holistic and human way of managing out economic structure. Cooperatives are rooted in the notion that "We" can and have to do something about the status quo. The pattern can be seen in the US, the UK, Finland and Tanzania, among many other countries. It's related to the Occupy Wall Street movement -- and probably to the Tea Party, too.

The International Co-operative Alliance is the global voice for the values-based business model of the cooperative, uniting co-operatives worldwide and providing a forum for knowledge and concerted action. ICA was established by co-operatives in 1895. It has members in almost 100 countries representing one billion people worldwide.

The timing of the UN's International Year of Cooperatives is apropos. The United Nations has declared 2012 the International Year of Co-operatives. With its theme of "cooperative enterprises build a better world", the Year is an opportunity to raise awareness of how cooperatives are successful values based businesses owned by their members. More information is available at www.2012.coop.

By Walden Swanson Walden@CoopMetrics.coop and Jeffrey Hollender.

Jeffrey Hollender is is the founder of Jeffrey Hollender Partners, a business strategy consulting firm and the co-founder and former CEO of Seventh Generation, which he built into a leading brand known for its authenticity, transparency, and progressive business practices. For more than 25 years, he has helped millions of Americans make green and ethical product choices, beginning with his bestselling book, How to Make the World a Better Place, a Beginner's Guide. He went on to author five additional books, including The Responsibility Revolution and Planet Home. He is the Board Chair of the Greenpeace Fund US and a board member of Verite as well as the co-founder and Board Chair of the American Sustainable Business Council. Please visit www.jeffreyhollender.com to learn more and visit Jeffrey's blog.