Between 3 and 6 October, IRU met for a Board and Presidium meeting and exchange of expertise in Leuven Belgium
After more than two years during which IRU members could not meet in person due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this was the first meeting in presence. For this, our IRU member Cera kindly made its premises available at the Cera headquarters in Leuven. As Cera and the Belgian Raiffeisen Foundation BRS celebrated their 130th and 30th anniversaries respectively on 5 October, a meeting was a natural choice and a nice, varied programme could be organised for the IRU members who had come in large numbers. In fact, we had the pleasure to welcome our member organisations from Austria, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Germany, but especially from India and Kenya.
Our event began on 3 October evening with a joint dinner with the colleagues who had already arrived. After a long time without seeing each other in person, there was a lot of news to exchange.
The morning of 4 October was dedicated to the modular, hybrid training programme that the IRU is currently working on for its members. IRU members were able to try out the first modules of the “Raiffeisen Ambassador” live and could provide valuable feedback. The “Raiffeisen Ambassador” training is initially aimed primarily at young cooperators in order to give them an understanding of Raiffeisen’s ideas, values and principles and to demonstrate the possibilities of the entrepreneurial cooperative. In the afternoon, the latest information on the IRU was exchanged during the Board and Presidium Meeting.
We also had the pleasure of welcoming Dr Walter Rothensteiner (Austrian Raiffeisen Association) and Dr Hilmar Gernet (formerly Raiffeisen Schweiz), who retired from the IRU Presidium at the end of 2021 and in mid-2022 respectively. On the evening of 4 October both longterm cooperators and supporters of the IRU and the Raiffeisen Movement were given a fitting farewell by IRU President Franky Depickere during a beautiful gala dinner. Etienne Pflimin from the Confédération Nationale du Crédit Mutuelle France was also warmly thanked for his many years of service on the IRU Presidium and as Treasurer. Mr Pflimlin stepped down from the Presidium at the end of 2021 and unfortunately could not be present in Leuven in person.
Tuesday 5 October was dedicated to the exchange of cooperative expertise. In the morning we had great inputs on the topic of “Youth and Cooperatives” from Austria, Kenya and India. Dr. Andreas Pangl, Secretary General from the Austrian Raiffeisen Association, presented the current work of the ÖRV in this regard. For example, the association has been focusing on the promotion of student cooperatives and cooperative initiatives of young cooperative members for some time. George Ototo, managing director of KUSCCO, then presented the work of the association in this regard. Especially during the COVID-19 Pandemic, the Kenya Union of Savings and Credit Cooperatives supported young members in establishing and keeping their cooperative business. Dr Nandini Azad from the Indian Cooperative Network for Women afterwards presented the work of the federation, which, among other things, provides microcredits for young women to set up their own businesses.
In the afternoon, the Centre of Expertise for Cooperative Entrepreneurship (KCO) presented its current activities and research focus. The KCO is a research and teaching centre linked to the KU Leuven that brings together various stakeholders from the field of cooperative entrepreneurship with the aim of advancing knowledge, proficiency, and legitimacy. The current research results of the KCO led to an intensive and fruitful discussion with the IRU colleagues.
After the exciting expertise day, the anniversary event for the 130th and 30th anniversary of CERA and BRS respectively took place in the evening. Here, the IRU participants were able to take part in an exciting artistic programme and, in addition to an inspiring speech by Franky Depickere, could enjoy great live music by Jean Bosco Safari and his band, a panel discussion between young cooperators and a fascinating lecture by the well-known artist Koen Vanmechelen on his “Cosmopolitan Chicken Project”. A get-together and exchange with the participants present allowed the festivities to come to a close afterwards.
The following morning, the IRU programme ended with a guided tour of the beautiful and historic city of Leuven.
We thank the participating colleagues from all over the world for the intensive but very refreshing and fruitful days and look forward to the next joint meeting.
Further Impressions from the IRU Board & Presidium Meeting & the Anniversary Events of CERA and BRS are available here.