Underground Summits ? One Way to Teach About, and Develop, the Cooperative Movement A Conference-Wide Study Circle Workshop*
facilitated by Greg O'Neill, Hazel Corcoran, and Len Krimerman

1.Overview of Underground Summits: What are they?

Underground Summits will be the blending of popular culture and popular education; and of the creative force and co-operatives. Protest movements almost always have placed individual creativity at the heart of their demonstrations: puppetry, street or guerrilla theatre, and music are used as the means to create and sharpen awareness. Why not take the same approach to constructive social change, and to educating the public about positive alternatives?

These summits could be local, or regional, national, or borderless. But in any case they would focus much more on what we want to do rather than what is wrong with the way things are. Summits will showcase and educate about positive opportunities, rather than the destructive nature of current conditions . People who will be coming to these summits are already aware of the problems. We want to show them practical, ongoing solutions they can link up with, learn from, and take back home.

2. Purpose

The goal of the summit (or series of summits) would be to promote co-operatives and other democratic enterprises as the alternative to global corporate capitalism.The target audience would definitely include young people and any others who are seeking alternatives that are sustainable and respectful of human beings.

Additionally, they would aim at bringing co-operatives, other democratic enterprises and alternative movements together so that there is increased awareness within and among all progressive movements about these constructive paths. Summits will also provide an opportunity for building bridges between them.

To promote and extend this bridge building , we see Underground Summits working to establish ongoing exchanges among summit participants, so that the enthusiasm and learning experiences gained are carried over into daily life back home. We will provide some suggestions as to how this might be accomplished, or at least, begun.

 

3.Content

How do we envision the form of these summits?

A. Entertainment: Music, drama, poetry, and art would attract wide and diverse participation. (Like Bruce Cockburn or Bono performing in Calgary at the protest against the G8 summit there; space and resources for spontaneous celebratory expression or community theatre would be provided as well.)

B. Education: A series of learning opportunities - workshops that are participatory, led by dynamic facilitators, and encourage the generation of new or renewed initiatives.

C. Showcase: A World's Fair of Co-operative achievement. The showcase would also provide opportunities for existing Co-operatives, organic food producers and distributors, fair trade practitioners, alternative health care providers, etc. Co-op veterans and experienced consultants would be present to facilitate exchanges and help initiate collaborations.

 

*Note: Our own workshop presentation would to an extent mirror the sort of process we would like to see unfold at a US. For example, we would ask our audience in Victoria to imagine what they would like to see go on and emerge from such summits; small groups could form just after our initial presentation (of 30 minutes or so) and then report back to the plenary after a day or two of horizontal and minimallystructured discussions on their own. We'd of course provide a summary of our own thinking on these events up to May, 2003, and also why we each see them as desirable and indeed essential. We see our presentation as connectingdirectly to the overall Conference themes of Co-operatives Confront (or Help Shape) the Future and Globalization and co-operatives ; it should also provide opportunities to expand discussion of perspectives raised at the Youth Congress .

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