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The ICA-AP Committee on Cooperative Research (CCR) organized the 15th ICA-AP Cooperative Research Conference online from 17th to 18th December 2020. The conference was organised in collaboration with the Agricultural Cooperative Staff Training Institute (ACSTI), Government of Kerala, ICA Domus Trust, ICA-EU Partnership on Cooperatives in Development, and the Uralungal Labour Contract Cooperative Society (ULCCS) to bring together academics and researchers working on cooperatives in the Asia and Pacific region. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the conference used the virtual platform for research papers’ presentation and conducting relevant discussions.

 

The event was attended by 80 individuals from 12 countries viz. Australia (4), Belgium (1), Ethiopia (1), India (50), Indonesia (11), Iran (2), Japan (2), Malaysia (3), Nepal (2), Palestine (2), Spain (1) and Sri Lanka (1) comprising researchers, policymakers, cooperative practitioners, young scholars, and students. They shared their experiences on issues related to the conference theme, ‘Addressing climate change through cooperative enterprise’. The conference format, with two Young Scholar/ Early Career Researcher’s workshops on Day 1 and three thematic research panels on Day 2 worked well with the participants.

 

 

The conference commenced with Mr. Balasubramanian Iyer, Regional Director, ICA-AP welcoming the delegates in the opening ceremony. He expressed sincere gratitude to ICA-AP CCR for organizing the conference despite the COVID-19 pandemic and the unfortunate demise of the Conference Chairperson, late Dr. Paranjothi. Prof. Akira Kurimoto, Chairperson, ICA-AP CCR, in his opening remarks, narrated the background of the research committee and its importance, while giving a special tribute to Dr. Paranjothi. Mr. Ramesan Paleri, Chairman, ULCCS welcomed the participants and expressed his best wishes for the two-day conference.

 

 

 

Sri. Kadakampally Surendran, Minister for Cooperation, Tourism and Devaswoms, Government of Kerala appreciated the efforts of ICA-AP while inaugurating the conference and delivering the keynote address. He said that the Government of Kerala is in the process of ensuring a sustainable, low-carbon path ecosystem in the state including carbon-neutral initiatives. Historically, cooperative societies in the state have played a prominent role in the economic uplift of the people particularly the weaker and marginalised. As part of the Haritha Keralam mission of the state government, cooperatives are already in the forefront for developing organic agriculture, planting saplings, water conservation, promoting non-conventional energy, and waste management. The minister released the book on ‘Cooperatives and Social Innovation’ edited by Dr. Rajasekhar and Dr. Manjula along with Late Dr. T. Paranjothi. The book aims to empower cooperative researchers in getting insights into the successful cooperative models in Asia and the Pacific region.

 

Mr. Mohit Dave, Secretary, ICA-AP CCR, introduced the participants to the conference theme and structure. He mentioned the receipt of 61 abstracts for the conference; out of which 36 were shortlisted and called for presentation. 12 research papers around the theme were presented at the conference in three sessions on the second day of the conference.

 

 

On the first day, two dedicated workshops were organised for young scholars and early career researchers to cultivate and enhance interdisciplinary collaboration. The workshop allowed the scholars to present their research in a friendly environment and receive constructive feedback and support from senior academic researchers in the field. The first session was chaired by Dr. Y. Dongre, Associate Member, ICA-AP CCR. He highlighted where the cooperative research is positioned and touched upon some of the ongoing initiatives including the Asia Pacific Cooperative Research Partnership, which originated in Bali in 2014.

 

 

 

The second session was led by Dr. Sidsel Grimstad, Member, ICA-AP CCR with the help of Dr. Emi Do, Agronomist and Cooperative Specialist (Japan); Mr. Garry Cronan, Cooperative Strategist and Policy Specialist (Australia); and Ms. Heira Hardiyanti, Lecturer (Indonesia). The session laid the vision, where we might be heading in cooperative research, by presenting a framework for publications for young scholars and listing key areas of research such as values and principles; cooperative governance and member participation; cooperative business models and social innovations in times of crisis; contribution to the SDGs, cooperative statistics etc. Mr. Sanjay Verma, Member, ICA-AP CCR summarised the discussions and key findings of Day 1 and shared the offerings and incentives for young scholars from the National Cooperative Union of India.

 

The second day witnessed several presentations from leading academicians and researchers around the theme - climate action and cooperatives. The sessions were chaired by Prof. Ann Apps from the Newcastle Law School, Australia; Dr. H. K. Misra from IRMA, India; and Dr. C. Pitchai from Gandhigram Rural Institute, India. Several topics of academic interest were discussed and debated.

 

 

In the closing plenary, Dr. T. P. Sethumadhavan, Director, ULCCS thanked all the researchers for their presentations at the conference. He stressed upon the need to focus on strengthening regional research networks by making a presence in major research forums and connecting various related fields and research associations. Mr. Iyer, in his closing remarks, mentioned about forming a young scholars’ network and more importantly, carrying out collaborative research projects. He thanked the organisers for their continued support and engagement. The Dr. Mauritz Bonow Award, instituted in 2016, to recognize young researchers and to attract talent to look into issues relating to cooperatives was also announced by him. He said that ICA Domus Trust and ICA-AP endeavour to promote youth participation in not only the ICA-AP Research Conference but also other conferences to bring interest and attention to cooperatives. 

 

A sub-committee of Dr. Sidsel Grimstad, Prof. Akira Kurimoto, and Prof. Yashvanth Dongre looked into the papers which showcased academic rigour and critical analysis in writing and research methods. Mr. Abhishek Saxena, Research Fellow, Institute of Rural Management Anand, India was awarded the first prize of US$ 500. He had reviewed three case studies of cooperative enterprises/ producer organizations promoted in regions susceptible to environmental degradation and/or trying to promote good agriculture practices. The paper looked at the challenges faced by these producer organizations while trying to stay viable and benefitting for the members. Ms. Sreelaksmi C. C., Research Scholar, School of Management Studies, Cochin University of Science and Technology, India received the second prize of US$ 300. Her study incorporated the environmental concern and green perceived value to understand the adoption and continuance of green banking and analyzed the role of trust & cooperation in the initial acceptance or confirmation of the expectation process.