Alexandra Wilson discovered a passion for cooperatives in 1974, when she led her neighbours in a successful fight to create the Bain Apartments Cooperative, putting a stop to the landlord’s plans to evict 260 low-income households. This involvement as a teenager in saving her own home led to a career in the development, management and provision of association services to housing cooperatives. After nine years with the Cooperative Housing Federation of Toronto, five as managing director, and 15 years at the head of the Cooperative Housing Federation of Canada, Alexandra started up the Agency for Cooperative Housing, serving as CEO from 2005 until her retirement in 2021.
Ander Etxeberria-Otadui has been the head of Mondragon’s cooperative outreach program for the last five years. Annually, he serves approximately two thousand people who want to become acquainted with the Mondragon Cooperative Experience. He also lectures in universities and other fora around the world.
Balasubramanian (Balu) Iyer, is ICA’s Asia-Pacific’s Regional Director based in New Delhi, India. ICA, a member-based organization, advances the cooperative social enterprise model and provides a global voice and forum for cooperatives. The ICA Asia-Pacific’s 110 members from 32 countries are national apex organizations, sector federations and government departments.
An accountant by profession, Ben Reid began his cooperative career with a small cooperative in Ilkeston, UK. By 1988 he had become Deputy CEO of West Midlands Co-operative and CEO in 1992. In 2005 West Midlands Co-operative Society and Oxford, Swindon and Gloucester Society merged forming Midcounties Co-operative.
Bitange Ndemo is a Professor of Entrepreneurship at the University of Nairobi’s Business School. His research centres on the link between ICTs and small and medium enterprises with emphasis on how ICTs influence economic development in Africa. Professor Ndemo chaired the Kenya Distributed Ledgers and Artificial Intelligence Taskforce that developed the country’s road map for digital transformation.
Dr. Carlos Zarco has a degree in Medicine and post-graduate studies in quality management and senior management of health institutions. He has master’s degrees in Planning and Quality Management, Science in Health, and Advanced Clinical Management. Dr. Zarco is a member of the Board and Director-General of Fundación Espriu, President of the International Health Cooperative Organisation, IHCO, and member of the Board of the Alliance for Health Promotion.
Dr. Chanho Choi was an employee of the National Agricultural Cooperative Federation (NACF), Korea for 32 years, Secretary General of the International Agricultural Cooperative Organization (ICAO) from 2008 – 2009, Professor at the Agricultural Cooperative University (ACU) from 2005 – 2008, and ICA Asia and Pacific’s Regional Director from 2010 – 2014. He also has a Ph.D. in Development Communication from University of the Philippines at Los Banos (UPLB, 1988).
Dr. Saji Gopinath is the Vice-Chancellor of Kerala University of Digital Sciences, Innovation and Technology set up by the Government in the southern state of Kerala in India. He has a long career as a Professor of Management with the Indian Institute of Management Kozhikode where his research is primarily in the area of Operation Excellence in a variety of social and commercial organizations.
Elizabeth Salazar is an international development practitioner and gender advisor. She is a Technical Specialist for Gender Equality and Women’s Empowerment at the National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International (NCBA CLUSA). Her work focuses on international development programs in the areas of economic growth and livelihoods, cooperative business development, and food security and agriculture.
Born in Liverpool (UK) in 1956, Guy Ryder studied Social and Political Sciences at the University of Cambridge and Latin American Studies at the University of Liverpool. He speaks French and Spanish as well as his mother tongue, English. He started his professional career in 1981 as assistant at the International Department of the Trade Union Congress in London.
Proudly representing the Korean cooperative movement, Gwangseog Hong will be one of two MCs at Congress. He is the team leader of the international cooperation office at the Korea National Agricultural Cooperative Federation (NACF), and deputy secretary general of the International Cooperative Agricultural Orgnisation (ICAO) Secretariat.
Hotaka Hara is a physician specializing in family medicine at Ehime Health Co-operative Hospital, which he joined in 2002 after graduating from Ehime University. He currently serves as the Assistant Director of the hospital and the Manager of the Internal Medicine & Family Practice Department. Since 2006, he has been in charge of training programs on family medicine organized mainly by Ehime Health Co-operative Hospital. From June 2019 to June 2021, he served as a board member of the Japanese Health and Welfare Co-operative Federation (HeW CO-OP JAPAN), a national federation of health and welfare co-operatives in Japan with 105 affiliated member societies comprising 2.97million individual members (as of March 2020).
Film Producer and Director
Atautsikut/Leaving None Behind
John Houston will help launch the start of Congress by sharing his stories at the celebratory event, kicking off the three days of discussion, debate and conversations on the theme, Deepening our Cooperative Identity.
Jose Pérez has been working on the promotion of health cooperatives since 2000. Currently, he is Deputy Director of Fundación Espriu, Spanish organisation gathering health cooperatives in Spain, and Secretary-General of the International Health Cooperative Organisation.
Julie LaPalme is Secretary General for Cooperative Housing International, one of the International Cooperative Alliance’s eight sectors. Since 2014, Julie has been raising awareness about housing cooperatives at a global level, facilitating peer-to-peer exchanges, and sharing good practices through a comprehensive communications program.
Since her debut on stage and in television in the early 2000s, Karina Lehoux has been a facilitator in more than 850 events, including: seminars and conventions, annual general meetings and public forums. More recently, she has been using her experience in television to facilitate virtual conferences, awards and international events. Last October, she was the spokesperson for the Conseil québécois de la coopération et de la mutualité. Karina Lehoux is a graduate of Laval University (bachelor’s degree in business administration) and HEC Montréal (DESS in communication-marketing).
Marc has been working in the cooperative movement since 2004. He started working in coffee and cacao cooperatives in Nicaragua for a year, before joining the European Confederation Cooperatives Europe in 2006. He currently acts as ICA’s International Development Director, coordinating the #coops4dev Partnership with the European Commission.
Maria Eugenia Pérez Zea is the Chair of the International Cooperative Alliance’s Gender Equality Committee and Vice President of the Regional Committee on Gender Equality (CREG). She is the Executive Director of the Colombian Association of Cooperatives (ASCOOP).
Maria Molina has more than 40 years of experience in cooperative sector enterprises, with competencies in the areas of education, cooperative promotion, democracy and social responsibility. She is a Social Worker with a specialist in Business Administration, master in Education and Human Development, and is a mobilizer of initiatives, programs, projects and work teams in the areas indicated. Maria is a leader with listening skills and the managerial competencies needed to execute projects and skills to facilitate educational processes with different population groups by their educational level, by social stratum, ages and leadership.
Ruth Jelimo Kosgei is the Treasurer of the Lelechego Marketing Cooperative Society in Kenya. She previously led Sales and Marketing at Lakestar Insurance Company, Ltd. She has a great deal of experience working with dairy cooperatives and savings and credit cooperative organizations (SACCOs).
Woonjeong Baek joined iCOOP in 2008 as a consumer-member to purchase healthy and organic food for her family. She has been actively involved in cooperative activities and contributed to establishing a co-op in her community. In 2012, she became Director of the Dongrae iCOOP, one of the member co-ops of iCOOP, and in 2016, she was elected as Chairperson of Geumjeong iCOOP. In 2019, she became a board member of iCOOP and currently serves as the Vice Chairperson.
Joining Mr. Hong as co-MC is Zuraidah Hoffman. She leads the World Cooperative Congress communications team, after joining the ICA in 2019 as the interim communications director. With more than 20 years of experience in communications, she spent the last decade working closely with NRECA International, a global rural electrification NGO that takes its roots from the American electric cooperative movement. An experienced storyteller, producer and communicator, Zuraidah has travelled the world to produce stories on the impact rural electric cooperatives have on improving lives. A trained journalist and alumni of The George Washington University, she has experience in both written and visual media, international community outreach programmes and strategic communication.