NCBA CLUSA this week convened its advocacy-centered 2015 Annual Cooperatives Conference. With its theme, “Uncommon Power, Common Purpose,” this conference engaged NCBA CLUSA members and supporters as key partners in communicating to policymakers and administration officials the impact cooperatives have on the communities they represent.
Here are a few conference highlights:
• The Embassy of Senegal hosted the International Reception at ACC 2015 yesterday evening. During opening remarks, Senegalese Ambassador Babacar Diagne called Senegal’s private sector—including cooperatives—the “engine of economic growth” in the country. Ambassador Diagne added that his country’s goal is to “leverage partnerships, knowledge and finance to forge concrete cooperation that will generate win-win outcomes” for both Senegal and the U.S. “That’s what we expect from this gathering today,” he said. NCBA CLUSA has been active in Senegal for more than a decade in the areas of agriculture development, natural resource management, food security and nutrition, conservation farming, women’s economic empowerment and rural agriculture as a business.
• Co-ops “build and sustain” the middle class and “spur economic growth” in a nation where “too many businesses are driven by short-term profit instead of long-term investment in communities and the economy,” Senator Al Franken (D-Minn.) said during a breakfast presentation this morning. Senator Franken’s home state boasts the largest number of co-ops in the nation, as well as three Fortune 500 co-ops. During his remarks, Franken focused on income inequality and how co-ops can help families reach financial stability—what he called a “dream for too many Americans.” The success of Minnesotan cooperatives, and co-ops across the U.S., Franken said, is a “testament to the truly cooperative values” that drive the co-op business model, creating jobs and building strong communities. “I’m very glad to help raise awareness of the way co-ops help middle class Americans achieve their dreams,” he said.
• During a lunch presentation today, Representative Jim McGovern (D-Mass.) applauded NCBA CLUSA for its focus on bettering the lives of Salvadorians, Cubans and others worldwide. Rep. McGovern—whom NCBA CLUSA President & CEO Mike Beall called “a great friend of cooperatives”—was also present at the November 2014 launch of NCBA CLUSA’s coffee rehabilitation project in El Salvador, and has been a longtime advocate of lifting the embargo on trade with Cuba. “The cooperative movement in Cuba gives me great hope for the future of Cuba’s economy,” he said today. McGovern also spoke broadly on cooperatives in the U.S. “I’ve always been a big supporter of the cooperative movement, largely because of its focus on people and communities, whether it’s banking, housing or food,” he said.
• Attendees met with over 35 Senate offices on Tuesday, representing just over one third of the U.S. Senate. In the evening, Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) spoke to attendees at a reception at the U.S. Capitol Building saying, “Cooperative issues are really bi-partisian issues,” and that she will continue to work with her colleagues in the Senate to create, submit, and pass cooperative friendly legislation.
• At the National Press Club Wednesday morning, Mike Beall, president and CEO of NCBA CLUSA, and Stephen Brobeck, executive director of the Consumer Federation of America, presented the results of the first public opinion survey on cooperatives in more than a decade. The survey found that even among co-op members, awareness of the cooperative business model is not always apparent. Of those surveyed, 25 percent said they belonged to a co-op, but 43 percent are actually co-op members, based on indicating they belong to a credit union, utility co-op or mutual insurance company. Despite only a minority (7 percent) indicating that they are “very familiar” with the philosophy of cooperatives, a large majority of respondents (70 percent) said co-ops are helpful to consumers.
• Howard Brodsky, CEO of Global Partners, followed up the survey results with a stirring challenge to build a better world … now. The cooperative business model is superior, but traditional capitalism continues to dominate the economy because “the cooperative message is confusing and public awareness is low,” Brodsky said. To scale up growth and success, the cooperative movement needs a unified message that explains the ‘why’ driving co-ops, not the ‘what.’ “Great companies tell why they do what they do,” Brodsky said. Under his vision, cooperatives would unite to propel the cooperative movement while maintaining their uniqueness, and each sector would benefit from increased exposure and growth. Click here to watch Brodsky’s launch video.
• During the Annual Board Meeting and Luncheon, the results of the 2015 NCBA CLUSA Board of Directors election were announced. The five new board members are Michelle Schry, CEO and general manager of People’s Food Cooperative, Inc., Helen Godfrey-Smith, president and CEO of Shreveport Federal Credit Union; Kimberly Garmany, director of Membership and Development at College Houses; Dave Swanson, a partner in Dorsey & Whitney LLP’s Corporate Department and chair of the Cooperatives Law practice group; and Kevin Higginbotham, CEO of the Evergreen Marketing Group. NCBA CLUSA is pleased to welcome these new board members and looks forward to their insight and guidance of the organization.
• At the Cooperative Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, four veteran cooperative leaders received the cooperative community’s highest honor—consumer cooperative advocate and educator Ann Hoyt, retired professor and department chair of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Department of Consumer Science; cooperative agri-business leader Daniel T. Kelly, former GROWMARK, Inc., board chair; cooperative educator William J. Nelson, vice president of Corporate Citizenship and president of the CHS Foundation; and cooperative development strategist Judy Ziewacz, former executive director of the Cooperative Development Foundation. During a Q&A session with NCBA CLUSA CEO & President Mike Beall during the Cooperative Issues Forum, their advice ranged from “make good decisions early in life” to “for every problem, there’s a cooperative solution.”