A New Year’s message from NCBA CLUSA’s president and CEO

Doug O'Brien is president and CEO of NCBA CLUSA.
Doug O’Brien is president and CEO of NCBA CLUSA.

Do not take co-ops for granted. They are rooted in a particular place and time by a set of people who choose this special form of business to empower themselves and the community around them.

Co-ops broaden impact when more people understand the power of the cooperative business model. Co-ops thrive when policymakers are determined to enable these people-centered businesses. Co-ops are formed when people choose this sustainable way of creating a stable economic future, one that gives voice to and is inclusive of all people.

For the past 103 years, NCBA CLUSA has worked to increase public awareness of the cooperative business model, to advocate for a policy environment that enables people to use cooperatives, to show the impact that cooperatives have on people and communities, and to help people develop cooperatives.

As I have written and spoken about numerous times in 2018, we are again in one of those moments when people should look to the cooperative business model as a strategy to empower themselves in their businesses and communities—a strategy to ensure that everyone can be a vital participant in the economy. We have seen historic examples of people using the cooperative business model to transform their place in the economy; for example, when farmers embraced cooperatives in the late 19th century to meet the scale and sophistication of a more industrialized economy, when rural people established hundreds of electric cooperatives to become part of the modern economy, and when millions of consumers formed their owned financial institutions to be able to access affordable financial services.

Twenty-nineteen is our moment to build on this foundation and create an economy that works for everyone. Cooperatives are providing a path for people in the traditional and gig economies to come together to own, control and benefit from the businesses they use, creating economic opportunity and helping to curb growing inequality.

We know that cooperatives are the best way to do business, build communities and help people take control of their economic lives and futures. We can build an economy that is sustainable and stable—one in which people can more broadly participate—but only if we invest our own time and energy. Cooperatives reward worker-owners, not shareholders.

As we look forward to 2019, let’s not take this generational opportunity lightly. We should not take for granted our work—work that can be hugely impactful, done by people who are heroic and indispensable. Near the end of 2018, the NCBA CLUSA family was provided a stark reminder of just how precious these people are when we lost 18 of our colleagues to a tragic vehicle accident in Uganda. These professionals worked to sharpen the entrepreneurial skills of a generation of young people, helping them form cooperatives and work toward brighter futures. They made an impact in communities that needed it most. And they did so with little fanfare or recognition. As we look toward our work in 2019, we dedicate this year to these colleagues, these cooperators.

The cooperative community has a longstanding tradition of helping in times of need. A contribution to the Cooperative Development Foundation’s Disaster Recovery Fund assists cooperatives, families and communities when they are most in need of help. Donations are welcome and will help replenish this fund that provides urgently needed financial relief to those in crisis.

Give to CDF’s Disaster Recovery Fund

In cooperation,


Doug O’Brien
President & CEO

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