Collaboration is one of the most underrated tools for change. International development organizations combining knowledge and working together to drive a common goal has been at the core of the U.S. Overseas Cooperative Development Council (OCDC) since it was officially organized in 1982.
This year as International Day of Cooperatives celebrates cooperatives for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), OCDC is honoring its ten cooperative development organizational members, among them NCBA CLUSA, who embody Sustainable Development Goal #17, “Partnership for the Goals.” Member organizations from across the U.S. apply their unique expertise to strengthen international cooperatives and credit unions. While doing this they come together under the OCDC umbrella to share and collaborate to create a better world through cooperatives.
One of the first major collaborative projects members undertook was the Cooperative Law and Regulation Initiative (CLARITY), which produced four manuals to support national cooperative movements in partner countries to create a legal and regulatory environment that enables cooperative businesses to flourish. Further joint projects on cooperative governance, resilience and learning followed. OCDC members have also teamed up to leverage each other’s strengths on certain projects, some recent examples are detailed below.
OCDC’s International Cooperative Research Group (ICRG) led an initiative with members to explore various aspects of cooperative resilience, understood as cooperatives’ ability to withstand economic, social/political, health and other shocks. Resilience is considered essential to successful operations and member wellbeing. The research developed and the mutual learning that followed were designed so that the outcomes could be applied to improve the effectiveness of operations and optimize impact for members.
Land O’Lakes Venture37 and GENEX, joined forces on a study exploring business models in crisis in East Africa. They compared advantages and disadvantages of the cooperative model over those of privately owned businesses in organizational resilience of firms in the dairy sector.
NCBA CLUSA and ICRG worked together to review, adapt and expand the framework of the Cooperative Law and Regulation Initiative (CLARITY) to establish more enabling environments for cooperative development, benefitting from the expertise of a working group of development and legal professionals from around the world.
Social Systems Network Analysis was the focus of the collaboration of ICRG with Global Communities, NCBA CLUSA and WOCCU. Named the Ushirika Hub—after the Swahili word for “cooperative”—it connects cooperatives, members and sector players to service providers and facilitates valuable information sharing. Following the release of the Ushirika Hub, Global Communities and its technical partner, Root Change, monitored the usage of the hub to understand the utility of the platform.
NCBA CLUSA and GENEX Collaboration in the Dominican Republic
Over seven years NCBA CLUSA managed a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)-funded Safe Agriculture/Food Export (SAFE) program in the Dominican Republic, known locally as Progana. The project improved agricultural productivity including increasing the use of improved techniques and technologies for beef and dairy farm management. NCBA CLUSA partnered with another OCDC member, GENEX, who provided their expertise on animal genetics including artificial insemination (A.I.) certification and training to a local genetics cooperative. They worked side-by-side to help farmers and veterinarians understand A.I.’s ability to improve cattle reproduction and subsequently increase production of milk and meat on farm. Overall, 170+ AI technicians were trained, and 7,000 inseminations were provided by private sector providers because of this program. This collaboration helped fill gaps in the Dominican beef and dairy value chain and helped drive demand for service through training, demonstration, and action. Through Progana support, the Dominican Republic achieved export equivalency with U.S. food safety standards after a 25-year lapse. This is a huge accomplishment for the country to be able to export beef to U.S. territories again.
Global Communities and NCBA CLUSA Focus on Cooperative Policy
OCDC members Global Communities and NCBA CLUSA collaborated to facilitate a broad range of legal assistance for local cooperative stakeholders in Kenya. Activities included stakeholder engagement forums with partners and policymakers, a summary of the cooperative bill’s key provisions written in plain language to enhance understanding among cooperative members, and mobilization efforts for cooperative leaders across Kenya to effectively participate in the cooperative law reform process. As a result of their combined efforts, several enabling provisions were incorporated into the draft Kenya national bill that promotes cooperative autonomy and increases the inclusion of women and youth.
Collaboration outside of OCDC members got a huge boost recently with the launch of the Mapping International Cooperative Development Programs (MiCDP). This website contains information on over 420 international cooperative development projects, allowing visitors to explore projects and potential partners around the world. MiCDP is a collaborative project jointly owned by OCDC and the International Cooperative Alliance, another example of SDG #17—global partnerships in action. The goals of MiCDP are to increase knowledge sharing and facilitate future collaboration amongst the 27 cooperative development organizations represented on the platform as well as external stakeholders. More than 2,400 users accessed the wealth of information on the site in the first six months since it launched.