NCBA CLUSA’s 2021 Annual Membership Meeting, held virtually on May 3, drew record attendance and updated the cooperative community on the association’s work in building a vibrant, cross-sector co-op movement at the national level through partnerships in development, advocacy, public awareness and thought leadership.
Last week’s meeting was also an opportunity to lift up the cooperative identity. Whether working to dismantle racism, build resilience in the face of climate change or preserve small businesses during a pandemic, 2020 was a reminder that co-ops have the greatest impact when cooperators live up to their values and principles.
“There has never been a more important time for our community to come together to understand, engage and act on our shared cooperative identity—the values, principles and way of doing business that set cooperative enterprise apart,” Erbin Crowell, chair of NCBA CLUSA’s Board of Directors and Executive Director of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association, said during a message from leadership.
“There has never been a more important time for our community to come together to understand, engage and act on our shared cooperative identity.” – Erbin Crowell, Chair, NCBA CLUSA Board of Directors
This year, the global cooperative movement will reflect more deeply on our shared identity. Both the ICA’s World Cooperative Congress and NCBA CLUSA’s Cooperative IMPACT Conference will meet under the theme of cooperative identity. These events and others will be an opportunity to understand how co-ops responded to COVID-19 and answered the universal call for racial and economic justice—and identify where more work is necessary.
During his message, NCBA CLUSA president and CEO Doug O’Brien called attention to the ways co-ops navigated the historic challenges of 2020. Beginning in March, NCBA CLUSA led efforts to ensure that co-ops across all sectors were eligible for critical federal relief programs. At least 3,000 co-ops accessed loans from the Paycheck Protection Program and/or Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, which provided direct financial assistance of at least $1.2 billion. This relief helped co-ops maintain operations and support more than 1.2 million workers on their payroll and in their communities. Going forward, NCBA CLUSA will continue to keep co-ops on the radar of policymakers looking for strategies to rebuild a more equitable, resilient economy, O’Brien said.
Co-ops were also responsive to critical conversations around race in 2020, taking concrete steps to better live up to the movement’s shared values of equality, equity and solidarity, O’Brien said. “Last year made it clear how the cooperative community must take a clear-eyed look at how we can be better allies of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), and other marginalized groups,” he said.
“2020 made it clear how the cooperative community must take a clear-eyed look at how we can be better allies of Black, Indigenous and People of Color (BIPOC), and other marginalized groups.” – Doug O’Brien, President & CEO, NCBA CLUSA
The leadership message ended with a challenge to NCBA CLUSA members to be an active part of growing their association by recruiting new members. “If we are going to expand this work at this critical moment—if we are going to take advantage of this opportunity to be part of rebuilding communities in a way that is resilient, sustainable and inclusive—we need you to take the next step to become ambassadors for NCBA CLUSA,” Crowell said.
The 2021 Annual Membership Meeting also included a report from the Membership Growth Task Force. This group of nine NCBA CLUSA board directors has been working to update NCBA CLUSA’s membership policy and simplify the association’s dues structure—a task that hadn’t been tackled in more than 30 years.
One key policy change means that, effective January 2022, voting rights will be reserved exclusively for the co-op membership category, a move that aligns with NCBA CLUSA’s purpose as an association of cooperatives. The board also adopted a formal definition of cooperatives that includes only entities that are truly member-owned, member-controlled and benefit their members.
“This change not only clarifies what types of entities are eligible for the cooperative class of membership, it will also help us engage with policymakers and other stakeholders as we communicate the co-op distinction and advantage,” said Carla Decker, 1st Vice Chair of NCBA CLUSA’s Board of Directors and President and CEO of DC Credit Union.
Watch the full Annual Membership Meeting below.