CDF grantee spotlight: National Conference on Black Cooperative Agenda builds community and conscious development


The Network for Developing Conscious Communities is a national network committed to strengthening Black-governed, community-led organizations. [photos courtesy NDCC]
Ron Hantz, executive director of the Network for Developing Conscious Communities, is clear about the value of this past year’s National Conference on Black Cooperative Agenda in Las Vegas, Nevada. “Connecting to one another and building community,” he explained. “Beyond the outstanding workshops and speakers, this is what attendees really celebrated.”

Organizations often grow from a campaign or other incident that convenes like-minded supporters and galvanizes a more sustained response. Like the Cooperative Development Foundation (CDF)—whose origin can be traced to the Freedom Fund of the Cooperative for American Remittances to Europe (now known as CARE) and its efforts to bring food to a devastated Europe in the wake of World War II—the National Conference on Black Cooperative Agenda has its roots in the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign and the civil rights group that was founded as a result.

The Poor People’s Development Foundation (PPDF) worked to build a national cooperative movement to bring together Blacks and poor people for the purposes of building strong cooperative ecosystems in the United States. The efforts of the PPDF contributed to the efforts to establish, by congressional charter, the National Consumer Cooperative Bank, now known as the National Cooperative Bank (NCB).

Today, another feature of its legacy is the National Conference on Black Cooperative Agenda, which convenes those wishing to build cooperatives and share strategies on developing a political and advocacy agenda. The event also creates space for participants to develop an understanding of the importance of incorporating a cultural consciousness in cooperative work.

Cynthia Pinchback-Hines, a racial justice educator and co-op developer for Co-op Cincy, reflected on the 2023 National Conference in an online post and recalled remarks from panelist Amaha Sellassie of Co-op Dayton. Amaha called the experience “super powerful,” and, noting the intergenerational engagement of attendees, added, “The elders like to see the energy of the youngsters. Our history provides context for our present.”

The conference is organized by the Network for Developing Conscious Communities (NDCC), which is devoted to fostering conscious community development that is driven by the governance of universal spiritual principles. Their vision is to network with conscious indigenous leaders, organizations and communities across 50 states and around the world.

One of several events and programs by NDCC, the National Conference on Black Cooperative Agenda seeks to encourage every attendee to mobilize against the disproportionate effects of racial and economic injustices, building a movement born with new leadership and a vision for strengthening Black people, families, and communities. An excellent example of this is the mobilization and formation of an emerging group, the National Association of Black Cooperators, as a direct result of the conference.

With the initial event being held virtually the COVID-19 pandemic, Ron Hantz was thrilled that the organization was able to successfully convene 225 people in 2023 for the second in-person conference. He is pleased to share that the next iteration of the National Conference on Black Cooperative Agenda will take place June 13-15, 2024 in St. Paul, Minnesota.

“The support of the Cooperative Development Foundation was key in making it possible for us to reach more people by offering scholarships, bolstering attendance,” Ron noted. “The engagement of CDF also enhanced the conference’s visibility and credibility. It really expanded our reach in so many ways.”

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