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Do You Have What it Takes to ‘Stump a Co-op’?


The annual Consumer Cooperative Management Association Conference unites leaders from the consumer co-op sector to network and share best practices in the pursuit of improved operations, governance, consumer education and marketing strategies.

That involves bringing together the best minds representing organizations that provide the resources and know-how consumer cooperatives need to succeed and grow—start-up savvy, capital for expansion and everything in between.

For the first time, CCMA will convene these organizations in an exhibit space we’re calling The Village—your educational hub at this year’s conference in Madison, Wisconsin. By providing educational, financial and developmental support, these organizations make up the bedrock of the vibrant food co-op economy in the U.S.

Your challenge? Soak up the knowledge. Then come up with a question tough enough to ‘Stump a Co-op.’ Your question might dig deep into the inner machinations of one of the participating organizations, or explore an aspect of food co-ops (think formation, structure, leadership, membership, financial insight, culture, marketing, innovation, etc.). And there’s always room for general questions about co-ops.

Got a stumper in mind? Stop by the NCBA CLUSA booth this week for the secret password you’ll need to enter The Village. Submitting your question puts you in the running for a free Galaxy Tablet Pro 10.1, reviewed as one of the best tablets for learning and managing knowledge in the marketplace.

A meeting of the minds

So, who’s your competition? Read on for our participants’ co-op chops and why they’re excited to be part of The Village:

• Look to the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) in Shelburne Falls, Massachusetts for marketing and educational services, regional sourcing initiatives and peer-to-peer training opportunities. Their goal? Create a thriving regional economy rooted in a healthy, just and sustainable food system and a vibrant community of cooperative enterprise. “The Village at CCMA is a great opportunity to network and share innovative ideas as we grow the cooperative economy together.”

• Find start-up know how and ongoing education from the folks at Cooperative Principle. They’re investing in a radically different, cooperative future. “While we have quietly started 100 percent focused co-op investment club in Minneapolis, CCMA is our official launch part! The Village provides us with a unique opportunity to get our idea in front of the best audience in the country.”

• Are you cooperative, small and local? If so, Principle 6 has your back. The national movement is guided by shared values and works to increase market access for small farmers, build cooperative supply chains and—ultimately—change the landscape of food in America. “Participating in the Village is the perfect opportunity to join with a like-minded crew of co-op peers working to build stronger co-ops, communities and food systems.”

• Looking for a bridge between socially responsible investors and cooperatives, community oriented non-profits and worker-owned businesses in New England? Look no further than the Cooperative Fund of New England“We are excited to participate in this year’s Village because it is important to demonstrate cooperation among cooperatives and therefore strengthen our reach and help build a most just economy.”

• If you’re about to launch a new retail grocery co-op, the Food Co-op Initiative Program is your one-stop shop. This 501(c)3 non-profit is dedicated to enabling a faster and more efficient start-up process through grants, in-person training and online resources. “Food Co-op Initiative is proud to take our place among other national supporters of the food co-op movement.”

• A key resource for natural foods cooperatives, the Boston-based Local Enterprise Assistance Fund provides capital for start-up food co-ops, expansions and relocations. “CCMA is a fun opportunity to see friends in the sector and connect with food coops that may have borrowing needs.”

• Want to join other cooperators to develop and share resources and learn from each other’s best practices? The Cooperative Grocer Network provides an online space for discussion and sharing that boasts a digital library dedicated to promoting the understanding and development of a cooperative economy. “We look forward to contributing to the dynamic learning and networking experience CCMA provides the consumer cooperative community.”

• Veteran investor Northcountry Cooperative Development Fund has provided financing for close to 300 food co-op start-ups, leasehold improvements, property acquisitions, inventory and working capitol. The group is committed to fostering economic democracy by investing in cooperative enterprises. “We are looking forward to being part of The Village in order to reconnect with our longtime food co-op members, as well as share our work with attendees at CCMA.”

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