The U.S. Overseas Cooperative Development Council (OCDC) has continued to be an active supporter of the Cooperative Law and Regulation Initiative (CLARITY) since its foundation. NCBA CLUSA was selected as a research partner under the Collaborative Research for Cooperative Resilience (CR2) research program of OCDC’s International Cooperative Research Group (ICRG) to carry out the foundational research for CLARITY updates. The CLARITY 2.0 Global Working Group was thus convened with support under the ICRG CR2 program, and additional funding from Cooperative Development Foundation (CDF).
For ten months, NCBA CLUSA and OCDC convened this working group of 13 cooperative law experts from around the world to review the CLARITY methodologies, processes, and tools. CLARITY is a program designed to engage national cooperative movement leaders and institutions, cooperative law practitioners, cooperative members, government officials, and other key stakeholders in cooperative legal and regulatory reform from beginning to end.
CLARITY provides a series of processes and tools that cooperative movements can use to 1) better understand, analyze, and assess existing cooperative laws and regulations, 2) achieve consensus on reform priorities, 3) develop advocacy strategies and communication plans, and then 4) carry out advocacy and reform activities. CLARITY was developed collaboratively by OCDC and its members over 15 years ago with funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
As a champion of CLARITY, NCBA CLUSA has helped cooperative movements in many developing countries with their cooperative law and regulation reform efforts using the CLARITY methodology and tools through its USAID-funded Cooperative Development Program (CDP) projects. For example, cooperative law and regulation analyses and follow-on activities have been implemented in Madagascar, Tanzania, Kenya, Guatemala, Peru, and Ecuador as part of the current Creating an Environment for Cooperative Expansion (CECE) CDP project.
Given the COVID pandemic, growing climate crisis, and rising social and economic inequalities, it is critical that cooperative laws and regulations enable cooperatives to thrive and maximize their potential to promote resilient communities and inclusive economies. Over the past 15+ years, the cooperative legal landscape and the global cooperative movement have changed significantly. CLARITY required a fresh review of its components, tools, and processes to adapt to changing times and challenges.
Against this backdrop, the CLARITY 2.0 Working Group met regularly from May 2021-February 2022 under the leadership of CLARITY experts Dr. Willy Tadjudje and Edward Potter. During that time, the Working Group reviewed the relevance of CLARITY’s current cooperative reform issues and identified many new and emerging cooperative legal reform issues. Based on CLARITY legal analyses in 7 countries, the Working Group identified good practices and lessons learned for project success. They evaluated the current CLARITY Toolkit resources used to implement cooperative legal analysis and explored new potential resources.
This CLARITY 2.0 research would not have been possible without the dedication and hard work of the Working Group members. To recognize their commitment and contributions, NCBA CLUSA and OCDC are designating the following members as the CLARITY International Fellows, an honorary fellowship of cooperative law and regulation experts:
- Maureen Gitau, Policy and Legislative Affairs Officer – USAID/CLEAR Program, Global Communities, Kenya
- Oscar Inocente, NCBA CLUSA Country Representative and CDP Director, Peru
- Carlos Alonso Naranjo, Professor, Popular and Solidarity Economics and Finance Master’s Program, Universidad Andina Simón Bolívar, Ecuador
- Claudia Paredes Castañeda, Titular Magistrate Judge, Court of Appeals of the Judicial Branch; and Professor of Law, Universidad de San Carlos de Guatemala and Universidad Da Vinci, Guatemala
- Ronaldo Chaves Gaudio, Director, Gaudio Advocacia; Professor of Law, Pontifícia Universidade Católica de Minas Gerais; President, Iberoamerican Association of Cooperatives, Mutuals and Social & Solidarity Economy
- Danilo Eladio Gutierrez Fiori, Executive Director, National Institute of Cooperatives (INACOOP), Uruguay
- Morshed Mannan, Ph.D., Max Weber Fellow, European University Institute; Researcher, BlockchainGov, Italy
- Shani S. Mayosa, former Head-Legal Service Unit of the Tanzania Cooperative Development Commission, Tanzania
- Rachel-Claire Okani Abengue, former Vice-Rector, and Professor, University of Yaounde Faculty of Law, Cameroon
- Santosh Kumar, Director of Legislation, ICA Global Office
- Gustavo Alberto Sosa, Attorney, Law School Faculty, University of Buenos Aires, Argentina
- Sergio Reyes Lavega, Professor of Solidarity Economy, Cooperativism and Labor Relations, Faculty of Law, UDELAR, Uruguay
- Soledad T. (“Sally”) de la Vega-Cabangis, Corporate Attorney III, National Transmission Corporation, Philippines
NCBA CLUSA and OCDC also thank Juan Carlos Marenco Batres, NCBA CLUSA Country Representative in Guatemala who spearheaded the use of CLARITY in Guatemala with cooperative stakeholders and provided important inputs to this research. Dr. Barbara Czachorska-Jones, OCDC ICRG Learning Manager, and one of the original developers of CLARITY, also served as a key advisor.
Although the Working Group convened for a specific purpose, it also provided a unique professional development opportunity for the members, who had the opportunity to exchange legal opinions, learn from other sectors’ and regions’ experiences with cooperative legal and regulatory frameworks, and broaden their perspectives.
Dr. Morshed Mannan, who successfully completed his Ph.D. toward the end of the project, had this to say, “I am so delighted to have been part of this cohort and now fellowship. I have learned so much … it’s no exaggeration that this group was very influential for my dissertation.”
Dr. Carlos Naranjo, who led NCBA CLUSA’s CLARITY cooperative law analysis in Ecuador in 2021, said, “even after 50 years working in cooperatives and attending dozens of workshops and conferences, I have learned the most here…I’ve felt like a bricklayer helping to build a very large building.”
Dr. Claudia Paredes led a CLARITY cooperative law analysis in Guatemala in 2019 and continued working with NCBA CLUSA to support Guatemala’s independent cooperative sector with their law reform proposal. As a Working Group participant and CLARITY implementer, Dr. Paredes also brought a unique perspective to the table. “This experience has enriched me as a person and professional. It’s a great honor to have been in this select group and contribute to this tool. CLARITY was used in Guatemala as the country is in the process of coop law reform so for me being part of this group has been a great experience,” she explained.
This research project is only the first stage of the CLARITY 2.0 Initiative. Now that the foundational research report is complete, NCBA CLUSA will begin making updates to various CLARITY tools and developing new ones as part of the current CDP project, thanks to CDF funding. NCBA CLUSA and OCDC are also strategizing on how to advance CLARITY 2.0.
As Rachel-Claire Okani rightly pointed out in the final working group session, “This is not the end, but rather the beginning.”