Everything Co-op has dedicated the entire Month of September to interviewing the 2023 Cooperative Hall of Fame Inductees. The third interview of this tribute will be with Leslie Mead, Retired Executive Director of the Cooperative Development Foundation. Leslie and Vernon will discuss her co-op journey and projections about the future of the cooperative movement. Be sure to tune in at WOL 1450 AM, 95.9 FM or WOL Livestream on September 21 at 10:30 am EDT for Everything Co-op to listen to her powerful life story.
After growing up in Indiana and attending college in Iowa, Mead moved to Washington, DC and took a job with the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC) as assistant general counsel. After a decade with NCFC, she moved into her role as an independent consultant, where she developed education projects for NCFC, set up the Leadership Scholarship Program for the Ralph K. Morris Foundation, and served as the executive administrator for the Association of Cooperative Educators (ACE).
Building upon its historic strengths while redirecting resources to meet a more diverse contemporary and future audience, Mead helped ACE re-establish itself as a premier educational organization with uniquely cross-cultural offerings. Mead then expanded the impact of cooperative philanthropy, first as executive director of The Cooperative Foundation and then at the Cooperative Development Foundation (CDF).
During her tenure at CDF, Mead consolidated multiple funds under management, which lowered fund administration costs and enabled CDF to invest more strategically and impactfully in cooperative development. She increased operating revenue by 64%, operating surplus by five-fold, and grant-giving by ten. Though CDF supports every cooperative sector, Mead’s most notable accomplishment is structuring and funding the Cooperative Home Care Initiative, a network to support a particularly vulnerable group of American workers. One of her parting contributions was the Unsung Cooperative Hero category launched in 2021 to recognize the contributions to cooperatives by members of historically overlooked and marginalized communities.