At NCBA CLUSA’s Annual Business Meeting, held last Tuesday, September 9, during the joint Purchasing Cooperatives and Annual Cooperatives Conferences, the City of Minneapolis, Minnesota declared the week of September 8-12 the city’s official Co-op Week. Kevin Reich, City Councilman of the First Ward of Minneapolis, read the declaration to the attendees.
The declaration came at the height of co-op activity throughout the city, which included a regional meeting of the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association, the grand opening of Fair State Cooperative Brewery and the convening of NCBA CLUSA’s two conferences.
“It is great to see the city of Minneapolis again affirm the important role cooperatives play in the local community,” said Mike Beall, President and CEO of NCBA CLUSA. “We are pleased that we were able to be part of the catalyst for this declaration and look to other cities to officially recognize the value co-ops bring to all aspects of the community life.”
The week of conferencing kicked off on Monday, September 8, with Purchasing Cooperatives Conference attendees sharing best practices and lessons learned. Conference organizers provided attendees with ample time to connect and network with fellow cooperators.
First time attendee Mike Natyshack, national director for Pentegra Retirement Services said, “As a first time participant, these sessions have been really engaging. I think there is a lot that can be gleaned from the collective knowledge represented here.”
The following day featured a joint keynote address by Dame Pauline Green, president of the International Cooperative Alliance, to a crowd of more than 100 participants and attendees. Her message on “The Blueprint for a Cooperative Decade” shared the work that is being done around the world to provide better awareness and identification of cooperative businesses.
“The [International Cooperative] Alliance has member cooperatives in nearly 100 countries around the world. Those co-operatives are owned by a billion of the world’s citizens,” Green said during her address. “Using the CO-OP Marque demonstrates our shared values across national boundaries.”
During the Annual Cooperatives Conference, Jill Bamburg, president of Pinchot University, addressed concerns surrounding the lack of cooperative business education in current MBA curriculum. “People always ask, ‘How can we get cooperative business into the MBA curriculum?’ To which I tell them it’s already there! It’s just really hard to find,” she said. In order to move forward, Bamburg challenged attendees to focus on three leverage points: faculty, students and employers.
Wednesday’s Global Food Security Panel discussion was preceded by a video message from Minnesota State Senator Amy Klobuchar, who opened her remarks by sharing her spin on words from Minnesota’s unofficial poet laurite Garrison Keillor, “Minnesota is a state where all the women are strong, the men are good looking, and all the co-op’s are above average.”
Klobuchar also referenced her recent trip to Africa, during which she was able to visit one of NCBA CLUSA’s USAID-funded flagship food security projects in Senegal. The panel then turned its attention to the role of co-ops in ensuring the world has enough to eat through sustainable agriculture and market linkages, which are a natural connection point for cooperatives.
Wednesday concluded with a workshop focused on the five goals of the Blueprint for a Cooperative Decade. Look for full workshop results on NCBA CLUSA’s website in the coming weeks!
The final day brought a discussion on NCBA CLUSA’s Advocacy efforts with a panel of experts with more than 100 years of collective insight into the nations politics.
The conference concluded with a panel conversation addressing co-ops and the Civil Rights movement. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. Panelists recounted the role co-ops played in the movement and shared their own experiences with attendees.
Referring to the impact made by cooperatives, Wendell Paris of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives reminded attendees of the power they can wield for good. “You are dangerous people, do you know why? Organized people are more dangerous than organized money!”
NCBA CLUSA thanks all of the sponsors that made this years conferences possible: CBI Inc., CHS Inc., CoBank, LBMX, Capital Group, OrderWithMe, Crowe Horwath, Equal Exchange, Frontier, NCB, Pachamama, ASPCO, TransFirst, MindActive and Pentegra.
We look forward to seeing you next year in Washington, D.C. , where we’ll meet from May 4-6 for the cooperative advocacy-themed 2015 Annual Cooperatives Conference. Save the date now!