The Right Tool To Build A More Equitable Society

Three years ago after NCBA CLUSA’s Board of Directors set a new strategic vision for the association, placing co-ops at the center of the movement to build a more inclusive economy, NCBA CLUSA staff set out a “thematic” calendar to hit on each of the key tenants of such an economy: participation, sustainability, stability, growth and equity. We featured two tenants during each of the first two years and had determined to culminate our work with a sole focus on equity in the third year—2020. This focus means that our annual Cooperative IMPACT Conference and our published materials—especially the Cooperative Business Journal—would explore the role of co-ops in fostering diversity, equity and inclusion.

In 2020, we now face the twin pandemics of COVID-19 and institutional racism. The brutal killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and too many others—coupled with the devastating disparate health and economic effects of COVID-19 on Black and Brown communities—have sharpened our focus on dismantling the systems that result in inequality and inequity.

As David Thompson’s stirring article about John Lewis’ connection to the cooperative movement makes clear, people have used co-ops for generations as a tactic to create greater equity in the U.S. Now is the time for the cooperative community to once again step forward and shine a light on how this democratically controlled business model can empower people in their businesses and communities. This is what this issue of the Journal sets out to do.

While we know that co-ops can be an effective tool, Samira Salem’s excellent article clearly articulates the why by making express the values case, business case and policy case for diversity, equity and inclusion. Virginia Brown and Camila Piñeiro Harnecker broaden the lens by looking at the international stage and examining a tool that policymakers can use to enable co-op development and create more equitable businesses. Finally, Capital Impact Partners describes how financial institutions can better support DEI for returning citizens with an inspirational example of a worker cooperative. This moment demands that people find the right tool to build a more equitable society. Co-ops are that tool.

Doug O’Brien,
President & CEO of NCBA CLUSA

In Cooperation,

Doug O’Brien

President & CEO of NCBA CLUSA

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