In spring 2021, researchers at the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives set out to measure how co-ops nationwide are approaching their work on Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) work. The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Trends in the Cooperative Community survey was the first step in an ongoing initiative led by the National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International (NCBA CLUSA) and the Cooperative Development Foundation (CDF) to capture co-op practices related to democratic governance and empowerment; diversity, equity and inclusion; and the financial security and advancement of workers.
Made possible with generous support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, this initiative is amplifying the potential of cooperatives to build community power by moving beyond rhetoric to take action both within and beyond their own walls. While they survey set the stage for co-ops nationwide to benchmark their own DEI practices, the peer learning journey that followed challenged four cohorts to advance a deeper conversation across the cooperative community. In a DEI landscape where talk can feel hollow, cohort members were hungry for concrete steps they could take to transform their co-ops—and their communities. If you attended the 2022 Cooperative IMPACT Conference in October, you heard their stories. If you missed IMPACT 2022, I encourage you watch the recordings.
The articles in this issue of the Cooperative Business Journal continue our DEI conversation, illustrating the power of cooperatives to transform their communities. From Lea Zeise, we learn how an indigenous corn cooperative is honoring land and legacy. Sanjay Pinto unpacks why homecare work is devalued and how co-ops are responding with dignified jobs and living wages. In “Doorway to Dreams,” Minsun Ji writes about worker co-ops creating financial futures for precarious workers. From Chynnique Ross, we hear how co-ops are empowering entrepreneurs of color—particularly Black women. Finally, Mike Schenk reports on recent analysis that confirms the “credit union difference” is both meaningful and measurable when it comes to financial well-being. As we move into a new year, I hope these stories inspire your own DEI journey.
Chair, Board of Directors,
Chief Operating Officer,
IDB Global Federal Credit Union