About Kalista Popp

Maryland and DC Credit Union Association Communications and Marketing

Brazil Home to Largest Medical Co-op Network


What if the United States could point to a cooperative as its largest private health care provider?

The recent debates over universal healthcare in the United States have led to a focus on solutions in other countries. One example comes from Brazil, where Unimed represents the largest network of medical cooperatives in the world and is the country’s biggest private healthcare operator, with a commitment to social responsibility and meeting the needs of all sectors of the population, not just the rich.

The cooperative was founded in 1967 in the city of Santos, in the state of São Paulo, by an idealistic gynaecologist, Dr Edmundo Castilho, as an alternative to the capital-based health plans and the increasing commodification of the health system. He envisioned an alternative pathway for medical care, based on the principles of professional excellence and fairness. He joined with 22 other doctors to form the first cooperative, an innovation in Brazil at the time, the União dos Médicos de Santos (Unimed Santos).

Since then, Unimed has grown to become a network of 360 cooperatives covering over 80% of Brazil’s counties. Cooperatives have different coverage areas and are given gradings based on whether they are based within municipalities (grade one), regions or states (grade two) or the national confederation (Unimed, grade three). In addition to 100 of its own hospitals, 54 laboratories and 456 ambulances, it also has 3,033 associated hospitals within its network, and provides care to 19 million customers, 10% of the country’s population.

Unimed is structured to provide a high degree of decentralization and autonomy, with the doctors themselves responsible for the cooperative management. Every physician who joins the network must also be a partner, so Unimed’s 110,000 doctors are also the owners of the cooperatives. Every year, they provide over 69 million consultations, 2 million hospitalizations and 138 million exams.

Healthcare cooperatives can help keep the cost of prescription medicines down, help community-owned hospitals remain independent and improve the quality of healthcare. One of the initiatives to improve quality being implemented by the Unimed network is the pay-for-performance (P4P) scheme, which has been piloted by Unimed-Franca and Unimed-Belo Horizonte.

The P4P scheme gives financial incentives to healthcare providers who meet certain quality or efficiency targets, and can also include disincentives for poor performances. For example, physicians might not be reimbursed for the cost of treating medical errors. Though the jury is still out on the ultimate success of this type of scheme, it has brought higher patient satisfaction, an increase in preventive care, an average decrease in per-consultation cost and fewer hospitalizations for chronic diseases like asthma.

As in 1967, Unimed is leading the way in providing quality, affordable healthcare to the Brazilian people.

Originally published by Carla Ranicki on www.stories.coop

Global Image for Cooperatives Launched by ICA

Screen Shot 2013-11-04 at 09.55.31
November 6, 2013 (Capetown)
A global marque for co-operatives has been unveiled by the International Co-operative Alliance.

The co-operative logo, designed by a British co-operative, has been launched at the Alliance’s Global Conference in Cape Town.

Calverts, the London-based creative co-operative, was commissioned in March by the ICA to create the common identity.

Dame Pauline Green, President of the International Co-operative Alliance, said: “This new brand or identifier that we have produced is something that we believe there is a real thirst for around the world and has been for some time. When we had the UN logo everybody around the world used it.”

Designed by Calverts, with support from the Barcelona- and Buenos Aires-based Guerrini Island Design, the branding has been designed with feedback provided by co-operators around the world. The process has been overseen by the ICA’s communications committee, which is chaired by Co-operatives UK Secretary General Ed Mayo.

Mr Mayo said: “The idea of a common marque for the co-operative movement is implicit in many of the images we associate with co-operatives over time. The wheatsheaf, the bees, circles, hands, the rainbow. All of these have been images that have helped to unite the co-operative movement over time.

“The great quality of the co-operative marque, is you look at it and immediately you think yes that’s us. That’s who we are.”

In April, the Co-operative Global Identity Survey gathered over 1,000 views from 86 countries from those within the movement. It asked people to choose colours that they best associated with co-operatives, along with what it means to be a co-operative.

The results from the survey have been fed into the design process that has produced the final marque, colour palette, slogan and brand language, this is something that all co-operatives can align with and which will differentiate them from other forms of business.

Added Mr Mayo: “I’m so pleased the International Co-operative Alliance has taken the lead in developing this. The ICA’s Blueprint is the wider context for this — an ambitious programme of which confidence in the co-operative identity is one key element of realising our own potential as a movement. Just as membership of the ICA can be a unifying force and just as using the dotCoop model online can be a unifying force; the new co-operative marque can be something that helps to knit together the wider movement.”

Though Mr Mayo believes that this isn’t going to create a change over night. Involved in the early development of the Fairtrade mark 20 years, Mr Mayo has experience that “on its own, it will do very little”.  “In 20 years my vision is that the co-operative model is front of mind,” said Mr Mayo. “This marque will help us to be resonant and global across every country that we know co-operatives are present in. That we are a force for economic benefit and global justice.”

A series of signature images have also been unveiled as part of the new visual identity. These have been developed by BrandOutLoud, a non-profit branding agency based in The Hague, Netherlands. The images subtly show the new identity’s double-O as the core and shows people connecting.

Mr Mayo has also encouraged UK co-operatives to use the marque and accompanying imagery. He said: “The invitation I would make to every co-operative and mutual enterprise is to look at the new co-operative marque to see how you can use it, whether it’s in your business material, on your website, through social media, in your consumer information or on products. Look to see how you can show how you are proud to be a co-operative.”

Dame Pauline added: “I would say to co-operators I believe that this is a marque that I think you can identify with. It says who you are – nobody else can use it”.

“I believe that bona fide co-operatives who stick to their principles and good governance and member ownership should be using this to prove that they are a good, sound, co-operative businesses who subscribe and aspire to the principles of the global co-operative movement.”

Reposted from the International Co-operative Alliance website.

The Democracy at Work Network (DAWN)

Interest in worker cooperatives and cooperative development is growing. At the same time, many groups interested in the cooperative model have little familiarity with actual cooperative practices. There is a great need for experienced voices to help guide the plans and projects of those exploring worker cooperatives, to help them set up effective systems, structures and processes. This is where Democracy at Work Network (DAWN) comes in. The Democracy at Work Network (DAWN) is a network of certified peer advisors, all with strong social and professional ties, who cooperate in training themselves and providing technical assistance services to worker cooperatives.

Aaron Dawson (MMCCU ’12) currently serves as Peer Advisor with DAWN. He has written about his experiences with DAWN and shares how his graduate work in Cooperative Management Education served him in providing technical assistance to worker co-ops.

The Democracy at Work Network (DAWN): Peer Technical Assistance for Worker Cooperatives

In 2009, I was squarely in the middle of my Master’s in Cooperative Management program through St. Mary’s when I was invited to be on a working group tasked with developing a Peer Technical Assistance Network for the US Federation of Worker Co-ops. The goal of this group was to create an organization capable of providing technical assistance to emerging and existing worker co-ops, but with the consulting and expertise coming from advisors who were currently or recently workers in democratic workplaces. The goal was that technical assistance would be carried out by those who had real, living experience in the worker co-op field. It was an opportunity to create a vital resource for the US Worker Co-op movement, peer assistance, all while increasing the connections, communication and pool of knowledge within those who worked for worker co-ops. And as I mentioned earlier, the invitation came smack-dab in the middle of my program.

I thought long and hard about this invitation, weighing the lack of free time I already had due to my master’s program, on top of the heavy demands upon my time at work. In the end I decided an opportunity to be a part of something this innovative, important, and frankly this useful to U.S. worker co-ops was too valuable to pass up. And the rest is history.

Well not really history yet, we are still very much in the beginnings of our organization’s path.  In our short time as an organization, the advisors at DAWN have already accomplished some exciting things. We set and implemented an organizational structure including a working board called the DAWN Governors as well as Marketing, Training, and Service & Evaluation committees. We created an intensive, year-long training and certification program which includes bi-weekly  webinars with topics ranging from Co-op Financing and Ethics of Consulting to  Co-op  Business Conversions and Different Legal Structures. This program has also established a process for growing the pool of advisors with a requirement for internship with professional consultants and development organizations and a research project on a specific worker co-op for all potential Peer Technical Advisors. I was one of the “pilot” participants in this program and I am very proud to see it established to engage other advisors. We launched a pilot Peer Technical Assistance Network in 2010, offering up to four free hours of consulting to worker co-op members in the US Federation of Worker Co-ops and since the launch the advisors in the network have offered technical assistance to more than 100 cooperatives, individuals and organizations, spoken at more than a two dozen conferences and undertaken long term projects with more than 20 clients over the last three years. The network currently has 10 advisors, 8 apprentice advisors (advisors who have successfully completed their one year certification program and are now working in tandem with experienced advisors) and 4 profesional advisors (professional consultants that completed the one year certification process and work with DAWN as part of a team of advisors).

Despite the personal challenges of doing all of this while completing my Master’s program, I found it to be hugely beneficial to be working with an amazing group of people to create an organization as well as undergoing the year-long training program. I especially found that the knowledge I was learning through my St. Mary’s program went hand in hand with the knowledge I was gaining through my Peer Technical Assistance Training Webinars. While through St. Mary’s Master’s program I was gaining broad-based and overall knowledge about Co-operatives and their history in the world along with specific knowledge on governance and HR in a variety of types of co-ops, I was also taking two-hour webinars that dealt specifically to issues within worker co-ops! It was great, I felt like a co-op sponge in a great deep co-op ocean!

I think that while all that knowledge benefited me personally, it has also allowed me to be a better Peer Technical Assistant. I especially feel that my St. Mary’s education has given me a depth of knowledge and a high level of confidence that comes along with a Master’s Degree in Cooperative Management. It has equipped me to be able to offer peer technical assistance to other co-ops in an effective way. Since the Federation has launched its Peer Technical Assistance organization, I have personally (along with a peer) consulted for 8 hours to one worker co-op, I gave a Worker Co-op 101 presentation (click here to see this presentation) with another peer to an Occupy Wall Street group on New York City in 2011, and offered a free day of peer advising recently at a regional Co-operative conference in Syracuse, NY. In all of these instances, I found myself not only drawing on experience with my own co-op but also using knowledge from the DAWN training program as well as knowledge and resources from the MMCCU program. I believe that the skills and the knowledge that I have taken from all three of these areas have really given me a solid foundation in co-op knowledge and that in turn allows me to work with individuals, co-ops and my own organization to strengthen both individual co-ops as well as the US co-op movement overall. And in the end, all of this knowledge that I have gained gives me a stronger urge to give back, to share what I have learned and to impart this knowledge to others. It’s meaningful that these resources and knowledge will not stay only with me, but will be shared and help co-ops around the US grow strong. It is the Peer Technical Assistance program that allows this knowledge to be spread.

To learn more about Peer Technical Assistance Program, check out the DAWN website.

Challenges on the Global Co-op Stage

Andrew McLeod (MMCCU ’12) is the author of “Cooperate and No One Gets Hurt“, a blog on cooperative economics. In response to recent announcements of major shifts in 3 large global cooperatives, McLeod has been writing analytical commentary to spark discussion and engage the cooperative community. This post features his writing on Fagor, The Co-operative Bank, and Rabobank.

October was Co-op Month, which is usually supposed to highlight the benefits of cooperative economics but this year featured a large-scale PR nightmare in the form of three serious setbacks for the global co-op movement:

So what might these stories together teach us?

We need to have co-ops supported by cooperative systems, not much unlike the way that organisms require organic systems. Each of these crises illustrates the cooperative model’s strength in some way, and we should not forget that a great many other enterprises have already failed in the aftermath of a global financial crisis.

My enrollment in MMCCU during the fall of 2008 coincided with onset of the crisis. My earliest memories of the program were of lively discussions of current events, which often meshed neatly with our course material. I also saw first hand the transformative impact of the program: More than one of my cohort “got religion” and we all were deeply inspired by organization like the Co-operative Group, Mondragon and Raiffeisenbanks. We looked forward to seeing how cooperatives would step up during a massive-scale market failure.

Our movement is certainly sadder and wiser after the past month’s developments. And I imagine that I’m not the only one wrestling with discouragement over the severity of the problems illustrated, wondering why cooperatives can’t even hold on to the gains we’ve made. However, recent events seem to affirm what I took as MMCCU’s core lesson: Co-ops are collectively a movement and we will sink or swim, collectively.

The brightest spot I see is ironically in the bankruptcy of Fagor Electrodomésticos (which I shall refer to here simply as “Fagor” despite the existence of several other Mondragon co-ops sharing that name). Although I know that the local impact is devastating, the Mondragon Cooperative Corporation’s decision to let Fagor fail without further support (300 million euros were provided in previous salvage efforts) appears to vindicate MCC’s cellular method of organizing new co-ops when one becomes too large (hence several “Fagor” co-ops as well as 100 others).

One fascinating sub-story is that Edessa – a Fagor product line – launched a spirited attempt to break away from the bankruptcy, arguing that it could be a viable business if freed from the foundering mother co-op; the provincial government was interested enough to extent a 3 million euro credit guarantee. For a time the idea seemed to have traction and the bankruptcy declaration was delayed while the provincial government offered a line of credit to save the Edessa plant. In the end, Edessa will apparently be included in the bankruptcy being filed this week, but the fact that there was some degree of worker-driven consideration that Edessa might split from Fagor suggests a multi-level autonomy within Mondragon’s constituent cooperatives. This deserves further study.

The more I look at this, the more it seems like a painful but also beautiful illustration of the brilliance of Mondragon’s decentralism. As pointed out in an Oct. 31 statement:

“This is an association of independent, self-managed cooperatives that have furnished themselves with a series of mutual support mechanisms. The Corporation protects the interests of all its member cooperatives, although the responsibility for their business management lies entirely with each one individually.

This means that the circumstances affecting Fagor have no bearing on the other cooperatives within the Corporation because it is not a business holding, but rather an association of independent, self-managing companies.”

Regardless of claims that might be made about Fagor’s supposed inability to let go of members (the basis of the “no layoffs for members” narrative that can make the Mondragon model so appealing), this co-op made a valiant effort to protect its members until the market forced its hand. Fagor was in a difficult line of business: It grew along with a massive real estate bubble in Spain and globally, and when that bubble collapsed Fagor found itself, in the words of the statement above, “no longer respond(ing) to market needs.”

Some reporting has suggested this weakens the overall case for co-ops, claiming for example that Mondragon “was thought to be flexible enough to adjust to Spain’s economic crisis” as though closing down a flagship enterprise while finding employment for many of its workers isn’t a sign of flexibility.

Still, we should not assume that the vaunted Mondragon model will get through this unscathed. As UK co-op blogger Andrew Bibby points out,

“….the decision was seen as a bitter blow by Fagor’s workers. One local commentator wrote that “the wounds which have opened between the Mondragón Corporation and Fagor Electrodomésticos following the emergence of a crisis without precedents are going to be very difficult to heal.”

Despite the apparent stability of MCC as a whole, it appears that some elements of the Basque government were interested in an increased state role, perhaps an “intervention” or “conversion.” However, the presidency was more interested in a supporting role rather than serving as the “locomotive.” Presumably there are a lot of opinions about the proper role of government among the Basques, much in the way folks in the US hotly debated what to do with General Motors. However, the Fagor situation is different because GM didn’t have a larger system of support to fall back on.

To the provincial government’s credit, it offered assistance contingent upon MCC’s decision to salvage Fagor. And to MCC’s credit, they made their decision based on what they see as market realities.

In the end, there was no government bailout to prevent the bankruptcy of Fagor. But that was not due to external political realities so much as the decisions made by the cooperative system at multiple levels, for better or worse: MCC decided not to risk further losses by drawing a line under funds already given to Fagor. Fagor then decided to declare bankruptcy and include Edessa in the bankruptcy filing, despite Edessa’s spirited attempt to break free by means of public funding from the province.

I’m oversimplifying, of course. Each of these decisions was surely made by some combination of management and governance, under significant pressure from governments and creditors. The decisions were most likely also influenced by workers exerting pressure via both internal co-op processes and repeated direct action in the streets surrounding Fagor facilities and MCC headquarters.

Likewise hand, the Co-operative Group and Rabobank both agreed to the terms of their respective situations, presumably through elected governance structures. These co-ops may have been under a good deal of duress but nevertheless they did make decisions leading up to today (and leading into the future). And in the Co-operative Bank’s case, small bondholders could still sink the deal through a series of votes on the terms.

However, a rather different picture emerges from the collapse of the Co-operative Bank, which seems at least partly the result of dysfunctional relations with the government in a country whose political landscape includes a “Co-operative Party” embedded in Labour, and a general interest in co-ops from all major parties.

Second-guessing bank regulators is above my pay grade and I’m certainly no expert on British politics. But I can’t help noticing a spate of media coverage about the apparently serious breakdowns in oversight of the Co-op/Britannia merger that laid the groundwork for the bank’s collapse: There appears to be a variety of regulatory issues/problems, quite possibly aggravated by the government and opposition both having a vested interest in the project. Suffice to say the bank’s problems are related to its entanglement with a nexus of government and the banking crisis, as well as its tremendous size and rapid growth.

Rather than relying on cooperative systems dedicated to the needs of members, there seems to have been misplaced trust that government would take care of things. And now the government is investigating its own activities while the co-op itself embarks on a “root and branch review” of what went wrong with its own governance, including (ominously) the possibility of bringing in new leadership from outside the cooperative movement; already the Group’s chair has resigned effective immediately despite only having six months left of his term. This all was triggered by a sordid scandal that broke over the weekend as former bank chair Rev. Paul Flowers was caught on video buying drugs. This is simply too much weight to put on the misbehavior of one individual, and I think it further supports decentralism of the sort displayed in Mondragon.

I’m also seeing accusations that Dutch regulators failed in their oversight of Rabobank, contributing to a situation in which traders were allowed to go astray, under the influence of a corrupt industry in which they saw themselves as merely not the biggest crooks. This is a far cry from the idealized image of a bank that is a federated co-op formed to meet the financing needs of farmers.

While both Fagor and the Co-operative Bank have turned out to be too tightly tethered to the speculative global economy (while Rabobank is also ensnared in the culture of global banking) it currently looks like MCC is making the kinds of decisions needed to weather the storm.

This show is not over, and I’m not predicting that MCC won’t experience further setbacks as they face their greatest challenge so far. But the Basque cooperators are at least showing that they can make hard decisions when it really comes down to it, even if that means cutting some massive losses.

A key question to keep in mind is as we watch these stories unfold is this: To what extent has the existence of a cooperative system contributed to the overall success of the model? And if early indications that cooperative support systems are outperforming government support systems, what does that suggest about our way forward?

There are certainly still many developments to come, and we should all be watching them closely. Even if these distinguished cooperatives do hit rough patches from time to time, we have much to learn from their experiences.

McLeod (MMCCU ’12) is a co-op developer, educator, and member of Collective Seeds Consulting Co-op.  Collective Seeds is a shared-services cooperative for consultants specializing in various aspects of co-op development, management, organizing and education. McLeod has been working in the cooperative movement for two decades, with a focus on food co-ops, worker co-ops and faith-based cooperation.

Modern Era of Cooperation

Guest post by John McNamara, Business Manager, Union Cab; Madison WI (MMCCU ’10). Originally published September 2013 on John’s blog.


Membership Participation in an Era of Cooperation

Earlier this month, I had the fortune to attend and present at the International Symposium on Cooperative Governance. Over 100 practitioners, movement leaders and academics from 24 nations and five continents converged on Saint Mary’s University in Halifax, Nova Scotia for a two day conference proceeded by a day of meetings.

While the focus of the conference was governance, it became clear that membership participation is one of the vital signs of good governance. However, in this modern era of large cooperatives what does (or should) member participation look like? Traditionally, consumer cooperatives only manage participation in elections at about six percent of the membership. My cooperative, Williamson Street Grocery Cooperative in Madison has been considered a leader in getting members to meetings yet still only manages about 7-8% of the membership. To be fair, the “bums in seats” method of tracking membership may not be viable. After all, if 50% of Willy Street’s membership showed up at a member meeting (or a board meeting), the coop would need to rent a stadium to hold the approximately 15,000. The same is true for most credit unions and Ag coops.

How do we engage our membership in a way that is fundamentally different from  being a “member” of Sam’s Club or Costco?

What should cooperative do to keep members from drifting into considering themselves only as consumers, not owners? Education was a key part of the discussion in Halifax, but even then most attendees acknowledged that our educational programs consisted of a form of “sheep dip” in which the sheep is thrown into a medicated bath, crawls out and shakes off the moisture and continues on with the residue of the medication hopefully providing protection. Unfortunately, the symposium did not lend itself to a strong brainstorming session, although a number of comments and ideas were shared. Since I have had a couple of weeks to absorb it all and think about it, here are some ideas to engage the membership in a modern era:
As was pointed out, membership is not a benefit given to members, but a right that they should exercise. We need to create a “push-pull” effect wherein the Coop pushes out opportunities for members to participate and cultivates a culture of “pull” among the membership.  Perhaps directors can take a leadership role in this or voluntary positions could be created.

    1. Member Ambassadors (or directors) should be assigned a percentage of the membership (perhaps on ambassador for each 500 members). There role would be to personally connect the management and board of the cooperative to the members through periodic social events, social media, and personal contact. They might be considered “stewards” who would help members learn about the cooperative identity, opportunities for involvement, and even get feedback on proposal for long-term planning by holding forums and discussion sessions. Ambassadors would get a choice discount for their services.
    1. Create a social environment that extends beyond the storefront. A coop the size of Williamson Street could manage a softball league (league, not team), bowling league or other forms of social interaction between members. During electoral season, hold member allow debates between the candidates for local office (or their surrogates).
    1. Make workers full members. A coop such as Williamson should expand the nine-member board to 17 with the other eight members coming from the workers. This is, essentially, the Mondragon model for retail. The president would be a consumer, but the board would have relatively equal power between consumers and workers. Workers make up the most significant non-member stakeholder group in any cooperative. If a consumer coop were to close, the consumer members could simply go to another store and get most of their needs met in today’s economy. The workers, on the other hand, may not be able to find employment. Since unemployment brings a host of ills with it (physical and mental health, divorce, foreclosure, bankruptcy, etc), members should see the importance of a successful store to the workers and include them in an equal membership as workers. This would, effectively, create an Ambassador at every checkout and in every aisle.

These are some ideas to get people thinking. The Symposium was an amazing event and the organizers will be producing a draft report that will be submitted to the planners of the 2014 International Summit of Cooperatives to  beheld in Quebec City.

2013 dotCoop Cooperative Excellence Awards

Donna Tarasawa, Marketing Manager of First Alternative Cooperative of Corvallis, Oregon accepting the dotCoop Award for Global Excellence

Donna Tarasawa, Marketing Manager of First Alternative Cooperative of Corvallis, Oregon accepting the dotCoop Award for Global Excellence

(November 4, 2013, CAPE TOWN, South Africa) — Michael Beall, president and CEO of the National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International (NCBA CLUSA), announced today four winners of the 2013 dotCoop Global Awards for Cooperative Excellence before thousands of cooperators gathered at the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) Global Conference & General Assembly in Cape Town, South Africa.

Each year the dotCoop Global Awards for Cooperative Excellence recognizes outstanding co-ops for their application of the cooperative values and principles to drive cooperative and business success.

“The recognition of these exceptional cooperative businesses is a testament to the power of the movement and how the model’s differences can be harnessed and utilized to positively impact communities globally,” said Beall.

Please join NCBA CLUSA in congratulating the 2013 dotCoop Global Awards for Cooperative Excellence winners!

Award Winners By Category

  • Large Cooperative: Coop Zeno Gandía is a credit union with headquarters in Arecibo, Puerto Rico with more than 35,000 members. They offer a wide range of products and services to serve a diverse and growing market with a human touch that distinguishes them from other financial institutions. Providing cutting-edge technology allows their members to use Internet and mobile services for many functions and connects this dynamic financial cooperative to the youth of their community.
  • Medium Cooperative: The First Alternative Cooperative is a retail food cooperative located in Corvallis, Oregon in the United States. It provides natural and organic food in community-oriented stores to its more than 7,000 members. Visit their website to find out about classes, recipes, buying local and wellness. Clearly a business focused on member and community needs.
  • Small Cooperative: Cooperativa Orientación y Securidad C.T.A. is a worker cooperative that provides monitoring, private security and investigations for hospitals and is based in Bogota, Colombia. They have a great website that explains cooperatives and how they and their members are connected to their communities and other cooperatives across Colombia.
  • Cooperative Organization: The Canadian Co-operative Association based in Ottawa, Ontario, is this year’s organization winner. The CCA is a national association for co-operatives in Canada, representing more than nine million co-operative and credit union members from over 2,000 organizations. CCA is itself a federally-incorporated co-operative, owned by its member organizations. The Canadian Co-operative Association provides leadership to promote, develop and unite co-operatives and credit unions for the benefit of people in Canada and around the world.

Press release available at http://tinyurl.com/ncbadotcoopawards. Photo credit, National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA-CLUSA).


Co-op Month Materials and Media

Happy Co-op Month!

It’s hard to believe we are halfway through one of my favorite months of the year. By now, many of you are celebrating and spotlighting co-ops throughout your community with wonderful engaging events. I hope everyone is having fun talking about co-ops, profiling co-ops, and raising awareness about co-ops! ( I would love to have details to share here about what folks are doing. Please feel free to share links and info with me via the blog or at kalista.popp@gmail.com)

There may be some of you out there that use every day of Co-op Month to your advantage, with events and happenings all the way through to the end of the month. If you’re one of those folks, or if you just want to decorate your co-op with some snazzy posters, here are some great materials and graphics for your use.

The National Co-op Business Association (NCBA) has crafted several versions of posters and images for use in newsletters, emails, social media, and print. Spread the Co-op Message and share widely! (With a kind mention of NCBA and www.ncba.coop as the source, of course!)

Celebrate Co-op Month 2013: Imagine A Co-operative Decade

As we celebrate Co-op Month 2013 and turn the spotlight on co-ops, the highlights and energy of 2012 International Year of the Co-ops is not far behind us.   It is exciting to remember the achievements of 2012 and imagine how the co-op movement could build a vision for co-ops that spans an entire decade. A Co-operative Decade.

Erbin Crowell (MMCCU ’09) is the Executive Director of the Neighboring Food Co-ops Association (NFCA), a New England-based network of 30 food co-ops and start-ups.

In celebration of Co-op Month and all the work being done throughout the month to raise the profile of co-ops, I want to share an inspiring piece from Erbin on how we can move from Year of the Co-operative to the Co-operative Decade.

From the Year of Co-ops to the Co-operative Decade

By Erbin Crowell, January 2013

The past year has been an extraordinary opportunity for our food co-ops. In the context of a devastating global recession, co-operative enterprise has shown itself to be an effective and resilient business model. When the United Nations declared 2012 the International Year of Co-ops, it brought unprecedented attention to co-operative enterprise as an effective tool for poverty reduction, employment, participation, and food security locally and around the world.

An important outcome of the Year is that co-ops began to better understand our shared impact on the economy. Around the world a billion people are members of co-ops — more than directly own stock in publicly traded corporations — and here in the US, more than 1 in 4 Americans are members of over 29,000 co-operatives.

At its historic General Assembly this past October, the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) approved an ambitious vision for the future. The “Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade” builds on the momentum created by 2012 by promoting co-ops as leaders in social, economic and ecological sustainability. By focusing on our core co-operative identity, mobilizing member participation and communicating our difference, the document argues, co-ops can become the fastest growing form of enterprise by 2020.

Over the past year the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA), a network of 30 food co-ops and start-ups in the New England region, has been making the case for the vital role of food co-ops in building sustainable local economies. Locally owned by more than 80,000 members, we have a powerful impact in New England, employing more than 1,400 people and purchasing over $30 million in local products annually. We have also worked with farmer co-ops, worker co-ops and credit unions to help people understand how our business model is relevant not just in food retailing but in all aspects of their lives, whether as consumers, producers or workers. By putting people before profit, co-ops are able to think beyond the bottom line and invest in the future of our communities.

In New England and New York alone there are nearly 9,000 co-ops with 9.5 million members. What could we accomplish if even a small portion of us came together around a shared vision for the future? To achieve the ICA’s vision of becoming the fastest growing business model by 2020, we will need to move beyond rhetoric of “cooperation among co-ops” to policies that put this ideal into action, prioritizing the purchase of goods and services from one another, mutual investment in development and collaboration on legislation. Working together is not only the right thing to do; it also makes business sense. In doing so, we raise the profile of our co-ops and reinforce our relevance in a challenging economy. We strengthen our success and our ability to serve our members in more aspects of their lives. And we shift the dialog on government policies that affect our ability to grow and help more people help themselves and their communities.

The International Year of Co-ops was an important opportunity for co-ops to tell our story to millions of people hungry for an alternative to business as usual. The Co-operative Decade is our chance to demonstrate the potential of our movement and to build a more just, resilient and sustainable food system and economy at home and around the world.

Erbin Crowell is Executive Director of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association (www.nfca.coop) and serves on the board of the National Cooperative Business Association (www.ncba.coop). Visit http://ica.coop/en/blueprint to learn more about the ICA and the Co-operative Decade.