Washington, D.C. (October 4-6, 2017) – This Co-op Month has already proven to be like no other before. For the first time, the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA CLUSA) started the October celebration by hosting the inaugural Co-op Impact Conference.
What Made This Event Special?
Cooperatives are an incredibly diverse group of businesses being served uniquely by sector associations and aspects of the federal government. Any number of events are held annually, designed to cater to the needs of industry, technology, and product lines – but never before has a national event been designed with an inspiring and applicable program to unify cooperative businesses regardless of sector.
The Co-op Impact Conference introduced itself on October 4th as the premier networking and learning event for cooperatives here in the United States. Serving up a meaningful program for co-op leaders, members, employees, practitioners, and advocates, it generated an inspiring energy. The event brought together a variety of co-op sectors to build on and further highlight the economic impact cooperatives have in the United States and around the world. Cooperative leaders and innovators including Vern Dosch, Nathan Schneider, Robynn Shrader, and Jessica Gordon Nembhard highlighted the agenda. Outside the direct cooperative space, leaders from the Rockefeller Foundation, the Aspen Institute, the United States Department of Treasury, and the United States Department of Agriculture weighed in on the cooperative program. The organization and caliber of the event agenda were unprecedented.
As a lack of data and research on the cooperative business model has systemically held the co-op movement back, a group of economists and the NCBA CLUSA have risen to the occasion – providing a solution through forming the Council of Cooperative Economists for the first time. The first report on the state of the cooperative economy and its impact was shared at the conference. You can read the details of the release here in this month’s issue of the Cooperative Business Journal.
Vern Dosch, president and CEO of National Information Solutions Cooperative inspired the first day of programming with an uplifting keynote that focused on the progress made in society over the last hundred years. Dosch spoke to the contributions of cooperative businesses in the past and the role they have to play as pioneers once again in today’s society. Dosch stated, “There is a lot of doom and gloom circulated in today’s conversations; we forget we live in the most peaceful and innovative time in history. Cooperatives are a part of that peace and innovation; we need to tell that story.”
Co-ops at the Impact Conference declared their commitment to kindness; and Howard Brodsky of CCA Global Partners, Lance Rantala of Blue Hawk Cooperative, Robynn Shrader of National Co+op Grocers, and Jerry McGeorge of Organic Valley formally pledged their participation in the 2018 #Coops4Kindness campaign. Learn more and pledge your support at Coops4Kindness.coop.
Business leaders, academics, and tech innovators are all talking about the Inclusive Economy. The Impact Conference made sure to highlight that co-ops are the embodiment of this concept. Alyson Wise, Associate Director of Jobs and Economic Opportunities at the Rockefeller Foundation, Maureen Conway, Vice President for Policy Programs at the Aspen Institute sat down with Matt Liddle, Outdoor Programs and Outreach Mid-Atlantic Manager at REI Co-op, and acclaimed co-op academic and professor at John Jay College-CUNY Jessica Gordon Nembhard sat down and discussed the topic. Conway framed the needed support of the inclusive economy in terms of “mastery and motivation” – labeling co-ops as one of the best avenues to pull people into participating in business to advance themselves economically.
Platform Cooperatives, co-ops that operate a technology-based system as a business rather than a typical brick and mortar store, were one of the focuses of the Purchasing Co-op track at the Impact Conference. Nathan Schneider, a pioneer of platform co-ops, headlined the second day’s agenda. Schneider spoke to the timing of today’s consumer and worker demands and how the cooperative structure is a true game changer for the future of the global marketplace. Schneider is a leader of the Platform Cooperative Consortium, which will be holding The People’s Disruption: Platform Co-ops for Global Challenges, an event in New York City November 10-11th, 2017. Learn more about attending here.
The Cooperative Impact Conference brought an inspirational energy to the cooperative movement and timely influence to Co-op Month this October. Looking forward to 2018, cooperatives across the country have the opportunity to make an impact in the lives of their members and their communities; and this time next year we will look forward to hearing all about it at the next Cooperative Impact Conference.