There is a reason we say member not customer
By Adam Schwartz
Every Co-op is connected to a network of cooperatives. You are probably thinking, “Really? How does that work?” Most co-ops are members of national, statewide or sectorial associations. We do this to keep in close contact with our ‘sister’ co-ops to keep up to date on how to best serve you, for local training, legislative issues affecting us and to grow the cooperative economy. This one the ways we live up to our seven cooperative principles which includes “Cooperation among cooperatives.”
There are cross sector national and international associations. The National Cooperative Business Association www.ncba.coop and the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) www.ica.coop which is made up of a wide range of cooperative businesses including agriculture, banking (credit unions), health care, housing, purchasing and many others in over 80 countries. Many of these businesses represent some of the best known global brands in the world.
In 2013 the ICA released the “Blueprint for a Cooperative Decade” designed to promote the cooperative business model as the best way to meet both the economic and social needs of individuals and communities.
The report which is available for free at www.ica.coop describes the five key areas that all co-ops need to emphasize:
- Participation (Member Engagement)
- Sustainability (how we help our communities prosper)
- Identity (making sure people understand and showcase the cooperative business model)
- Legal Framework (making sure laws and regulations help, not harm our ability to operate for your benefit)
- Capital (ensure we have the money we need to finance our operations)
Member owners of each and every co-op have a role to play in all of these areas but it is Participation (member engagement) that it is critically important to have all members actively participate in our governance through voting and maybe even running for the board. In the early days of every co-op we never could have existed without the active participation of all of our members. While technology and reliability have improved. We still need you to be involved. In many ways it is more important than ever that you feel that you belong to your co-op.
Margaret Mead the cultural anthropologist once said, “Never doubt the ability of a small group of people to change the world, indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” Your cooperative is connected to a world full of people that believe in the cooperative principles and values…
Adam Schwartz is the founder of The Cooperative Way a consulting firm that helps co-ops succeed. He is an author, speaker and member-owner of the CDS Consulting Co-op. You can follow him on Twitter @adamcooperative.