I’m only half-a-day into the annual NSAC Conference and am yet again inspired to spread the word about how cooperatives are so well-suited to allow for positive change in our world. By eliminating the traditional shareholder/investor structure and replacing it with the role of servicing members/owners — giving them an active voice in governance and focusing on their needs — we encourage workers and stakeholders to participate in a democratic process that creates a sense pride to all involved.
I’ll be speaking tomorrow at 1:15 pm, along with Pat Sterner from NCBA and Phil Miller from NSAC, on the topic of cooperative types that are less familiar to NSAC members: grocery co-ops, housing co-ops, daycare co-ops, and worker co-ops, as well as healthcare co-ops and buying/sharing clubs. If you’re in the Denver area or are already attending the conference, I’d love for you to join us.
I met two great speakers today, Adam Schwartz, founder of The Cooperative Way (favorite quote of the day: “If you’ve seen one co-op… you’ve seen one co-op.”), and also a part of the CDS Consulting Co-op; as well as Vern Dosch, of the National Information Solutions Cooperative, and author of “Wired Differently” — an inspiring book about leadership through service, and how to attract and retain talented employees with a positive company culture.
If you’re not familiar with cooperatives, or even if you are, but need reminding about why they’re so special, let me share with you the seven principles all cooperatives hold dear. They were summarized in so many different ways this morning, including Helen Keller’s great quote: “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
1) Voluntary, Open Ownership: Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all people able to use its services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.
2) Democratic Owner Control: Cooperatives are democratic organizations controlled by their members—those who buy the goods or use the services of the cooperative—who actively participate in setting policies and making decisions.
3) Owner Economic Participation: Members contribute equally to, and democratically control, the capital of the cooperative. This benefits members in proportion to the business they conduct with the cooperative rather than on the capital invested.
4) Autonomy And Independence: Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If the co-op enters into agreements with other organizations or raises capital from external sources, it is done so based on terms that ensure democratic control by the members and maintains the cooperative’s autonomy.
5) Education, Training And Information: Cooperatives provide education and training for members, elected representatives, managers and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their cooperative. Members also inform the general public about the nature and benefits of cooperatives.
6) Cooperation Among Cooperatives: Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.
7) Concern For The Community: While focusing on member needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of communities through policies and programs accepted by the members.
Hope to see you in Denver. Give me a shout-out on the 2015 TFACC app if you’re here! If not, let’s plan ahead for the upcoming NCBA Co-operative Professionals Conference this November 9-11 in Minneapolis, MN. I’m co-chairing the Co-ops 101 Pre-Conference and would love to see lots of attendance by accountants who wish to expand their services to include co-ops.