I was grateful for the wonderful opportunity to attend the Cooperative IMPACT conference in Washington, D.C. earlier this month.
It is easy to get hyper-focused on an individual co-op and forget about the wider movement, and I have been guilty of this at times. My main connection to the co-op movement right now is the Students’ Co-operative, a housing co-op that I am reviving in Minneapolis after a crisis during the pandemic. However, this conference was a great reminder of what got me interested in co-ops in the first place, ten years ago– their resiliency in times of crisis shown in the presentations about COOP Ukraine, their emphasis on people over profit visible in CUNA’s presentation on credit union impact, and the needs met by co-ops in U.S. rural communities and throughout the world thanks to organizations like NRECA. It was also very exciting to learn more about creative ways that co-ops are increasing access to capital, through organizations such as Shared Capital Co-op and Rochdale Capital.
I was fortunate enough to receive a scholarship from the Cooperative Development Foundation and be a part of the Cooperative Leaders and Scholars (CLS) program. Through this cohort, I met a number of cooperators from all walks of life: co-op developers, employees, members, managers, and entrepreneurs starting their own co-ops. Through CLS, I was also able to participate in an intensive one-day course on co-op principle six through St. Mary’s University. The course provided a framework to think about cooperation among cooperatives, ranging from informal levels of cooperation, to transactions between cooperatives, to cooperative associations and federations, to complex networks of cooperatives such as the Mondragon Corporation.
Beyond the individual presentations and CLS programming, I found it very exciting to meet other co-op professionals from around the world. I met old and new faces, both peers and role models. At many points, I had the opportunity to share my co-op’s story with others. Within Minneapolis, there are many who do not want to see our co-op exist, so it was very empowering to be in a safe space with other cooperators who believe in the work we are doing and want to see us succeed. I hope to stay in the cooperative movement long enough to return the favor some day!
Editor’s Note: Last month we reported our CDS team’s attendance at the Cooperative IMPACT Conference in Washington, D.C. CDS was proud to also have one of our interns, Ellery Wealot, at the event as well, and wrote a letter of recommendation to the Cooperative Development Foundation for a full-paid scholarship for his attendance. Wealot shared the following about his experience