NCBA CLUSA hosts first ever Forum on Cooperatives in Development

CoopDevForum Panel 500 b32a8CoopDevForum Panel 500 b32a8[Panelists discuss the why co-ops need to be more involved in international development and how aid agencies can better partner with and support their capacity around the world. Left to right: Jennifer Stockert, HealthPartners; Rebecca Savoie, International Development Consultant; Rodrigo Gouveia, International Co-operative Alliance; Adam Schwartz, The Cooperative Way; moderated by Amy Coughenour Betancourt, NCBA CLUSA.]To round out National Co-op Month events last week, NCBA CLUSA hosted over 70 development professionals at our headquarters in Washington, D.C., to discuss the trends, best practices and discuss solutions to bring cooperatives and co-op business partnerships to the forefront of international development.

The theme for the forum, Redefining the Role of Cooperatives in Development for Economic and Social Progress, focused on highlighting co-ops as a market-based solution that also brings in social impacts important to sustainability and community development.

Opening and closing the day, speakers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) reasserted the important role cooperative businesses play in sustainable long-term development.

“I believe agriculture is the heart and essence of our society, so it’s important we get this right,” said Acting Associate Administrator for the USDA Foreign Agriculture Service Allison Thomas. “We consider the co-op partnership essential to sustainable agriculture growth.”

“There’s no doubt that cooperatives are very critical to our work in food security,” said Justin Finnegan, Senior Deputy Assistant to the Administrator for the USAID Bureau of Food Security.

Beyond agriculture and nutrition, speakers from top co-op businesses and cooperative developers also noted the role co-ops have to play in other sectors. Jennifer Stockert from HealthPartners, the largest consumer governed nonprofit health care organization in the United States, laid out the role cooperative business can have in improving health service access and reducing corruption because they are led by the communities they serve.

Throughout the day attendees interacted with presenters on key cooperative issues such as increasing member equity and transparent sourcing and traceability. Cooperative research was also presented, and participants went through the differences between cooperative value chains and social impact for farmers.

The full day event had two keynotes, six breakout sessions and action planning to bring practical steps to the forefront for attendees. The day was generously sponsored by the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), HealthPartners and the Overseas Cooperative Development Council (OCDC) as well as co-op tea, coffee and treats provided by Equal Exchange, Pachamama Coffee Cooperative and Frontier Co-op. Hosted by NCBA CLUSA, the forum was supported with funding from the USAID Cooperative Development Program.

If you were unable to attend the 2016 Forum, speaker presentations are available here.


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