2015: NCBA CLUSA's Year in Review

HappyHolidaysSnow abe06HappyHolidaysSnow abe062015 was a year of milestones for the co-op community. In January, singer, actor, civil rights activist and housing co-op champion Harry Belafonte was awarded an honorary Oscar. Austin’s co-op economy topped $1 billion in annual sales this year and the Philadelphia Area Co-op Alliance (PACA) received a $25,000 grant from the USDA to boost local food production and distribution. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said co-ops make a sustainable future “a reality for everyone,” and Pope Francis said cooperative businesses help build a more inclusive economy. And in October, the nation’s largest consumer co-op and specialty outdoor retailer REI introduced a new logo—the first to include the word “co-op” since 1983, actively embracing their place in the cooperative movement. 

2015 was also a significant year for NCBA CLUSA. Here’s a look back on some of the stories and events that helped shape our co-op community this year: 

2015 was a pivotal year for advocacy. In March, NCBA CLUSA formally launched its U.S. – Cuba Cooperative Working Group, positioning the organization to better support Cuban economic progress. In October, the USDA held the first meeting of the Interagency Working Group on Cooperative Development, comprised of more than a dozen federal agencies committed to advancing the role of co-ops in the U.S. economy. NCBA CLUSA also monitored budget negotiations during 2015, working to ensure consistent funding for the Rural Cooperative Development Grant (RCDG) program. In December, NCBA CLUSA finalized its work on the long-awaited bipartisan Congressional Cooperative Business Caucus, set to launch next month.

NCBA CLUSA was also an active voice for the co-op community in the U.S. and internationally in 2015. As the nonprofit insurance companies created under the Affordable Care Act faced media scrutiny this year, NCBA CLUSA worked with journalists to clarify the distinction between successful, member-owned co-ops and so-called “CO-OPs,” or Consumer Operated and Oriented Plans, the majority of which are not run as cooperative businesses.

NCBA CLUSA represented the U.S. cooperative sector at the International Cooperative Alliance’s Global Conference and General Assembly in Turkey, speaking on women and food security, the role of co-ops in achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals and creating a favorable legal environment for co-ops. In November, NCBA CLUSA worked on behalf of NCBA CLUSA board member and CEO of the Shreveport Federal Credit Union Helen Godfrey-Smith to successfully publish a Huffington Post op-ed, describing how co-ops are the key to economic growth. Her article is the first in a series of co-op themed op-eds that NCBA CLUSA is targeting toward major media outlets in 2016.

NCBA CLUSA also made strides this year on the international development front, beginning work in four new countries: Madagascar, Malawi, Mali and the Dominican Republic. President Obama highlighted NCBA CLUSA’s Yes Youth Can! project as an example of success in Kenya, and in Niger NCBA CLUSA partnered with the World Food Programme to build resilience and reduce food insecurity. In April, NCBA CLUSA received a $750,000 grant from Starbucks Foundation to support the livelihoods of coffee farmers in Indonesia.

Also in 2015, NCBA CLUSA projects, employees and volunteers were recognized for outstanding work. NCBA CLUSA Vice President of Program Development and Technical Services Alex Serrano was the recipient of InsideNGO’s operational excellence award, NCBA CLUSA Farmer-to-Farmer volunteers Jock Brandis and Randy Shackelford received “Volunteer of the Year” awards from the Volunteers for Economic Growth Alliance, and NCBA CLUSA won InterAction’s Data Quality Award for promoting transparency through the NGOAid map.

2015 also saw NCBA CLUSA convening the cooperative sectors at several conferences across the U.S. In May, NCBA CLUSA hosted the first cross-sector cooperative advocacy conference. Highlights included keynotes from Senator Al Franken, Representative Jim McGovern and a Hike the Hill event, holding meetings with more than one third of the U.S. Senate.

In June, NCBA CLUSA launched a national conversation on the future of food co-ops, and at NCBA CLUSA’s 2015 National Purchasing Cooperatives Conference, keynote speaker Evan Hackel challenged cooperators to risk “good” to become “great.” In November, NCBA CLUSA’s second annual Co-op Professionals Conference expanded to include a new network of accounting and legal professionals who meet the unique needs of cooperatives.

Finally, NCBA CLUSA launched two new initiatives in 2015. Currently in its pilot stage, Operation Connect promotes financial literacy in communities served by electric co-ops while building local credit union membership. And launched in October, NCBA CLUSA’s OwnIt initiative promotes a unified cooperative identity that builds public awareness by communicating the value of the co-op business model to consumers through use of the .coop top-level domain (click here to get your's today!).

In the year ahead, NCBA CLUSA will celebrate its 100th anniversary. Founded on March 18, 1916, NCBA CLUSA has spent the past 100 years protecting, promoting and advancing cooperative businesses as the as the preferred and most resilient business model. We're looking forward to highlighting 100 years of cooperation, and we want you and your co-op to be part of this milestone. Look for a run-down of anniversary events and opportunities to participate throughout the year coming in January! 


NCBA CLUSA leads youth initiative in Uganda, partners on youth programming evaluation in DC

MCF staff at YETA site 6b409MCF staff at YETA site 6b409MasterCard Foundation staff visit a Youth Empowerment Through Agriculture site during the launch of the Youth Forward Initiative in Uganda

Over a two-day period in Washington, DC this month, NCBA CLUSA and other leaders in the Youth programming sector, collaborated with YouthPower, USAID and PEPFAR to inform indicator development, and advance positive youth development practice. The event launched the YouthPower Learning Network, which aims to advance positive youth outcomes in health, education, and political and economic empowerment. NCBA CLUSA has worked with youth throughout its programs, including the recently completed Yes Youth Can! Project in Kenya, which registered over 135,000 youth for voter IDs and linked over 90,000 to savings and credit cooperatives.

Currently, in partnership with the MasterCard Foundation, NCBA CLUSA is leading a consortium of partners to implement the Youth Empowerment Through Agriculture (YETA) program in Uganda. The YETA program is part of a two-country $74 million USD “Youth Forward Initiative,” which includes programs in Uganda and Ghana.

MasterCard Foundation officially launched the Youth Forward Initiative at a meeting in Entebbe, Uganda earlier this month with NCBA CLUSA and other representatives from implementing partners, financial service providers, government ministries, the private sector, education institutions and youth-based organizations. 


A five-year, US$74 million project, the Youth Forward Initiative will reach more than 200,000 young people, aged 15-24. It is focused on assisting youth who live on less than $2 per day, who are out of school, unemployed or underemployed and are seeking quality employment or the opportunity to start their own businesses in the growing agricultural and construction sectors, which the World Bank has flagged as industries with the highest potential for job growth. This innovative model uses a holistic approach that combines market-relevant skills training, mentorship, internships and access to financial services to help young people transition out of poverty and into sustainable livelihoods.

“The Foundation recognizes that in order for youth to reach their full potential, they must have access to the right skills and opportunities,” said Ann Miles, Director of Programs, Financial Inclusion & Youth Livelihoods at The MasterCard Foundation. “By bringing together multiple partners with varying types of expertise, we can better support young people through practical skills development, networking opportunities and access to appropriate financial services so they can successfully find a job, further their education or start their own businesses.”

The Youth Forward Initiative will be implemented through partnerships with four consortia comprised of 28 organizations. In Uganda, GOAL and NCBA CLUSA will lead the consortia connecting young people to employment and entrepreneurship opportunities in the agricultural sector.

"Our partnership with MasterCard Foundation is a tremendous opportunity for us to integrate more youth into our extensive network of cooperatives and associations, allowing them a safe space to explore their own entrepreneurship goals that ultimately benefit rural communities at large," said Gretchen Villegas, vice president of International Operations for NCBA CLUSA. 

In addition, Overseas Development Institute (ODI) along with Development Research and Training (DRT) of Uganda and Participatory Development Associates (PDA) of Ghana have been engaged to generate critical learning about the initiative.

“The scale and scope of the Youth Forward Initiative presents an exciting opportunity to learn more about the needs of young people and how to improve economic opportunities for them across different sectors and regional contexts,” said Peace Nganwa, Youth Forward Initiative Coordinator for Development Research and Training (DRT). “The learning partnership will facilitate conversation and learning between implementing partners, the private sector and government, working to ensure that research and evidence inform their decision-making.”

For the YETA program in Uganda, evaluation and learning have been integrated into the program structure, informing multiple rounds of training. By the project’s end in 2020, YETA is expected to have benefited a total of 100,000 youth and their families potentially reaching over half a million individuals. 



YETA’s consortium—NCBA CLUSA, Youth Alive, Reproductive Health Uganda, Making Cents, Aflatoun, FINCA, Finance Trust Bank and Centenary—have 142 years of combined experience in Uganda to guide their work.

(December 18, 2015)

 

 

Webinar: Good data, Big Savings—Your Co-op is a Goldmine of Information

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NCBA CLUSA will host a webinar on January 20, from 1 – 2 p.m. EST, presented by its members National Co+op Grocers, a purchasing cooperative comprised of 148 consumer food co-ops nationwide, and CoMetrics, a provider of industry benchmarking and analytics to co-ops and other independent businesses. Click here to register.

To get ahead in today’s economy, businesses of all kinds are using data to their advantage, and cooperatives are no exception. National Co+op Grocers (NCG) is a successful cross-sector example that embraced both its cooperative identity and emerging trends to create a blueprint for lasting success.


In the 1990s, growing consumer interest in natural and organic foods—fueled double-digit growth in the industry—attracted the attention of mainstream manufacturers and retailers. Facing an increasingly competitive marketplace, individual retail food co-ops made the decision to come together and form a national cooperative with the purpose of catapulting the “virtual chain” to a position of prominence. Today, NCG’s members operate more than 200 retail locations across 38 U.S. states, with a combined annual sales of $2 billion. NCG credits the organization’s access to aggregate financial and operating data as one of the keys to benchmarking performance and outpacing its competition.


In this webinar, NCG and longtime partner CoMetrics will explain how they achieved these results and outline ways that your co-op—regardless of sector—can apply these principles.


During this webinar, you'll learn:


• How to identify the value in data you already have

• How data can be used to negotiate better terms with suppliers and identify other potential cost savings


• How members can use data to inform new decisions


• How to identify and prepare for potential threats to your market share


NCBA CLUSA is offering this webinar free of charge. Register online now! 


December 17, 2015


Partnership brings national institutional capital to resident-owned manufactured home communities

NCB-ROCUSA-MetLife-500 945ddNCB-ROCUSA-MetLife-500 945ddThe country’s leading lender to resident-owned manufactured home communities has secured millions in national institutional capital, a breakthrough in the history of CDFI-financed resident-owned community preservation.

NCBA CLUSA members ROC USA® Capital and National Cooperative Bank (NCB), along with MetLife insurance company, have forged a $40 million financing partnership to structure a groundbreaking first mortgage acquisition/permanent loan product to finance resident-owned manufactured home communities (ROCs) at scale. NCB and MetLife will each invest $15 million and ROC USA Capital will invest $10 million over two years to finance ROCs in 20 states.

“We launched ROC USA Capital to build a robust national market to finance the acquisition, long-term ownership, operation and improvement of manufactured home communities by the lower-income homeowners who call these neighborhoods home,” said ROC USA Capital Managing Director Michael Sloss. “NCB and MetLife have joined ROC USA Capital in doing just that, and we look forward to ongoing work with these and other national institutional investors to deliver the benefits of resident ownership to tens of thousands more homeowners in ROCs across the country.”

ROC USA Capital has built a $100 million portfolio of first mortgage community acquisition/permanent loans to 42 ROCs in 11 states since its inception in 2008, enabling more than 3,400 low- and moderate-income homeowners to buy, preserve and improve their neighborhoods. ROC USA Capital has carried out this work on a retail basis, partnering with 20 statewide and regional financial institutions to deliver this critical community acquisition/improvement financing. The partnership with NCB and MetLife opens the door for other national banks, insurance companies and pension funds to finance resident-owned communities.

This is a key development in ROC USA LLC’s national strategy to implement its resident ownership model at scale, as national institutional investors have financed manufactured home community (MHC) acquisitions for years by commercial owners, committing close to $1 billion annually in the MHC sector. Bringing such institutional investors to the resident-ownership segment of the MHC sector will enable ROC USA Capital to grow and diversify its lending and set the stage for developing an active secondary market for ROC USA Capital’s loans.

“We’ve been very successful creating resident ownership opportunities on a relatively small scale, more than doubling our portfolio to 10,000 homes in eight years,” said Paul Bradley, ROC USA President. “We built ROC USA to scale resident ownership and transform communities by bringing security and economic gain to the often-ignored homeowners in the country’s 50,000 manufactured home communities. This loan product makes ROC USA Capital a more nimble and competitive force in that field.”

“As a socially responsible, cooperatively owned financial institution, National Cooperative Bank is the ideal partner for ROC USA and MetLife to bring affordable housing to residents across the country,” said Ann Fedorchak, Managing Director at NCB. “With over 35 years of providing capital to housing cooperatives, especially those in low-income communities, NCB is very excited to bring this structured loan program to the market and help unit owners realize affordable home ownership.”

“ROC USA’s model of resident ownership ties to MetLife’s financial inclusion work supporting skills and financial products to manage life’s risks and seizing its opportunities,” said Matthew Sheedy director and head of Community Investments at MetLife. “We look forward to being a part of this initiative, which will empower residents to own their own homes and community.”

ROC USA is a nonprofit social venture with a national network of eight affiliates working to make resident ownership viable nationwide. Together, ROC USA Network has helped 178 communities in 14 states bring the safety and security of resident ownership to more than 10,600 lower-income households—giving ROC USA the 12th-largest portfolio in the manufactured home community industry. Continued growth through such partnerships with NCB and MetLife will soon put ROC USA among the top 10.

ROC USA® Capital is a certified Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), and the lending subsidiary of ROC USA, LLC, a national social enterprise committed to making quality resident ownership of manufactured home communities viable nationwide and to expand economic opportunities for homeowners in manufactured home communities. To learn more, visit www.rocusa.org

National Cooperative Bank is dedicated to strengthening communities nationwide through the delivery of banking and financial services, complemented by a special focus on cooperative expansion and economic development. NCB provides financial products and services for the nation’s cooperatives, their members, and socially responsible organizations. Headquartered in Washington, D.C., the Bank has offices in Alaska, California, New York, Ohio and Virginia. To learn more, visit www.ncb.coop


Organic Valley among Outside magazine's best places to work in U.S.

organic-valley-HQ-500 842a2organic-valley-HQ-500 842a2[Organic Valley headquarters in rural La Farge, Wisconsin.] NCBA CLUSA member Organic Valley/CROPP Cooperative, has been named one of Outside magazine’s 100 Best Places to Work in 2015. Every year, Outside magazine recognizes the top 100 companies in the nation that help their employees strike the ideal balance between work and play. The companies that made the list encourage employees to lead an active lifestyle, are eco-conscious and prioritize giving back to the community.

Organic Valley placed in the top 50 overall and number five in the Health & Wellness category. “This is a group that really walks the walk,” said Tripp Hughes, director of Brand Management for Organic Valley. “Yes, you have to be profitable in order to give the farmer-owners the returns they’re looking for and stay competitive, but as a co-op, we’re also able to make a lot of decisions based on ‘what’s the right thing to do?’” 

Organic Valley’s La Farge, Wis., employees are tasked with marketing the farmer-owners’ dairy products, eggs, soy, meat and produce. But they’re also encouraged to visit the cooperative’s farms around the country and to propose new sustainability practices, such as the co-op’s rideshare and “green bike” programs.

Sitting on the edge of the 8,000-acre Kickapoo Valley Reserve in southwest Wisconsin, Organic Valley’s headquarters includes an organic café where breakfast and lunch are served daily. There’s an on-site gym, an employee garden, a mile-loop walking path, and bikes to ride at lunch—all intended to keep employees healthy and grounded in nature.
George Siemon, Organic Valley’s “CEIEIO” and one of its founding farmers, regularly models the casual dress code, wearing jeans and sandals to work. The occasional Amish buggy and horse team can be seen tied to a hitching post out front, and cowboy hats often fill the hat rack in the hallway. There’s definitely “an element of ‘fly your own flag’ here,” Hughes said.

Beyond achieving a place on the list, Outside surveyed Organic Valley staff members, who shared insights on why “CROPPies,” as they affectionately call themselves, choose to work at Organic Valley/CROPP Cooperative. In their own words:

 - Organic Valley is full of people who love what they’re doing, who are truly invested in making the world a better place, and who accommodate the human-scale needs to make that change happen!

 - We are forward-thinking while respecting our past.

 - We care about people, animals, our environment and the future of the earth.

 - Beyond our passion for our mission, another common thread we have is our love for the great outdoors.

Organic Valley is America’s largest cooperative of organic farmers and one of the nation’s leading organic brands. Organized in 1988, it represents approximately 1,800 farmers in 36 states and achieved $972 million in 2014 sales. Focused on its founding mission of saving family farms through organic farming, Organic Valley produces a variety of organic foods, including organic milk, soy, cheese, butter, spreads, creams, eggs and produce, which are sold in supermarkets, natural foods stores and food cooperatives nationwide. With its regional model, milk is produced, bottled and distributed right in the region where it is farmed to ensure fewer miles from farm to table and to support our local economies. For further information visit www.organicvalley.coop


December 17, 2015


TWITTER FEED

Wed Dec 13 23:00:06 +0000 2017

New co-op development center in #Ohio! Thanks to @usdaRD funds! @OhioState #GoCoop #cooperatives STORY:… https://t.co/Vs62451hMM
Wed Dec 13 23:00:04 +0000 2017

In the battle for #netneutrality can #cooperatives keep the internet democratic? Great piece from @YESmaghttps://t.co/CLds0YmXyo
Wed Dec 13 22:39:04 +0000 2017

RT @RGCcoffee: Very proud to be included in an article by @NCBACLUSA featuring Coop San Antonio in El Salvador. Also thanks to @BlueHarvest

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