Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Cooperatives the Best Kept Secret

Today was the first day of a three day training stint with CCA in Ottawa.  The day was full, discussing everything from coops 101 to gender equality.  But aside from training I was thrilled to meet so many people passionate about cooperatives.  The stories shared were powerful messages about the importance of cooperatives and reminders of the differences they make in peoples' lives and their communities.  After realizing the social and economic impact that cooperatives have around the world it is no wonder that the UN took notice and named 2012 the international year of cooperatives.  

What stood out the most today was when someone said "I no longer like the term coops are the best kept secret."  I would agree.  The challenge is how do we tell others and more importantly what do we tell them.  How do we define what makes us (cooperatives/Conexus) different.  

To start, cooperatives, including credit unions, have long been regarded as socially responsible.  Examples are numerous: donations, active participant in the community, volunteer time.  However, social responsibility has become a common theme and many businesses adopting for PR reasons. It is becoming a crowded place, which was once dominated by coops.  Are we losing the advantage of being socially responsible?  Many discussions centered on the cooperative governance model as the differentiator:  the voice of members, one member one vote.  I hope to gain some perspective on the cooperative difference in Mongolia:  how the credit unions are making a difference, and what draws the people to a credit union system that is just emerging.  How would they define the credit union experience.    

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