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2012 International Year of Cooperatives


2012 International Year of Cooperatives

By Anne Sackrison Dec 2011

Cooperative Enterprises Build a Better World

Cooperatives all around the world have received a gift. The United Nations has proclaimed the year 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives (IYC) and the theme is “Cooperative Enterprises Build a Better World.” The UN recognizes that, “….cooperatives, in their various forms, promote the fullest possible participation in the economic and social development of all people including women, youth, older persons, persons with disabilities and indigenous peoples, are becoming a major factor of economic and social development and contribute to the eradication of poverty.” The co-op business model has empowered people around the world to improve their lives economically and socially.

Cooperatives are a major economic force in developed countries and a powerful business model in developing countries, and they employ 100 million people worldwide. Millions of cooperatives operate in every nation and are owned and governed by more than 1 billion members. Co-ops are a fundamental part of the world economy. The economic activity of the largest world-wide 300 cooperatives equals the 10th largest national economy. There are more than 29,000 cooperatives in the United States and these co-ops generate 2 million jobs and make a substantial contribution to our own economy.

Over the summer, the U.S. Senate passed Resolution 87 unanimously. The motion designated the year 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives and to be recognized by the U.S. federal government. Some of the co-sponsors for this resolution included Barbara Boxer (California), Diane Feinstein (California) and Debbie Stabenow (Michigan).

The National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA) has advocated that the United States and our government participate in the IYC. NCBA is seeking a celebrity spokesperson and they are trying to get President Obama to participate in a national cooperative event. They are hiring a top-notch PR firm that focuses on business publicity. The NCBA is developing a social media strategy and will have a strong online presence. They have a communications toolkit so all co-ops have access to materials that use national messaging. They created an online directory ( of more than 29,000 cooperatives. They are funding a paper by noted economists that will demonstrate the economic value of the cooperative business model.

Why should staff and volunteers at CSI Support & Development care about this? Why should we become ambassadors for this resolution? The IYC celebration touches on many of our strategic plan goals. It will help get our name in print and brand CSI and our new logo and website. It will promote our own cooperatives and decrease vacancies by seizing the interest of future members. It will help us create co-op spirit and enthusiasm for volunteering within our co-ops. It creates opportunities for us to build relationships with other co-ops and organizations. It will capture the attention of government leaders and HUD. It will help us create our national identity and it will help us increase our portfolio.

The year 2012 marks a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to promote and celebrate our cooperative difference. It is our chance to build public awareness about the cooperative model’s contribution to social and economic development. This is a gift from the United Nations. If we don’t do something with this gift, it will be much like the metaphorical exercise bike turned clothes rack—limitless potential wasted. The UN resolution encourages all co-op members to take advantage of the opportunity to promote cooperatives and to raise public awareness of the benefits. This time next year, we want more people in the world to understand what cooperatives are and we want CSI Support & Development to no longer be the “best kept secret.” If we seize this opportunity, the rewards will last long after 2012.

So, what is CSI doing? We are asking the Board to pass a resolution in support of IYC and the theme “Cooperative Enterprises Build a Better World.” We will be using the logo and theme for our conferences, annual meeting, and other events and publications throughout 2012. We are sponsoring our own “My Co-op Rocks” video competition for our co-ops. There will be one $500 prize awarded in each region. (We will also submit these to NCBA’s video contest which will award two $5000 prizes.) We will provide ongoing resources for our co-ops to promote the IYC. Staff and volunteers are encouraged to be ambassadors for the co-op movement. We will promote CSI’s philosophy and the IYC throughout the year through press releases, publications and events. We sponsored a co-op principle poster contest and will insert the IYC logo/theme on all of them (they will be rotated and displayed monthly).

CSI is providing a mountain of ideas on how our co-ops and their members can help celebrate and promote the IYC. Our co-ops should plan now and to actively celebrate the IYC with members. When you preach to the choir, it sings like a songbird. So, as a staff member of a national consumer cooperative, think about what you tell friends and family about what you do for a living. Do you tell them you work for a property management company that provides subsidized housing for seniors? Or do you tell them you work for a co-op? Do they really, really know what a co-op is? Someone wise once said, “Find something that you love to do and you’ll never work a day in your life.” For me, working for the co-op is tremendously rewarding. My new year’s resolution is to devote some of my time and energy promoting CSI Support & Development, as well as all cooperatives. I hope more staff members will join me.

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