NCBA CLUSA’s IMPACT 2019 reignites cooperative drive toward sustainability and self-reliance

The final day of the 2019 IMPACT Conference provided a full-day focus on international cooperative development – a testament to the importance of to the international development efforts of cooperative development organizations worldwide in achieving inclusive economic growth and greater equity around the globe.  The day-long event was co-developed and co-sponsored by OCDC and supported by its member Cooperative Development Organizations. IMPACT attendees listened to keynote speeches from Kimberly Rosen, Deputy Assistant Administrator at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID)’s Bureau for Economic Growth, Education and Environment, who said that cooperatives offer a unique solution to many of the challenges in the modern economy; and Martin Chrisney, Senior Director of KPMG International, who said co-ops have the capacity to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.

Friday marked the first time the Co-op IMPACT Conference has offered a full day of international programming.  It featured, three tracks that show the intersection between cooperative development and current global development challenges: Sustainability and Self-Reliance, Stability and Innovations in Co-op Development. Speakers for this dynamic event represented a variety of entities, including USDA (government), National Co+op Grocers (cooperative), and the Rockefeller Foundation (think tank), just to name a few.

Three “flash talks” set the thematic stage and kicked off the three tracks. Jonathan White of NCBA CLUSA talked about cooperatives and self-reliance; Emily Varga of USAID shared insights into cooperative innovation; and OCDC Research Director Judith Hermanson set out the important stabilizing roles that cooperatives play in the lives of their members and of their communities.

OCDC’s member CDOs were represented as panel experts, in each of the three tracks, which also included other outside experts. CDO participants included Kari Onyancha (Land O’Lakes Venture37), and Daniel Waddle (NRECA International) on a carbon-free economy, Marcel Petrutiu (GENEX), Julia Baumgartner (Equal Exchange), and Tony Bedard (Frontier Co-op) on building sustainable and ethical supply chains, Jennifer Wenborg (HealthPartners) on local stability, and Kristin Wilcox (Global Communities) on youth empowerment.  Alex Serrano (NCBA CLUSA) moderated the flash talks discussion on the cooperative model, Barbara Czachorska-Jones (Global Communities) moderated a panel discussion on local stability, and Emily Varga (USAID) moderated a panel related to advancing innovations through the coop model. Despite all the voices in the room, the message was unifying and clear; “we are in a cooperative moment, and the world is watching.” This was the rallying cry of many a panelist, citing among other challenges, generational thirst for social welfare, looming sustainable development goals, and a changing climate.

Friday also saw the launch of OCDC’s new International Champion Award. This award is a high honor bestowed to recognize outstanding contributions to international cooperative development. The International Champion award will be given annually by OCDC, representing its member organizations, to an individual or individuals who champion, advocate, and promote effective, sustainable, international cooperative development in a remarkable way. The award was presented by Dr. Judith Hermanson, Research Director for the International Co operative Research Group, to Thomas Carter, former manager of the Cooperative Development Program at USAID. You can find the full press release for this award on our website.

In the coming weeks, NCBA CLUSA will provide summaries of the plenary sessions from IMPACT 2019. You can stay up to date on the coverage by signing up for their Co-op Weekly newsletter, delivered straight to your inbox. You can also check out photos from the conference at their gallery! OCDC is excited to work with all our engaged and energized CDOs to leverage the wealth from these panel discussions over the next year. For updates on all things CDP or international cooperative development, be sure to check out our website –