The U.S. Overseas Cooperative Development Council (OCDC) and its members were pleased to co-sponsor the international track at NCBA CLUSA’s Cooperative IMPACT Conference for the fourth year. Made possible by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the event’s international track brought a global perspective that explored how cooperatives around the world are moving forward—together, through locally led development.
The international track began virtually on Wednesday, October 5 with a session exploring the unique capability of cooperatives to organically respond to the economic and social needs of their local communities. Donald Steinberg, Expert Advisor on Localization, Office of the Administrator at USAID, shared how organizations are operationalizing the localization reform and committing to the concept as “the best means to build sustainable communities, create economic opportunities, and strengthen equitable societies.”
Dr. Judith Hermanson, Research Director of OCDC’s International Cooperative Research Group (ICRG), later shared key findings from OCDC’s recently released white paper, From the Ground Up: Partnering with Cooperatives on Locally Led Development, that explores why cooperatives should be a top choice as a development partner when localization is the goal. Cooperative development organizations, including Frontier Co-op, Land O’Lakes Venture37, NCBA CLUSA and their local partners, provided additional insights on field level observations for locally-led development efforts. The session closed by sharing a video by Equal Exchange, Who We Are and What We Believe In.
The second session addressed the role cooperatives play in helping donors achieve their main development goals. Leah Marie Lucas, OCDC ICRG’s Research Manager, presented insights from OCDC’s What Difference Do Cooperatives Make? global study and Collaborative Research for Cooperative Resilience Research Portfolio Synthesis Report to share how cooperatives can advance broad-based inclusive growth into the future. A panel representing a diverse group of public, private and multilateral/international donors then shared their current priorities and what positive experiences they have had working with cooperatives.
The international track continued in-person at the National Press Club in Washington, DC on Thursday, October 6, with a session exploring how cooperatives are natural vehicles for helping their members and communities in times of crisis. A video by HealthPartners featuring their Co-op COVID Response in Uganda was aired to begin the session. Illia Gorokhovskyi, chair of COOP Ukraine’s Board of Directors, discussed how co-ops put their value of solidarity in practice – from the first CARE Package™ sent to post-war Europe in 1946 to the recent groundswell of support for cooperators in Ukraine from the global cooperative community. The World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) shared their experience working with financial cooperatives in Ukraine, and National Co+op Grocers discussed their joint initiative with the Cooperative Development Foundation (CDF) to support Ukrainian cooperatives, their members, employees and communities.
The session ended with consideration of another crisis, climate, as a GENEX video showcased the work they’re doing to battle climate change in Peru with dairy farmers to increase productivity while decreasing CO2 emissions.
The final panel discussion brought together leaders from ACDI/VOCA, Global Communities, and NRECA International to address the need for cooperatives to represent the full diversity of their communities. The speakers discussed their organizations’ experience in identifying barriers to the inclusion of women, youth and other marginalized groups in co-ops, and what they have done to successfully overcome them. The international track ended with presentations of the 2022 OCDC International Cooperative Champion Award, presented to Professor Isaac Nyamongo, Deputy Vice Chancellor Cooperative Development, Research and Innovation at the Cooperative University of Kenya, and the 2022 OCDC International Cooperative Innovation Award, presented to Mrs. Joy Doronila Palmada of Pavia Entrepreneurs Multi-Purpose Cooperative (PEMPC) in the Philippines.
The final call to action as the international track ended and the domestic track began was the Around the World video on the intersection of co-ops and the Sustainable Development Goals, SDG 16: Peace, justice and strong institutions.