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Virtual Events in 2020 – increasing international inclusion, decreasing carbon footprints.

WFP Side Event. OCDC’s ICRG contributed to the 2020 World Food Prize Side Events by hosting a webinar, “Cooperatives Support Resilient Food Systems, Tackling the Challenges of COVID 19 and Climate Change.” This engaging panel highlighted the role of cooperatives in promoting resilience in communities and food systems, responding to the challenges of COVID 19 and climate change. The US Overseas Cooperative Development Council convened three of their members, Land O’Lakes Venture37, Equal Exchange, and the National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International (NCBA CLUSA) for a dialogue about their efforts to build resilience in food systems in various countries around the world. Panelists shared their organization’s work which is generously supported by USAID’s Cooperative Development Program.

IMPACT Conference. NCBA CLUSA’s 2020 Cooperative IMPACT Conference, co-hosted by OCDC, reenergized the cooperative movement with a goal to galvanize its champions around building a diverse, equitable and inclusive economy. The International IMPACT Track kicked off with a keynote from Harvard Business Professor Rebecca Henderson and representation from close to 50 countries. “[Cooperatives] show millions of other firms around the world that there is a different way to run firms—a better way,” Henderson said.

Dr. Judith Hermanson served as moderator of the “Research, Data and Digital Solutions” session, which included panelists Ahmed Attia, CEO of Direct Co-op; Nathan Schneider with Platform Coops, Sonja Novkovic with St. Mary’s University and also a member of the ICA Research Committee, and Dr. Isaac Nyamongo with the Cooperative University of Kenya. This session focused on the role of training, technology, innovation and social media platforms in increasing the resiliency of the cooperative model in times of crisis. The panel considered the possibility for an expanded role of technology in traditional and platform cooperatives.

Leah Marie Lucas, ICRG Research Manager, led an interactive workshop focusing on “Access to Finance during Prolonged Crises,” which brought together perspectives from diverse regions of the world to discuss sustainable solutions to economic recovery for countries, sectors, firms, entrepreneurs, and cooperative businesses. The 2021 IMPACT Conference,Embracing Our Cooperative Identity,” is scheduled for October 4-8.

Peru Policy Dialogue. The Overseas Cooperative Development Council’s International Cooperative Research Group (OCDC ICRG) and the Institute of Peru of the San Martin de Porres University (IoP USMP) co-hosted a Peru Policy Dialogue focused on the vital role cooperatives play in developing inclusive and sustainable development. Peruvian policymakers, thought leaders, and cooperative development influencers attended the event with peaked interest to reinvigorate the discussion of cooperatives in Peru and OCDC’s Research Group’s 2019 survey, “What Difference do Cooperatives Make?” WDDCM is a four-country series/study focused on gathering evidence on cooperative achievement through the eyes of their members across sectors and regions comparing members with non-members and places the findings within the context of national economic data. The dialogue goal is to transition the four research themes below into policy application:
  • Are cooperatives making a measurable difference in members’ lives?
  • What are the economic benefits?
  • What are the social benefits?
  • And are there benefits to the larger community?

Judith Hermanson, Research Director, presented a summary of the initial findings from the Peru study. The survey focused on the 2007 cooperative members’ perceptions and comparing them with the perceptions of 125 non-cooperative members to determine the difference that coops have made in people’s lives. Thus, self-reported perception data even if they reflect biases of the respondents can serve as a valid proxy for cooperative performance, as cooperatives exist to serve their members. Dr. Hermanson highlighted 10 key findings from WDDCM during her dialogue presentation including the following:

    • Cooperatives’ members enjoy a better socioeconomic status than their non-member peers.
    • In the eyes of all members, women’s economic situation improved considerably when they belonged to a cooperative.
    • Data shows that there is social value in cooperative membership – increasing trust among members.
    • Cooperatives offer a range of services to their members, most of which contribute to their business knowledge (including support for entrepreneurship and networking). At the same time, less than half offer specialized educational and health benefits.

For OCDC member organizations currently working with cooperatives in Peru, please visit: Equal Exchange | GENEX | NCBA CLUSA

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