Why Cooperatives? Read The CDP Policy Paper

“Democracy doesn’t happen by accident. We have to defend it, fight for it, strengthen it, renew it.”
President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., February, 2021

One of the most brutal attacks on democracy is being carried out in Ukraine. While the people of Ukraine fight to defend their democratic government, it’s important to recognize the significant role cooperatives have played in building, strengthening and renewing democracies around the world.

Co-ops offer broad grassroots involvement, local control and ownership, and the potential to nurture the capacities of individuals and groups to drive development of their own economies. The power of the cooperative model to demonstrate and reinforce democratic governance should not be overlooked.

Sustainable democracies grow from within — locally — as the people in developing countries learn to trust each other and gain the capacity to govern for themselves. Cooperatives are an important “learning lab” where members engage in economic development and experience democratic governance. Local cooperative members learn to work together, to vote in co-op elections, to trust each other and to work democratically to achieve change at all levels of their cooperative organization. Some even become advocates at the national level for modernization of laws that govern their cooperatives.

OCDC’s research shows this involvement in a cooperative can lead to higher levels of trust for other members of their communities, an essential building block for establishing and maintaining democratic communities.

For example, the WDDCM study found that cooperative members in Peru reported a 40% level of trust among their neighbors who they interacted with regularly about the business of the cooperative. That same study showed that non-co-op members admitted to a trust level no more than 27% of their neighbors in the broader community.

Amid calls to “build back better” post-COVID-19, there has never been a better time to increase U.S. investment in cooperative development. To build a more prosperous, democratic and inclusive world, the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Cooperative Development Program (CDP) provides support and funding for ten projects underway by OCDC and its member organizations . Since 1961, the CDP and OCDC members have lifted 130 million people out of poverty.

To call policy makers’ attention to cooperatives, OCDC has issued a policy paper, Cooperatives Building a More Prosperous, Democratic and Inclusive World. OCDC will share this document with the Biden Administration and Congress, as well as policy makers around the world.

The U.S. Overseas Cooperative Development Council (OCDC) brings together U.S.-based organizations committed to building a more prosperous world through cooperatives. OCDC’s mission is to champion, advocate and promote effective and sustainable international cooperative development. Together, U.S. cooperative development organizations promote sustainability and self-reliance through local ownership. With projects in more than 70 countries, OCDC members have implemented the largest portfolio of cooperative development programs in the world. Members include ACDI/VOCA, Equal Exchange, Frontier Cooperative, GENEX, Global Communities, HealthPartners, Land O’Lakes Venture37, NCBA CLUSA International, NRECA International and the World Council of Credit Unions.


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