(Note: this information written and provided by the Cooperative Council of North Carolina.)
The Cooperative Council of North Carolina announces that it will celebrate and promote cooperatives and credit unions during the International Year of Cooperatives. Adopted by the United Nations General Assembly, the United States Senate and by countries all around the world, the 2012 International Year of Cooperatives (IYC) is being recognized globally. The purpose of this crusade is to push the cooperative movement around the world and to provide cooperative businesses and organizations with an unprecedented opportunity to build public awareness about co-ops and the important role they play in our economy.
Cooperatives are businesses that are owned and democratically controlled by their members—the people who use the co-op’s services or buy its goods. Cooperatives promote the fullest possible participation in the economic and social development of all people. Cooperative enterprises are united by the principles and values that guide business decisions based on member need and are to the benefit of the community served. In short, cooperatives are socially responsible businesses, strategic community partners and are often the preferred employer in their communities.
In the United States, The National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA), a driving force behind the IYC efforts, is committed to seizing the opportunities that this campaign can provide including increasing awareness of cooperatives, helping to build and sustain the co-op movement and its capacity for growth and innovation, and encouraging and identifying legacy initiatives throughout 2012 that will have a lasting impact. “Cooperative enterprise has a long and strong history in this country, beginning when Ben Franklin organized the Philadelphia Contributionship, a mutual insurance company still in operation today,” says Paul Hazen, CEO for NCBA. “It’s the best business model in the world because it is guided by a set of principles and values, innovates to meet member needs, and puts people first.”
The logo and theme for the 2012 IYC campaign, “Cooperative Enterprises Build a Better World,” were created by the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA) and the United Nationals to be used around the world throughout the year. The theme reflects the contribution of cooperatives to the communities they serve while the logo evokes the definition of a co-op as an autonomous association of individuals who unite voluntarily to meet their common needs and goals. This massive movement has also bombarded the Internet with promos on YouTube, social media sites and numerous co-op websites.
In North Carolina, the Cooperative Council is working with its local cooperatives to promote this movement in our state. “It is vital that co-op members, staff and leaders join together to support this campaign,” states Jennie Gentry, Council President. “This is a great opportunity for cooperatives to unite and show our communities, our state, and our nation how special the co-op business structure is and how much good co-ops do for the economy and for the members they serve.”
Efforts to support the 2012 IYC campaign in North Carolina include increased co-op education, celebratory events, media coverage and co-op promotions. The Council is currently playing a role in helping to create new leadership programs for youth and cooperative curriculum to be used nationally. The organization is also working with Cabot Cheese and many of our state’s cooperatives to support the 2012 Community Tour, a two-month bike tour with daily stops from Miami, Florida to Portland, Maine along the East Coast Greenway System. Credit unions, electric and telephone cooperatives and farm credit organizations are also assisting in these efforts, which will include six events in a one-week time span when the tour reaches North Carolina in June. “We are working hard to spread the word about cooperatives in our state. The community tour is something we immediately knew we wanted to be a part of to celebrate the co-op movement and to honor citizens for serving their communities,” states Gentry.
The history behind IYC started on October 18, 2009 when the United Nationals General Assembly proclaimed 2012 as the International Year of Cooperatives. The UN resolution, entitled “Cooperatives in Social Development,” recognizes the diversity of the cooperative movement around the world and commends the cooperative business model in achieving economic viability while contributing to social and community benefits. In his announcement of the International Year of Cooperatives, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon stated, “Cooperatives are a reminder to the international community that it is possible to pursue both economic viability and social responsibility.”
The United States Senate adopted the resolution in August, 2011 in a unanimous vote. The start of the US celebration coincides with the UN’s global launch, officially announced at an event on October 31, 2011 in New York City, which highlighted speeches and discussions by foreign dignitaries and cooperative leaders. Other events will be held throughout 2012.
According to a study by the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives, more than 29,000 cooperatives operate in every sector of the economy and in congressional districts; Americans hold over 250 million co-op memberships. US cooperatives generate 2 million jobs and make a substantial contribution to the US economy with annual sales of $652 billion and processing assets of $3 trillion. Cooperatives operate across all sectors of the US economy and include agriculture, food distribution and retailing, childcare, credit unions, purchasing, worker-owned, housing, health care, energy and telecommunications cooperatives.
Council President Gentry states, “2012 International Year of Cooperatives is a legacy year that cooperatives and their members will remember for years to come. The way co-ops and organizations have united to support each other and their unique business structure has been amazing. Co-ops take care of their members and provide excellent customer service. There is no other business like it.”