Workshop Enlightens New Co-op Employees
The Cooperative Council of North Carolina held its Cooperative Dynamics Workshop on Nov. 30 in Raleigh, at the statewide offices of North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives. The goal was to help co-op employees, members and directors increase their understanding of co-op principles and issues, as well as the challenges facing co-ops in today’s competitive market economy.
Attendees represented electric co-ops, telecommunications co-ops, credit unions, and food and retail co-ops. The workshop was led by Bob Cohen, CEO of the Braintree Business Development Center, a nonprofit business incubator and entrepreneurship program based in Ohio.
“This was our 15th year with this facilitator. We had a lot of fun interaction, and a lot of co-ops were represented,” said Emily Nail, director of the Cooperative Council of North Carolina. “The biggest thing we hope to achieve with this workshop is connecting, promoting and educating newer co-op employees, and having them understand that whatever industry they’re in, they’re part of a larger movement of cooperatives.
We’re hoping to foster an understanding how those co-ops function in the sense of governance, leadership and member-owner participation — really the principles of how co-ops work.”
Michael Youth, Associate General Counsel with North Carolina’s Electric Cooperatives, was one of those newer co-op employees in attendance. Youth began working for co-ops in September, with a background in both tax and energy law.
“Since starting work with electric co-ops, I’ve studied the cooperative principles and read ‘The Next Greatest Thing’ [a history of rural electrification], but I hadn’t thought about non-electric cooperatives out there — there are co-ops all around us, we may just not know it,” Youth said. “I was also impressed by the energy in the room. It’s clear that co-ops are attracting fresh faces, and that a new generation of co-op employees is stepping in.”
There are roughly 29,000 co-op businesses in the United States, serving 100 million people. Each attendee received a gift bag filled with examples of national co-op branded products, including Cabot Creamery (cheese), Blue Diamond (almonds), Equal Exchange (chocolate), Riceland (rice), Welch’s and Sunkist.
“These are brands we see on a daily basis, but we may not connect them with cooperatives,” Nail pointed out.
More information on the Cooperative Council of North Carolina is available at ccnc.coop.