Cooperatives CoP Launches in Washington, D.C.

Cooperatives on eXtension will launch during the USDA National Cooperatives Month celebration in Washington, D.C., Oct. 5 with six content areas:

1) basic cooperative principles;
2) cooperative development;
3) youth and cooperatives;
4) management and marketing;
5) cooperative finance, and
6) board of director strategy.

The leadership team hopes its work will have an impact in three areas:
• More citizens will value and use the cooperative business model;
• More youth will be engaged as cooperative businesses members, employees, board directors and managers.
• Communities will achieve greater economic and social improvements.

The Cooperatives community of practice is working to maximize public outreach about cooperative principles and functions. It is also sharing decision tools, case studies and other research-based information. “Our audience is broader, and interest in cooperatives grows, when economic times are tough,” says Brian Henehan of Cornell University. “People are looking to cooperatives to stimulate the economy or meet needs.”

“eXtension is a well-respected national forum that allows us to increase the visibility of the cooperative business model and gives people looking for information confidence in the educational materials they find,” says Madeline Schultz of Iowa State University and a co-leader for the cooperatives community of practice.

People coming to the eXtension website to learn about the cooperative business model will have various levels of business and community development knowledge. A rural electric cooperative member, for example, may want to know what makes an energy cooperative different from a privately owned power supplier. A board member in that same rural electric cooperative may be seeking better understanding of strategic planning processes and implementation methods required to meet future energy needs.

The cooperatives community of practice received a $25,000 start-up grant from the CHS Foundation. “CHS and the CHS Foundation have a long commitment to cooperative education and value the ongoing collaboration among industry, the USDA and academia,” says William J. Nelson, president of the CHS Foundation. Many universities, programs and individuals are providing in-kind services and travel expenses.

eXtension’s cooperatives team is co-chaired by John Park from Texas AgriLife Extension Service and Madeline Schultz from Iowa State University Extension. Leadership team members are: Brian Henehan from Cornell University; Chris Peterson from Michigan State University; Phil Kenkel from Oklahoma State University; Gregory McKee from North Dakota State University, and Dixie Watts Dalton from Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University.

Michael Duttweiler from Cornell University is the evaluation leader and Elizabeth Gregory North, of Texas AgriLife Extension Service, is the communications leader. John Wells, director of co-op development for USDA Rural Development, is the national program leader. Edward Smith from Texas AgriLife Extension Service and Mary Holz-Clause from Iowa State University Extension are the administrative advisors.