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Importance of Cross-Sector Collaboration between CUs and Other Co-ops
Wednesday, June 25, 2014 7:00 AM

Last week in Austin, the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA CLUSA) hosted the 2014 Co-op Talks, a town hall-style meeting designed to bring together leaders from all cooperative sectors and provide the opportunity for networking and growing strategic alliances that will advance the cooperative movement.

The Austin Co-op Talk came just a week after the Austin City Council approved a resolution drafted by the Austin Cooperative Business Association (ACBA) to foster cooperative solutions for affordable housing, quality jobs, and local food production and distribution in the city.

The ACBA is a joint project between Austin-area cooperatives and NCBA CLUSA. Cornerstone Credit Union League is one of the founders of ACBA, whose task includes raising the profile of cooperatives in the local area; driving sector-to-sector business to cooperatives; deepening the economic impact of cooperatives in the local economy; and serving as leaders in the efforts of social responsibility in the region.

The event featured keynote speaker Courtney Moran, executive director of the Cornerstone Credit Union Foundation. Her message, "The Importance of Cross-Sector Collaboration between Credit Unions and Other Cooperatives," highlighted the need for cooperation among cooperatives, and she asked the audience to consider the principles and values that credit unions and other cooperatives have in common.

"Credit unions take our credo very seriously: Not for profit, not for charity, but for service," Moran told the audience. "This effort is not meant as a charitable endeavor; it is simply good for business and will help improve our local communities. Credit unions and other cooperatives are strong forces independently, but they can be stronger together."

Moran announced that ACBA received a grant of $3,500 from the Foundation to conduct a financial services survey and credit union membership drive among the association's founding member cooperatives.

ACBA members have significant populations of member/owners. For instance, Black Star Coop, the world's first cooperatively owned and worker self-managed brewpub, is a community of more than 3,200 individuals and organizations. Wheatsville Coop, a full service, natural foods cooperative grocery store serving the central Austin community since 1976, has over 15,000 invested owners. In attendance at the conference, though not yet a member of ACBA, the Austin-headquartered Texas Electric Coop represents the interests of 75 electric cooperatives serving more than 3 million members throughout the state.

Brian Donovan, executive director of the ACBA, said of last Friday's conference, "Together we can work to raise the profile of cooperatives in Central Texas among existing co-op members and the general public." He added, "I am looking forward to working with the city of Austin to help existing co-ops grow and new co-ops get started."