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Celebrate the Fourth, Celebrate Cooperatives

Published 07/01/2015 by Global Communities

rwanda-coop

Celebrate the Fourth, Celebrate Cooperatives
By the International Cooperative Research Group

Global Communities is implementing cooperative development programs in Rwanda, Uganda and Mongolia.
The Fourth of July isn’t only about freedom and fireworks. This year, it’s also about cooperation and equality. On July 4th cooperative members and leaders will come together to celebrate International Day of Cooperatives, an annual UN observance that aims to increase awareness of co-operatives and promote international solidarity, economic efficiency, equality and world peace.
This year’s theme, “Choose cooperatives, choose equality” resonates deeply with the International Cooperative Research Group (Research Group), a new research entity established by the U.S. Overseas Cooperative Development Council to study cooperatives in developing countries.
With a mission to research, formulate and share effective strategies for the performance and growth of cooperatives in developing countries, a fundamental pillar of the Research Group’s approach is to examine how cooperatives contribute to economic and gender equality.
“Over the next two years, our research agenda will focus on four priority themes that directly relate to promoting democratic principles within the cooperative development sector,” says Dr. E.G. Nadeau, research director. These priorities include the:

Impact of cooperatives on members, including women and youth

Role of good governance in keeping cooperatives democratic

Impact of co-op size and complexity on member benefits

Ways in which raising equity capital keeps co-ops financially strong
Through the exploration of these themes the Research Group will draw lessons that can be applied systematically to improve co-op performance, for the benefit of all cooperative members.
As active members of the steering committee, representatives from leading organizations in the U.S. cooperative development sector, including Global Communities, contribute their unique expertise to determine the Research Group’s strategy. The Research Group also partners with international cooperative development partners, cooperatives, researchers and donors to advance its studies.
In July, the Research Group’s first three projects begin. In partnership with Self Help Africa, an Irish nongovernmental organization (NGO), the Research Group will study how member usage and benefits can be increased for malt barley farmers in the Oromia region of Ethiopia. Currently fewer than 10% of the farmer-members sell their production to the co-ops. The results from this research will be used to identify investments for building the capacity of the cooperatives to best serve members, overcome the lack of trust at all levels, and develop mechanisms to encourage member loyalty.
The Research Group will also work in conjunction with Euricse on a project to assess the advantages and challenges of supporting cooperative development in countries that do not have a tradition of cooperation.
A concurrent project with Oxfam-GB will explore the factors and attributes that enable agricultural cooperatives working with smallholder farmers in Africa, Asia and Latin America to achieve both commercial success and developmental impact.
“Ensuring that members of cooperatives in developing countries have the tools and information necessary to actively participate and succeed is a core value of the Research Group,” says Nadeau. “The best way for us, as a research body, to do that is by taking an applied approach to research that is accessible and can be implemented by cooperative development organizations, cooperatives, and individual members.”
Cooperatives embody the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity that we celebrate on the Fourth of July. This year, as you commemorate independence, also take a moment to consider the role cooperatives, and organizations like the International Cooperative Research Group, can play in creating a more equitable and sustainable future worldwide.
For more information or to discuss partnership opportunities, contact: Nadeau at egnadeau@ocdc.coop, 001-608-345-3986 or visit the OCDC website.
The International Cooperative Research Group is a division of the U.S. Overseas Cooperative Development Council (OCDC). OCDC’s members include: ACDI/VOCA, Global Communities, Communications Cooperative International, Cooperative Resources International, HealthPartners, Land O’Lakes International Development, National Cooperative Business Association, National Rural Electric Cooperative Association International and the World Council of Credit Unions.