Cooperation Among Cooperatives

"All cooperative organizations, in order to best serve the interests of their members and their communities, should actively cooperate in every practical way with other cooperatives at local, national and international levels."

There were reasons why early cooperators identified what is now an internationally accepted principle. Some of those reasons were negative: the often demonstrated weaknesses of independent operations, which must continually reinvent the methods and recapitulate the struggles of numerous other cooperatives. Other reasons for establishing the principle were positive: the sounder corporate structures and improved operating practices that arise through copying model primary cooperative societies and through associating to form secondary level organizations.

Our generation of cooperatives has again demonstrated the limitations imposed by independent development. But this edition's reports from regional associations provide exciting evidence that many food cooperatives are now making serious efforts to overcome inertia and other barriers to working together. These cooperative grocer associations are carrying out projects that are vital to the future of all our businesses.

An important and comprehensive review in the board of directors column also echoes historical lessons, such as the recognition that a point of sale discount is a blunt and risky instrument for management of cooperative earnings. Many of today's co-ops, in their third decade, have yet to design a membership package that is sustainable in a competitive market and that encourages longterm growth in member sales and longterm growth in capital.

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