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Updates from the UW Center for Cooperatives                            View this email in your browser
In this issue:

Supporting Cooperatives Through Education
Home Care Cooperative Podcasts Now Available
Study: Rural Cooperatives Bring Broadband to Members
Save the Date! Farmer Cooperatives Conference
In Brief: Updates and Publications
Upcoming Events

 Supporting Cooperatives Through Education

Dr. Monica White, assistant professor of environmental justice at UW-Madison, presented a keynote discussion on historical cooperative and collective action in communities of color, at the 2017 CCMA in Minneapolis, MN.
Cooperative education is critical to grow and sustain a thriving cooperative sector. For many years, UWCC has provided assistance to cooperatives throughout Wisconsin and the U.S. by developing continuing education opportunities for their boards and management. Recent events such as the Cooperative Directors Forum, the Business Succession and Retention: Employee Owned Solutions workshop, the 19th Annual Farmer Cooperative Conference, and the 2017 Consumer Cooperative Management Association conference have enabled cooperative leaders to learn new strategies to improve their cooperative’s performance, share ideas with their cooperative peers, and stay up to date with the latest issues impacting their co-op.

Farmer Cooperatives Conference – November 2016
The 19th annual Farmer Cooperative Conference brought together nearly 150 agricultural cooperative leaders, policy makers and academics in Minneapolis, MN to discuss critical issues impacting cooperatives. Highlights of the conference included an overview of domestic and global trends, a look at cooperative business strategies and governance best practices, cyber security and an examination of the role cooperatives play in the rural economy. The next Farmer Cooperatives Conference will be November 1-3, 2017 in St. Paul, MN. For more information and to register, click here.

Cooperative Directors Forums – December 2016 & April 2017
The Cooperative Directors Forum is an interactive forum for new and veteran directors from cooperatives of all types and sectors. Co-developed with Cooperative Network, UWCC hosted over 100 co-op directors to share best practices on issues such as equity management, governance, cyber security, CEO recruitment and succession planning, risk management and the latest legal issues impacting co-ops. Board education is critical component of a healthy board and important to the success of cooperatives. Stay tuned for our next Co-op Directors Forum in December 2017.

Business Succession and Retention: Employee Ownership Solutions – April 2017
It is estimated that 70% of private businesses will change hands over the next two decades, many as a result of retiring baby boomers. Participants of this one-day workshop learned how to use the employee ownership model as an effective strategy for keeping businesses, jobs and wealth in their communities. Attendees ranged from community and economic developers to small business development center staff and small business owners interested in converting to an employee owned structure. The workshop highlighted conversion case studies from a diverse range of industries including solar energy, manufacturing, and insurance. Other key topics included benefits of employee ownership in both rural and urban settings, worker cooperatives and employee stock ownership plans (ESOPs), practical steps in the conversion process, strategies for capitalizing conversion deals, and resources available to business owners who are exploring employee ownership. Business owners interested in employee ownership were also able to attend a one-on-one consultation at the end of the workshop.

 
Margaret Bau of USDA chairs a panel of business leaders who have converted to the employee ownership structure: Josh Stoltzenburg of Northwind Renewable Energy, Dirk Maroske of Aztalan Engineering, Karl Cumberland of Diversified Insurance Solutions, and Rob Peck of Northwind Renewable Energy.
Consumer Cooperative Management Association Conference (CCMA)– June 2017
With over 60 years running, the Consumer for Cooperative Management Association (CCMA) conference is filled with rich traditions and is attended by an enthusiastic food cooperative sector.  Hosted by UWCC and the Twin Cities areas food cooperatives, CCMA brought together over 400 food cooperative leaders at the Radisson Blu in downtown Minneapolis. Under the theme “Our North Star: Cooperate to Differentiate”, participants shared ideas and inspiration, visited local co-ops and producers, and discussed critical issues impacting the food cooperative sector. During the conference, participants heard keynote and breakout session speakers tackle issues such as managing crises within co-ops, how to increase community and board member engagement, recognizing market trends, supporting fair trade, and addressing the issues of racial inequality, underrepresentation, and oppression within the co-op world. Planning is underway for CCMA 2018, which will be hosted in Portland, Oregon.

Home Care Cooperative Podcasts
Now Available


A new series of educational podcasts to help individuals involved with home care cooperatives understand and address issues of governance, staff recruitment and retention, and the meaning of cooperative membership are now available. The podcasts are designed for new cooperative members and individuals starting home care cooperatives, and are a resource for more established cooperatives and cooperative developers.  
 
Because home care providers often travel significant distances between clients, the podcast format was selected to allow them to listen on a mobile phone while in a car or on public transportation. The podcasts are available for streaming on SoundCloud or can be downloaded on iTunes.
These podcasts were developed by the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives in collaboration with the Cooperative Development Foundation and through a generous grant from USDA Rural Development. They include narration and interviews with Margaret Bau, USDA Rural Development; Kippi Waters, Peninsula Homecare Cooperative, Port Townsend, WA; Tracy Dudzinski, Debra Schultz and Sharon Becker, Cooperative Care, Wautoma, WI.
Listen Now

Study: Rural Cooperatives Bring
Broadband to Members

Many rural areas continue to lag behind in access to and adoption of broadband, which is critical to local economic and community development. The business case for investing in broadband infrastructure is inherently difficult, given the capital-intensive investment needed to serve sparsely distributed rural populations.  

With funding from USDA’s Rural Cooperative Development Grant program, UWCC researched and recently published a report in collaboration with UW Extension’s Broadband Education and E-Commerce Center. The report examined current and potential broadband development activities by rural cooperatives in Wisconsin and elsewhere. UWCC’s research found that the rural telecom cooperatives are very successfully providing broadband services to their members, and that rural electric cooperatives are also playing a growing role in broadband deployment.

Telecom Cooperatives

Notably, all of Wisconsin’s 11 rural telecom cooperatives provide fiber to the premises (FTTP) services, covering the majority of their access lines in the rural northwestern and western portions of the state. Additionally, their fiber infrastructure provides service to rural gigabit business parks and are critical to attract and retain businesses. These parks are located in rural counties that make up 21% of the state's land area, but are only sparsely populated with only 9% of the state’s residents. In contrast, gigabit business parks served by publicly owned telecom providers are located in counties with much higher population densities, where 40 of the state's land area house 70% of its residents. 

Most telecom cooperatives nationwide have made similar investments in fiber optic networks, which can deliver unlimited data at speeds 10 to 20 times faster than 3G/4G wireless service at lower costs - but only over a long-term, 20-year cost-recovery period. These kinds of long-term investment decisions are aligned with a cooperative’s member-user ownership structure, which prioritizes member benefits and service-at-cost instead of a return on investment. Cooperatives and rural privately-owned telecom companies have participated in direct loan (not grant) programs administered by the USDA to finance rural telecom system development. The loan program has been successful: many of the cooperatives have been clients for 50-60 years since the program’s initiation in 1949, having received -- and paid back - loans multiple times.

 

Rural Electric Cooperatives

While rural electric cooperatives are less visible players in the rural broadband system, internal infrastructure needs and an orientation toward local economic development are pushing the sector to become more active.
 
Broadband access issues would seem to fall outside of an electric cooperative’s mission to deliver electric service to their member-owners in a financially responsible manner. But robust broadband capacities are increasingly important to future cooperative operations as “smart grid” technology allows both cooperatives and their members to better manage energy demand and distributed energy functions. 
 
Many electric cooperative boards are considering what role, if any, they could play in broadband development in their communities. As providers of essential infrastructure, electric cooperatives have a strong interest in the economic health of a community. Board members or management may participate on local economic and community development boards and committees that consider the increasingly essential need for broadband services by local businesses, institutions, and individuals.  
 
Electric cooperatives are responding in a variety of ways. Eight of Wisconsin’s 24 electric cooperatives with members in underserved areas make internet services available through arrangements with wireless or satellite providers. Board members and management from electric cooperatives are working with other community groups, including telecom cooperatives to develop strategic partnerships to enhance access to broadband services for rural areas.
Read the Full Report

In Brief: Updates and Publications

 

Updates

Co-op identification question in 2017 Economic Census - The. U.S. Office of Management and Budget announced that the 2017 Economic Census will include a question identify cooperative businesses. Ending a nearly 20 year-long absence of federally-reported data on co-ops in the U.S., the data gathered will provide more timely and relevant picture of the cooperative economy. The request was made on behalf of NCBA CLUSA by the Congressional Cooperative Business Caucus in May—to reinstate a question recognizing cooperative businesses that was dropped from the census in the 90s. 

Anne Reynolds honored as 2016 Badger Bioneer - Awarded by Sustain Dane, a Madison-based non-profit that aims to establish the Greater Madison Region as a national model for sustainability and sustainability innovation, praised Reynolds' work to create a more cooperative community and just food system through her work at the UW Center for Cooperatives. The selection committee cited "the breadth, depth, inclusivity and future ripple effect" of Anne's achievements.
Madison Cooperative Development Coalition hosted a Kick-Off meeting in June for MCDC Partner organizations, which are comprised of community-based organizations, labor groups, and cooperative developers. The coalition is launching a mini grant program to build capacity of community-based organization to help create and support cooperatives. 
Supporting Tribal Cooperatives - UWCC has partnered with the Intertribal Agriculture Council to develop tools for Native American Tribal cooperative development. Anne Reynolds, executive director, and Kelly Maynard, cooperative development specialist, presented on How to Start a Co-op at the 2017 Great Lakes Intertribal Food Summit at Jijak Camp in Hopkins, MI. 

UWCC has continued to support CooperationWorks' The Art and Science of Cooperative Development training, which held its Session 1 in Madison, WI in April 2017. The training is a rigorous three-part course for participants to develop the skills to start a new cooperative and assist groups to start new cooperative enterprises. 
Anne Reynolds and Courtney Berner shared their knowledge on cooperative business governance and the legal and tax environment for cooperatives, respectively. Session 2 will be in Madison, November 6-9, 2017. Click here for more information.   

UWCC is coordinating a feasibility study for the Land Institute to determine the viability of starting a cooperative entity to manage the commercialization of Kernza®. Developed though a plant-breeding research project, Kernza® is a type of intermediate wheatgrass that, as a perennial grain crop, has promising benefits for the environment including improved soil health and clean water retention. The group is exploring a cooperative model to ensure that benefits of the crop are retained by the farmers growing the grain.

Publications

Upcoming Events

2017 Co-op Impact Conference
October 4-6, 2017
Alexandria, VA

More information

20th Annual Farmer Cooperatives Conference
November 1-3, 2017
Intercontinental St. Paul, MN
Register
Conference website


Session 2: The Art and Science of Cooperative Development
November 6-9. 2017
Madison, WI 
More information


Small & Strong Food Co-ops
November 11, 2017
Bloomington, MN

More information

 
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