Last year, the cooperative movement gained a lot of press during the International Year of the Cooperative. The year is over, the conference notes are filed away and today, we witness the beginning of the second and last term of Barack Obama. It is also, in the United States, the day that we celebrate the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Civil Rights Movement that propelled him into the spotlight and made possible that idea that a non-white citizen could take the Presidential oath of office.
Perhaps, then, it should also be a day to ask questions of our movement. Where are we heading in the next four years? How will we take the energy and enthusiasm from the dozens of events and conferences last year and channel it into meaningful change? There are a number of areas in which the nation and the world seem to lack leadership. The Co-operative Movement needs to start making itself known and not limit itself only to those areas where the “market fails”, but to argue that the Co-operative model can build a sustainable economic system. We need to make sure that the Obama administration hears us, but we also need to make sure that the Governors and Mayor hear us as well.
- Arguing for a an ethical accounting system that transparently accounts for the destruction of natural resources should be a cooperative goal.
- Pushing for subsidies for the solar and renewable energies equivalent to those received by the fossil fuels (including their unwritten expense of natural resources) should be a goal.
- Job creation through the development of worker owned companies should be a cooperative goal.
There are many more: homelessness, unemployment, education, and healthcare all have seeming insurmountable obstacles, but really can be solved through a cooperative model that will promote self-help and ultimately build stronger communities economically and socially. The most important thing for us, as cooperators, is to leave the sidelines and jump into the fray. Start emailing and mailing your elected officials. Make sure that cooperatives get mentioned in your local elections. Start making coops visible wether it is a school board or the water utility.
Imagine 2012 has to go beyond a really great conference. The ideas need to start being implemented. That will only happen if the one billion coop and credit union members start making their collective voice heard.