Cooperative enterprises build a better world

Every October, cooperatives throughout the country celebrate the success and power of the cooperative business model, especially during National Co-op Week, which is Oct. 16-22 this year. Cooperatives fall into four general categories: consumer, producer, worker and purchasing/shared services.  Across the U.S., 29,000 cooperative businesses are owned by more than 130 million people, and the numbers are growing.

Those in communities nationwide are encouraged to join in the celebration this week and month by “being  cooperative” and joining cooperatives, buying from cooperatives, working at cooperatives, living in cooperatives and making cooperatives the first choice for the solutions to their needs. Annual celebrations play a key role in educating members and communities as well as the public and policymakers about the role cooperatives play in strengthening the economy, providing jobs and improving life in local communities.

The 2011 event marks a rare opportunity for co-ops to begin planning for the International Year of Cooperatives, a 12-month global celebration of the cooperative enterprise taking place throughout 2012. The theme of the 2011 Co-op Month celebration and that of the 2012 International Year is the same: “Cooperative Enterprises Build a Better World.” It reflects the contributions that cooperatives make to their members and communities as well as to social and economic development.

The United Nations General Assembly will launch the International Year of Cooperatives at the U.N. General Assembly Hall on Oct. 31, 2011 in New York City. International years are declared by the United Nations to draw attention to and encourage action on major issues. “Cooperatives are a reminder to the international community that it is possible to pursue both economic viability and social responsibility,” said U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

America’s electric cooperatives have been built on their own unique historical events.  In a relatively short period of time, electric cooperatives have become a significant part of the American landscape: today 841 distribution and 65 G&T cooperatives serve 42 million people in 47 states, which accounts for 12 percent of the nation’s population. Electric cooperatives own assets worth $112 billion, they own and maintain 2.5 million miles, or 42 percent, of the nation’s electric distribution lines. And they employ 70,000 Americans, pay $1.4 billion in state and local taxes and retire $545 million in capital credits annually.

Watch the National Rurual Electric Cooperative Association’s latest video highlighting the important role of cooperatives (video courtesy of


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