by Elizabeth Lechleitner
The cooperative story is compelling, but it’s often difficult to tell due to scant data or lack of highly visible forums that feature the cooperative impact. These gaps in quantifying the cooperative advantage are what the newly launched Council of Cooperative Economists is poised to bridge.
Announced this week during NCBA CLUSA’s 2017 Annual Membership Meeting and Virtual Town Hall, the Council is tasked to collect and generate data and analysis that measures the economic impact of cooperatives and demonstrates why co-ops are the preferred business model.
Research by the Council will inform the work of the Congressional Cooperative Business Caucus and the Interagency Working Group on Cooperative Development, and is meant to influence policymakers, thought leaders and other stakeholders.
“The Council of Cooperative Economists will help fill a critical gap within the cooperative sector, providing a forum for best-in-class cooperative economists and other experts to explore ideas and publish cutting-edge research,” said Doug O’Brien, Executive Vice President of Programs for NCBA CLUSA and organizer of the Council.
“Our goal is to demonstrate that, with appropriate resources, we can tell the story of cooperative impact in a much more powerful way,” O’Brien added.
Co-chaired by Terry Barr, Senior Director of CoBank‘s Knowledge Exchange Division and Bill Hampel, Chief Economist and Chief Policy Officer for the Credit Union National Association, the Council is currently comprised of 14 members representing a wide variety of backgrounds and areas of expertise. Half of the members bring at least two decades of experience working within the cooperative sector to the Council. Most of the members have economic expertise; some contribute legal, finance, management, labor relations or sociology knowledge as well. The members also represent experience within all major cooperative and economic sectors. Learn more about them here.
The Council will meet again in July and is expected to contribute to NCBA CLUSA’s 2017 Cooperative IMPACT Conference in October. The Autumn 2017 issue of the Cooperative Business Journal, published in late September, will provide an additional outlet for their research.
The Council is also positioned to quickly respond to data from the 2017 Economic Census, should the question recognizing co-ops be reinstated. Sign up for Co-op Weekly to stay up to date on this effort, which could end a nearly 20-year-long absence of federally-reported data on cooperatives.