As we move cooperation into the 21st
Century, the United States is experiencing
an explosion in the cooperative sector.
Each year millions of people across our
nation are choosing to control more of
their lives by joining cooperatives.
Our goal at NCBA is to make cooperative
enterprise a strong, distinct and unified
sector of our economy that is recognized
by the U.S. public. Today, in the U.S.,
most people believe that we have only
three sectors of the economy: the for-profit
sector dominated by investor-owned
businesses; the government sector
including local, state and federal governments; and the
non-profit sector with organizations like the Red Cross,
universities and religious institutions. At NCBA, we see a
fourth sector of the U. S. economy that is based on a
foundation of cooperative principles and values. To
accomplish our goal of a strong fourth sector of the
economy, NCBA is focused on our mission to develop,
advance and protect cooperative enterprise. We know
that U.S. cooperatives must be strong businesses that
focus on providing new services to members and on
developing new cooperative businesses.
Even though cooperative membership includes large
numbers of people, we are still only a small part of the
U.S. economy. Existing cooperatives are growing rapidly
throughout the U.S. by adding value to membership
through new services. For example, during the past five
years, U. S. credit union membership grew from 60 million
to76 million people. The growth of credit union
membership is verified by public opinion surveys showing
that 70 percent of consumers believe credit unions provide
better service at a fairer price than do for-profit banks.
While existing cooperative membership is growing by
The Cooperative Sector: A powerful economic force
expanding services, the growth of new
businesses in the U.S. cooperative sector is
even more spectacular. One of the most
innovative new cooperatives in the U.S. is
located in New York City. There the
members of cooperative housing have
expanded the value of membership by
organizing 1st Rochdale Cooperative. This
new consumer-owned cooperative has
partnered with existing electric cooperatives
to provide electricity, telecommunications,
energy audits and fuel oil.
This explosion of growth in the cooperative
sector of the economy has occurred as a
reaction to the economic changes in our global economy.
The NCBA Board of Directors believes that to be reactive
to these economic forces is not in the best interest of our
cooperative membership. To achieve our goal of
becoming a strong fourth sector of the economy and to
organize even more cooperatives, NCBA has proactively
joined nine other cooperative development organizations
in the U.S., to restructure our programs and create
CooperationWorks. CooperationWorks is a unified system
of cooperative development centers and development
partners, cultivating cooperation as a cornerstone of
prosperous, sustainable communities.
To become the fourth sector of the economy, we must
advance the cooperative form of business enterprise.
NCBA’s programs are designed to give our members the
resources to advance their cooperative to a higher level.
For example, the Tucson Cooperative Warehouse (TCW)
was the first NCBA member to utilize Co-op 101, a new
educational resource designed to educate the employees
of cooperatives about the value of cooperatives.
NCBA’s programs are focused on advancing cooperatives in
the U.S. and around the world. We are now considering
public policy initiatives that would make
recommendations on the appropriate role for the federal
government in domestic and international cooperative
development. NCBA’s work on Capitol Hill is vitally
important in advancing the cooperative sector of the
economy. As the fourth sector of the economy,
cooperatives need different laws and regulations to help
our members achieve their economic and social goals.
Over the past several years, NCBA has successfully
protected the cooperative sector of the economy by
working with our members to fight off attacks on Capitol
Hill. But today a new threat to cooperatives is present.
The advent of e-business and the growth of in-group
purchasing organizations has led to an increase in the
number of businesses calling themselves cooperatives
when in fact they aren’t. NCBA has initiated a program
to stop this problem. The cooperative sector will not be
successful if there are false cooperatives misleading the
The reason that over 120 million Americans are members
of cooperatives is the trust that cooperatives have built
over a long history of helping people achieve their
economic goals and improve their lives. Cooperatives have
empowered millions of people throughout the world to
take more control of their lives. And, we have given
economic power to people over the past 155 years, from
those first Pioneers of Rochdale, to the newest member of
1st Rochdale Cooperative in New York City.
In the new millennium, we must look for new ways to
provide service to our members. By working together, we
can achieve our goal of a strong and unified cooperative
sector of the economy.
Paul Hazen,President and CEO
I believe that one of the greatest benefits that NCBA provides our
member cooperatives is to engage more fully in the global economy.
NCBA’s programs are designed to provide our members with new business
opportunities in the U.S. and around the world. With over 800 million
cooperative members worldwide, the cooperative sector can play an
increasingly important role in our global economy.
Globalization is affecting all cooperatives. In any U.S. small town or big
city, financial markets around the world can impact the cost of money.
Prices cooperatives charge their members can be affected by political
struggles in another country, the price of oil in the Middle East or new
technology developed by a dot com company located in your neighbor’s
Today it seems that half the world is focused on using new technology
and modernization to compete in the global economy. The other half is mired in the
past — buying and selling the same old products. Cooperatives, also, are on either
side of this divide. Some NCBA members, like my own company Nationwide, have a
global strategy. A part of our strategy is to form joint ventures with organizations in
other countries for the distribution of products. Another example is Recreational
Equipment, Inc. (REI). With 2 million members worldwide, REI is not only a leader in
electronic commerce but also is opening retail stores in new markets such as Japan.
But this global focus on modernization and technology is not apparent in all
There are cooperatives fighting with their competitors over shrinking markets and
supporting a highly regulated economy that protects the status quo. They are quite
confident that by standing still they can be an alternative to other types of businesses.
But, in a global economy, our businesses must be innovative or a competitor half way
around the world will eat our lunch. New York Times reporter Thomas L.
Friedman in his book,The Lexus and Olive Tree, makes a compelling case
for modernization and technology in order to thrive in the global market.
NCBA is well positioned to help our members in the global economy.
Every cooperative in the U.S. should be using NCBA in their global
strategy. The NCBA international cooperative development program can
offer cooperatives access to markets in developing countries. For
example, Cooperative Resources International (CRI), a NCBA member, is
providing its products and services to farmers in Nicaragua through a
NCBA development program. CRI’s strategy is to use this activity to
expand markets throughout Latin America.
Just as important is NCBA leadership in the International Cooperative
Alliance (ICA). Through ICA, NCBA has developed valuable relationships
for our members with cooperatives around the world. Without NCBA and ICA, new
business opportunities would be much more difficult.
In 1984, NCBA incorporated Cooperative Business International to help our members
expand their trade and business opportunities. Through the investment of six NCBA
member organizations, CBI has grown rapidly and provides cooperatives with a
valuable resource for the future.
In the future, NCBA will continue to focus our programs on those that help
cooperatives expand their business globally. Join with us as we help cooperatives
succeed in this millennium’s global economy.
David O. Miller,NCBA Chair
NCBA 1999 Annual Report
Global opportunities for the Cooperative Sector
NCBA 1999 Annual Report