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by Share Brandt

Practicing Our Principles: Education

My commentaries since February have been devoted to describing how we practice the Seven Cooperative Principles. February was “Open and Voluntary Membership,” March featured “Cooperation among Cooperatives,” and April highlighted “Commitment to Community.” This month focuses on another of the seven principles: “Education, Training and Information.”

In March, 150 electric co-op leaders—the majority of them member-elected directors—met for a day and a half in Madison to discuss important legislative issues and upcoming legislative events. We heard from the governor, the two Supreme Court candidates, and experts on the state’s budget process and its makeup, the legislative redistricting process, transmission issues, and others.

On the final morning, the co-op delegates walked to the Capitol to meet with their local representatives and senators. This year, getting into the building was a new experience, much like our trips to Washington, D.C., where we’ve been going through metal detectors for many years.

New Faces, New Opportunities

Since this is the beginning of a new legislative session, the first step is to get acquainted with new legislators and staff. Co-op members described the not-for-profit cooperative business model and talked about their service areas and number of members. Discussion highlights also included new technologies for metering, mapping, and outage management the co-ops have implemented on their systems. Telling the stories were the locally elected board members, who also emphasized capital credits returned in the community, scholarships awarded to local high school graduates, and community service projects and charities supported by cooperative commitments.

We will pay a similar visit to the nation’s Capitol and congressional office buildings in May when electric co-op members carry their messages to members of Congress. We have been practicing this education principle with elected officials since the Statewide was formed in 1936 to advocate on behalf of electric cooperatives. Then we were building support for newly created electric co-ops and for them to have fair and equal access to poles, electric cable, and other materials. Today we are advocating for affordable energy and balanced national energy policy and environmental regulations.

For many legislators and members of Congress this is their first exposure to electric cooperatives and the business of electricity. It is important to help them understand how policies designed for the majority of the electric industry—which are for-profit utilities—do not always work to the benefit of electric cooperative members.

Educating Our Own

In keeping with the education principle, we’ve also committed to offer programs to help educate co-op directors, staff, and young people on cooperative business standards and the responsibilities and opportunities they enjoy as leaders, employees, and members of cooperative utilities.

This magazine, published especially for electric co-op members, is another example of the education principle. The monthly publication keeps co-op members informed about their local cooperative, energy efficiency and conservation, legislative and regulatory issues, recipes, and featured local events. In keeping with our Seven Cooperative Principles we keep our members informed!