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by Share Brandt

Building a Better World

We want our children and neighbors to succeed. We need a strong and sustainable community. But how do you go about actually building a better world?

History tells us when we band together we can do anything. Together, we can build a better world. That’s where cooperatives come into play.

Next month, in addition to the normal October Co-op Month promotions, we kick off a yearlong celebration marking the International Year of Cooperatives 2012. Our theme, “Cooperative Enterprises Build a Better World,” resonates loud and clear in our turbulent national—and global—economy. The year offers a chance for us to showcase our legacy of innovation and achievement, and it reminds us of what’s important in business—putting people first.

Nationwide, International 

You’re a member of an electric cooperative, so you know we’re focused on providing safe, reliable, and affordable power. But this community-driven business model doesn’t stop at your light switch. There are 29,200 co-ops across America taking many forms, from farmers banding together to get a fair price on supplies to credit unions delivering low fees and reasonable interest rates on loans. Our business model works for dairy farmers and small-business owners, financial institutions, grocery stores, insurance, housing, and child care.

One out of every four Americans is a co-op member; there are more than 1 billion members around the world. Co-ops fill a community need, giving a voice to folks that profit-driven businesses often overlook. Co-ops share a common set of principles and values, including self-help and—one of my favorites—democracy.

Electric cooperatives may only serve 12 percent of Americans, but our lines cover 75 percent of this great nation. By banding together, we deliver power to 42 million rural Americans in 47 states—and we’re not finished.

Through the National Rural Electric Cooperative Association International Programs, co-op linemen are volunteering overseas to deliver electricity to 2 billion people living without power. During the last 50 years, these efforts have provided light and hope to 100 million people in more than 40 countries. That’s how electric cooperatives build a better world.

A New Generation

During International Year of Cooperatives 2012 it’s important to remember co-ops put people first. We brought electricity to this community to improve our quality of life and keep young people from leaving to seek opportunities in electrified cities. Nearly three-quarters of a century later we still want our children to succeed. That’s why we support the Rural Electric Youth Tour, annually sending students to Washington, D.C., to learn about leadership, teamwork, and our nation’s ideals. Through the Federated Youth Foundation, Wisconsin co-ops each year use unclaimed capital credits funds to provide scholarships that help send local students to college. These budding leaders will help us build a better world.

We also want to celebrate our legacy of innovation. Co-ops adapt quickly to change, and we work together—cooperatively—to find solutions to improve service for our members. Can you imagine profit-driven utilities working together to keep bills affordable?

Innovation takes many forms, from our energy efficiency and renewable energy efforts to transforming the electric grid. Each innovative step forward builds a better community for all of us.

Whenever a community faces a need—a challenge to make life better—the cooperative business model comes into play. By putting people first and innovating to meet member needs, cooperative enterprises build a better world. To learn more, visit