On December 17, 2014, Presidents Barack Obama and Raul Castro announced plans to normalize diplomatic ties between the United States and Cuba, marking the most significant shift in U.S. – Cuban relations in decades. This historic move set the stage for a realignment of the countries’ relationship and the U.S.'s future relationships with the Cuban government, civil society and citizens.
About the USCCWG
In this context, the National Cooperative Business Association, CLUSA International (NCBA CLUSA) is affirming its vision of opening a new chapter of relationship with the Cuban cooperative sector. To that end, NCBA CLUSA has launched the U.S. – Cuba Cooperative Working Group with a mission to promote mutually-beneficial collaboration between the U.S. and Cuba’s cooperative sectors in an effort to support U.S. cooperative growth and Cuban economic updates that will result from the ongoing success of strong and vibrant cooperatives in both countries.
The NCBA CLUSA U.S. – Cuba Cooperative Working Group (USCCWG) is a national-level, multi-sectoral U.S. cooperative leadership group representing consumer, purchasing, worker and producer cooperatives from a broad range of sectors, including agriculture, energy, finance, grocery and consumer goods, transportation, insurance and housing. The group was formed in early 2014 to explore opportunities for working in partnership with Cuba on cooperative development in various sectors of Cuba’s economy. NCBA CLUSA has a 60-year history of supporting cooperative and international development in more than 100 countries around the world and is actively expanding its work in Latin America and the Caribbean, both as an implementer of development projects and as a leader of the cooperative movement in the Americas.
The USCCWG was formed in collaboration with Eric Leenson of SOL2 Economics, which has collaborated with cooperative leaders in Cuba, Canada and Latin America around the topic of socially-responsible enterprise in Cuba over the past five years. In forming the USCCWG, NCBA CLUSA reached out to a network of U.S. cooperative leaders from multiple sectors interested in establishing partnerships with Cuban cooperatives, cooperative researchers and policymakers.
Established in 2014 and led by NCBA CLUSA, the USCCWG's mission is to support a stronger and more vibrant cooperative movement in the U.S. and Cuba, while supporting Cuban economic growth.
Official launch of the USCCWG
On Tuesday, March 10, 2015, NCBA CLUSA held a press conference at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. to announce the official launch of the U.S. – Cuba Cooperative Working Group and release a research report on the emerging role co-ops are playing in Cuba's economic updates, and how partnership between U.S. and Cuban cooperative sectors can bolster the movement in both nations.
More than 100 people interested in how cooperative businesses can help move the Central Texas economy toward shared abundance and prosperity, came together at the second annual Austin Cooperative Summit brought by the Austin Cooperative Business Association and NCBA CLUSA. “The summit identified opportunities to expand the cooperative economy here in Central Texas and showcased many of the cooperative businesses thriving in our region,” said Brian Donovan, Executive Director of the Austin Cooperative Business Association. “The feedback has been really positive and we are already thinking about how it can be even better next year.” The opening reception included presentations from NCBA CLUSA CEO, Mike Beall, Texas Electric Cooperatives CEO, Mike Williams, and Executive VP of the National Coop Bank, Steven Brookner, talking about their experience in the cooperative movement and the value their organizations bring to members and the communities they serve. During the evening reception, many cooperatives shared their work and products including: Equal Exchange, Wheatsville Food Co-op, Black Star Co-op, Cooperation Texas, Red Rabbit Cooperative Bakery, KOOP Radio, Artists Screen Printing Cooperative, Amplify Credit Union, and Community Housing Expansion of Austin. Throughout the conference, presentations featured information about cooperatives in the food system, an introduction to the many types of cooperatives and resources available to help them start and expand in Texas. The keynote presentation was by Dr. John Park, the Roy G. Davis Chair at Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. In his presentation, Dr. Park explained the way our food system works and the important role cooperatives play to bring food from farms to our tables. A panel discussion about opportunities for cooperatives in the local food movement identified many ways cooperatives could provide solutions to get fresh local food to consumers in Central Texas. “It’s great to see such a dedicated group of cooperators, listening and learning from one another,” said Mike Beall, president and CEO of NCBA CLUSA. “The ACBA is providing much needed support for local cooperatives, working to grow and expand their businesses. NCBA CLUSA is proud to have them as a partner and is dedicated to supporting cooperative businesses in Austin and around the country.” The summit culminated with an excellent dinner at the Sustainable Food Center prepared by Black Star chef, Johnny Livesay. All who attended met the dinner with rave reviews. For more information on the Austin Cooperative Business Association visit www.ACBA.coop.