Cooperatives cooperate. That may sound trite—redundant, even—but it’s true.
It’s also important. Cooperation between cooperatives is how innovation gets shared from coast to coast. It’s how our costs remain low. It’s how we stay safe and how we give back.
In late August and September of 2005, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita devastated the Gulf Coast. The havoc they wrought was enormous, the critical power crisis huge. And while national media attention was riveted on New Orleans, not as much attention was given to rural areas in Mississippi and Alabama. Those places, however, are precisely the ones most served by electric cooperatives, just as they are here.
In South Carolina, members of electric cooperatives wanted to help. They did so by forming a 501(c)(3) corporation called South Carolina Cooperatives Care.That group raised approximately $50,000 from members and employees to send to Mississippi and Alabama, because they knew the linemen there were out working day and night to get the lights back on for their neighbors, even as their own homes had suffered damage or been destroyed. They were caught in a tough situation.
Besides sending money, cooperative crews from around the region also mobilized to help, establishing a meaningful pattern of mobilization and sharing that always is ready to respond to need.
Fast-forward to October 2015. South Carolina suffers from historic rainfall and flooding associated with Hurricane Joaquin, and, lo and behold, that very same 501(c)(3), South Carolina Cooperatives Care, becomes the home for donations from cooperatives elsewhere, including Mississippi and Alabama, bringing the giving and caring full circle.
Cooperation isn’t just sharing data, sharing resources, sharing work. It isn’t just taking care of employees wherever they are. It isn’t just serving members until the job is done or the lights are on. At its heart, cooperation means making life better for the communities we serve as a positive force for good. It’s that spirit of giving that is the true magic of the principle of cooperation among the cooperative family.
If we learn something in South Carolina—on solar or energy storage or how to comply with EPA regulations or the best way to handle a certain safety issue—it’s not knowledge that we squirrel away like acorns for winter. It’s knowledge we share.
When someone shouts “Eureka!” and has found gold by way of an idea, that idea is to be shared for the benefit of all, rather than the profit of one company or utility. That spirit brings more than 900 cooperatives together across the country as one community in ways that don’t exist in many other marketplaces. It also brings a sense of purpose—that we can be on the front end of innovation with a unique ability to act on behalf of our members, our neighbors and the world at large.
Cooperatives cooperate. When you think about it, there’s really nothing trite about it.
The Seven Cooperative Principles
1. Voluntary and open membership
2. Democratic member control
3. Members’ economic participation
4. Autonomy and independence
5. Education, training and information
6. Cooperation among cooperatives
7. Concern for community