Cooperative Ownership is a Vital Alternative for MHCs

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We’re just days from publishing our Strategic Plan for July 2018 to June 2021.

With more than 220 communities and now nine nonprofit affiliates in ROC USA® Network – you know them as TA Providers – as well as the ROC Association and ROC USA® Board of Directors and committees, not to mention a staff and other key stakeholders like AARP Foundation, coordinating a planning process and producing a plan is a bit of work.

With the excellent help of a Board sub-committee – an ad-hoc committee of Directors who took on this additional commitment – I was responsible for marshalling the plan through a very inclusive process. Luckily, our Strategic Plan Committee was chaired by Lauren Counts, who does strategy as her full-time job at Capital Impact Partners, a ROC USA LLC Member and fellow Community Development Financial Institution. A consultant also helped out with an extensive amount of interviewing in our Network so that we got candid input from affiliated nonprofits.

The same consultant also facilitated everyone’s favorite part of the process, engaging ROC leaders at the Community Leadership Institute in Los Angeles, last fall. Most ROC USA Board members also participated there and heard directly from the 40 or so co-op leaders who were able to spend an extra day to contribute to the plan.

There will be more in-depth follow-up on the full plan, but there’s one thing that was prevalent throughout the process and the final draft of the plan: Our first priority is to raise up the voices of ROC leaders as leaders of the ROC movement.

Resident ownership isn’t about us, it’s about you and your community. We are obviously a part of the engine but we are not the sole driving force. We help navigate but we alone are not navigators. That’s you and your co-op community – represented by co-op leaders like those elected to the ROC USA Board and others who step up to make connections with other co-op leaders and make change happen.

The other thing ROC leaders in L.A. asked for was more information about cooperatives in general. If homeowners are stepping up and becoming co-op owners, on what tradition are they acting? Who are your brethren? Where are other co-ops operating?

On this question, let’s take a step back to the origins of co-ops in the U.S.

The oldest still-operating mutual insurance company – a co-op – in the U.S. is the Philadelphia Contribution ship. The mutual insurance company was founded under the leadership of Benjamin Franklin in 1752 and organized for the benefit of its policyholders.

Franklin is quoted saying at the time of the founding, “Every man might help another, without any disservice to himself.”

While that rings true for all co-ops, another quote from this signer of our Constitution toggles back to our Strategic Priority of co-op leader voice. Franklin also said, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” Co-op leaders and members are at the heart – the center – of everything we do, and this plan intends to make that loud and clear.

Joining together to gain economic security and create economic opportunity for one and all is timeless. It was important in the 18th century as city residents were grappling with helping neighbors avoid complete loss in the event of a fire. And, it’s important today as a large segment of homeowners in our country own a home on the land of a commercial investor. There is an alternative. There is, Better Together.

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