In 1959 the United Nations began to designate “international years” in order to draw attention to major issues and to encourage international action to address concerns that have global importance and ramifications. The first international year highlighted the world’s refugees. In 1965, it focused world attention on cooperation. That year they encouraged scientists, educators, and professionals from all fields to reach out to their peers around the planet and share what they were working on. Many different people discovered they were not alone in their interests, and research became more collaborative. Human rights, education, disabled individuals, literacy, tolerance, and poverty all have been a focus for the United Nations. Now in 2012 the United Nations is at last declaring it a year of cooperatives. United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon reminded the world that the cooperative business model has some tremendous advantages by saying, “Cooperatives are a reminder to the international community that it is possible to pursue both economic viability and social responsibility.”

The year’s message
Now 192 nations will have the opportunity to recognize the cooperatives that exist in their countries and hopefully foster their growth. At the CCMA Conference I attended in San Diego, representatives from all over the U.S. from co-ops just like Willy Street Co-op heard about the declaration of the International Year of the Cooperative and pledged to do everything we could to bring the year’s message to our Owners and our communities. I had a moment to reflect as I flew across America on the trip back home. It was a chance to realize just how many different types of businesses are operating with a cooperative model right here in Wisconsin. Many of the goals we share are beneficial to society and contribute to the quality of life for all of us.

Millennium Development Goals
Last September 10th, a U.N. summit designated eight “millennium development goals.” By 2015 their global action plan hopes to make significant progress on these goals. Included in their announcement was a new commitment to women and children’s healthcare. Co-ops worldwide can and will play an important part in achieving these goals. Here are the goals:

Our Co-op is already assisting with these goals and leading the way among grocery providers to help set up networking with local growers, roasters, brewers, bakers, and promoting economic activity for other businesses such as credit unions, cab services, community gardens, and local alternative health care providers. We have strong ties to environmentalists. We have launched a sustainability committee and are participating in the same kind of committee in the city of Middleton. At the conference, we were all encouraged to work with our fellow cooperatives and we talked about how we would return to our stores with a renewed emphasis on this agenda. As responsible citizens on a shrinking world we can do our part to come together on a better economic model.

A better community
As you spend your dollars around the community ask yourself if there is a chance to encourage the wiser economic model. Reward those who have seen the advantages to organizing cooperatively and help them strengthen. Your support will come back to you in a better community. In the year ahead, our Co-op will be looking for ways to participate in this global initiative. If you have an idea on how we can do that, send it along to us!