History, 1999: The Formation

In February 1999 member centers of the Cooperative Development Network, along with representatives of the Cooperative Development Foundation (CDF) and the National Cooperative Business Association (NCBA), held a meeting in Denver to discuss the future direction of the Network.

It had been 11 years since the formation of the National Rural Cooperative Development Task Force. In that time, the group had secured a funded Rural Cooperative Development Grant Program and formal co-op development centers were serving rural communities across the country. The centers had been working together informally for almost 10 years.

The February 1999 meeting was attended by 19 people, including representatives of nine cooperative development centers. These nine centers were Arkansas, California, Cooperative Development Institute, Cooperative Development Services, the Federation of Southern Cooperatives, Mississippi, North Dakota, Northwest and Rocky Mountain Farmers Union.

On the second day the participants forged a vision representing their shared values, aspirations and goals. And by the end of the meeting the participants had agreed to form CooperationWorks!

Vision Statement

“We are a network of trusted developers cultivating cooperation as the cornerstone of prosperous sustainable communities, improving the lives of the people who live there. Working through a unified system of cooperative development centers and development partners, we provide the highest quality professional services, honoring our diversity, and creating leading edge cooperative solutions. Cooperation Works: Realizing the power of the human spirit.”

Core Values

  • Cooperation: The power of people to improve their lives through shared action and teamwork.
  • Integrity: Fairness; justice; honesty; reflection and honest self-assessment; accountability.
  • Welcome diversity: Patient; inclusive; fair; loving; diversity of experience, ideas, cultures and projects.
  • Excellence and quality: Commitment to the best rather than the good; leadership.
  • Innovation: Creative; leading edge; intelligence; pragmatic.
  • Service: Brave leadership; sustainability; service to individuals, the environment and our communities; accountable

Signing the new vision statement and core values on Feb. 6, 1999, were: Gary Anderson, Lynn Benander, Ben Burkett, Dave Carter, Herb Cooper-Levy, Richard Dines, Andy Ferguson, Leslie Fritchman, Wally Goulet, Rosemary Mahoney, Bob Mailander, Audrey Malan, E.G Nadeau, Bill Patrie, Matt Pollock, Melbah Smith, Karen Spatz, Gus Townes and Donna Uptagrafft.

In June 1999 the members of the Network met in Greenfield, Mass., to formally launch CW. By December of that year they had adopted organizational bylaws and a work plan for 2000, put a governing structure in place, hired Herb Cooper-Levy as the coordinator, developed a business plan and approved general ideas for joint ventures.

The launch of CW marked the end of the first phase of taking cooperative development to the national level. After 11 years of work, the infrastructure for rural cooperative development in the United States was in place.