Kirstie Boyette

Quick Stats

Start of Board Term: 2023

CW Membership: Organizational, with Cooperative Development Foundation

Favorite Co-op Principle: Principle 5 – Education, Training, and Information

First Encounter with Co-ops: Credit unions and Rural Electric Co-ops, growing up in rural America

Years in Co-ops: 7 years – 2 with NCBA CLUSA and 5 with CDF

 

What brought you into a career in cooperatives?

I’m an accidental cooperator! I grew up in rural America, so I had a little bit of an understanding of co-ops. We were members of a credit union, we got our electricity from a rural electric co-op. My parents finally got broadband in 2023, and now they can stream! And that was through the REC. I was exposed to co-ops through those experiences, but when I came to NCBA CLUSA in 2017, it wasn’t because I was gung-ho about co-ops. I knew they had a large international development arm. My background, when I was in the Peace Corps, and since returning, was mostly working with international people in development and education. At that point in my life, I took the job where I could get it. My first role was Office Administrators or Manager – I got promoted and my title changed a few times while I was there! I focused on things in the DC office, and the first major event was the inaugural Co-op IMPACT conference. I had a goal – I needed my foot in the door of NCBA CLUSA to get into the international development arm of the organization. I had hoped to move departments, but that didn’t happen! Instead, I moved to the Cooperative Development Foundation, and now I’m 100% bought in. The foundation is related to NCBA CLUSA’s work, but different. It’s a good opportunity to build external relationships, and I’ve learned so much at CDF. 

**BONUS** Fun Fact: On my way to my final interview with NCBA-CLUSA, I got stuck in the elevator! The door wouldn’t open, my cell was having a hard time finding service, and the emergency button wasn’t working. Eventually, I managed to get a call out. The fire department had to pry open the door and I had to climb out on a ladder because the elevator was stuck between floors. Needless to say, I got a call with a job offer less than two hours after I finally did my interview. And all of the elevators in the building are now fully updated. Phew!

If you were a kitchen utensil, what would you be and why?

I have to say a pizza cutter! I’m not the type of person to remember dreams often, but I did have a dream that someone broke into my house and was trying to get me with a pizza cutter. I hid in the dryer! When I got out, they were gone, so I started running. So, if I’m a pizza cutter, then no one can hurt me, and if need be, I can be the aggressor!

What is your favorite cooperative principles and why?

It’s not P6! For me, it’s Principle 5- Education, Training, and Information. I think, as my role at CDF has developed, that’s what I’ve enjoyed the most. Whether it’s me providing the education, or facilitating a grant for educational purposes, it’s quite fun!

This is your 2nd year on the CW board. What do you want to see accomplished in 2024?

I think that what I’m looking forward to most is helping to lead on the strategic vision of CW. The board before I came on did a great job of laying out some of the visions and activities that they wanted to accomplish. It’s time to recommit and recalibrate if we want to keep furthering the organization! I just want to make sure that, as new members join, everyone is on the same page for what that strategic vision is. Whatever the board is doing, the strategic vision is at the forefront at the end of the day!

You have taken on a lot of responsibilities at CDF and have really spearheaded the expansion of the Cooperative Leaders and Scholars program. Can you tell us more about your work and projects?

There are so many things going on at CDF that I should be better about documenting what I actually do! There are three buckets of work that I am primarily involved in – 1) Finance and Operations, 2) Fundraising and Communication, and 3) Grantmaking and Programs. There are different skillsets across those buckets. The most exciting part for me is probably the programmatic work. What I’ve enjoyed the last few years is being able to mold the CLS program into something that could be a marquee program for the organization that will stand the test of time. For the programmatic work that CDF does, the Foundation may stay in a certain sector for, maybe, 10 years or so, but then change happens. CDF worked with international-based co-ops before turning its focus on U.S.-based co-ops and has worked with food co-ops, senior housing, home care, and now we’re back to affordable housing. All of those have seasons depending on how mature the sector ends up becoming. We’ll come back to it if there is more work needed, but the education component for the next/new generation, that is an evergreen type of program. I can see it being a staple for CDF and NCBA CLUSA.

What are you hoping to accomplish at CDF this year?

The main thing is all of the work around the anniversaries! The 80th anniversary of CDF, the 50th anniversary of the Co-op Hall of Fame. It’s been fun to read the old typewriter documents and learn more about the history. There’s continuity in research, and that’s a big thing for the foundation. One thing I have always wanted to do more of is get more of the stories published about the people who helped CDF over the years and those who have benefitted from that help. There are some significant grants CDF has given over the years that have helped organizations start up. The first grant that Pachamama received was from CDF and look where they are now! The same with ROC-USA! I want to highlight different things like that – the formation and impact of projects and organizations receiving funding. My goal is to do a lot more of that. And I’m delegating! Cathy Statz is doing some consulting work with us along with Hanan, our Program Manager.

The organization you work for, Cooperative Development Foundation, hosts the Cooperative Hall of Fame with new heroes inducted each year. Who is YOUR co-op hero?

It’s so easy! Leslie Mead is absolutely it. For sure. If she hadn’t told me there was an opening at CDF, I can’t say for sure that I would still be working in the co-op sector because it is at CDF where I fell in love with co-ops! With Leslie, she’s the kind of person who may not say a lot, but when they say something, you listen. For her, she was involved in so much in terms of co-op education, not just in one organization, but in a lot of them, including a handful of major ones. Now that you know that my favorite principle is Education, Training, and Information, that has a lot of impact. She wasn’t just for external education, but she was also a big proponent for staff being educated about co-ops. One thing CDF does really well is education about cooperatives and providing opportunities for people to receive that education. Here’s a funny anecdote: Last October, on the day of the Co-op Hall of Fame, Leslie did a wardrobe change, which I have never seen her do! She changed into a black outfit between the inductee panel and the banquet. When I asked about it, she said she decided to wear black because she felt like she was going to her own funeral!

If you could wave a magic wand and see one thing change for the co-op sector, what would it be?

Oooh, there are definitely organizations that do this already, but I feel like everybody should be doing this. I want to identify who is big and making huge surpluses. I talk about CDF as though it is a cooperative – and it is stewarded by co-ops and cooperators. One thing I’ve talked about is being able to leverage the resources of larger organizations that can be used for nationwide co-op development. Some organizations are doing that, but there are way more that could be doing that! I understand the emphasis on providing resources to your immediate community, putting dollars back into the local economy. But for the sector’s tide to lift all boats, everybody that has the capacity to provide surplus should be donating to the centers and foundations that are providing resources for co-op development, not just for their communities, but for the US as a whole. If 5% is going toward charitable causes, that’s great, but could you put 1% toward the sector? A general pot of money that everyone could put into would mean we can help new co-ops start off right with all of the business basics they need to have before launching.