What’s in it for “we?”
June 6, 2016
By Adam Schwartz
One of the most attractive features of cooperatives is that we answer the popular question, “What’s in it for me?” with “What’s in it for we!” Cooperatives are formed when the market fails to offer a good or service, with decent quality, at an affordable price. South Central Power was formed in 1936 because, when investor-owned utilities realized there was not enough profit to be made in our community, they refused to offer electricity.
The founding members of South Central Power went door to door to collect $5 in order to raise a portion of the original investment the co-op needed. Those “go-getters” realized the only way to get electricity for me was to get it for we, the whole community.
Cooperative ownership is in the hands of the people who use the co-op’s goods and the services (not investors), so not only do co-ops start out answering the question of “What’s in it for we?” – they continue to answer that question for as long as they exist.
These days, we often hear about companies that abandon their local communities and move overseas in search of cheaper labor. This negatively impacts the community through job loss, decline in housing values and school closures. Because local residents own a majority of cooperatives, they are less likely to leave their community. In fact, it would be impossible for South Central Power to leave South Central Power. The co-op is a critical part of what makes the community a community.
The way co-ops continue to answer the question, “What’s in it for we?” is critical to their survival. It is imperative that we keep you – our members – as the primary focus. Keeping rates as low as possible is one major part of that focus, but ensuring that we provide real value as your trusted energy advisor is also extremely important.
By maintaining that focus with your help and support, we will continue to be able to serve the “me” and the “we” in our community long into the future.
Adam Schwartz is the founder of The Cooperative Way, a consulting firm that helps co-ops succeed. He is an author, speaker and member-owner of the CDS Consulting Co-op. You can follow him on Twitter @adamcooperative or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org