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Demystifying Cooperative Finance Course

An interactive 1-day professional development opportunity focused on finance and capital in the co-operative context. Financial management and capital structures are critical to the viability of any enterprise. For co-operatives, operating in a capital driven market economy, the questions of where the finance comes from and what it is used for, are even more compelling.  If you believe that co-operative finance needs to be aligned with co-operatives values, principles and purpose, we encourage you to take this highly participatory course.


The course stays relatively high level and is structured so as to be interesting to technical and non-technical professionals in the co-operative sector (e.g. executives, managers, board members, consultants). 

This course is not a technical finance course. Instead, it gives participants specific tools, allows for debate around different options under the banner of co-op finance, and challenges participants to consider what they do now in their co-operatives and whether they should think about doing things differently. From patronage to member capital, we provide context, pull in examples and outside speakers, and ask you to apply learnings to your co-operative during the course.

These questions will drive the learning in this course:

  • What is co-operative finance anyway? Structures and sources.

  • How and why is it different from finance for other types of organizations?

  • What is co-operative finance used for? Such as operations, patronage, impact investments, etc.

  • How we can learn from examples of best practice and failure? How to spot pitfalls and ways to avoid them.

  • What can we put into practice in our own co-operatives to make them stronger?

Example topics:

  • Why co-op capital is a hot topic on the international co-operative stage.

  • Co-op finance against the Co-operative Identity (values and principles). Where is finance different because of our model? Opportunities and pitfalls to avoid.

  • Internal member capital: Shares (membership, preferred), member debt (loans), reserves (including indivisible reserves), grants.

  • External financing: co-op funds (co-op-to-co-op; movement wide; and individual options for investment in co-ops); debt (avoiding too much but not being too wary); stock (non-voting – tradeable, non-tradeable, investor members); grants.

  • Member co-operative financial literacy. Is this a problem? How can this be addressed?

  • What co-operative finance is used for: Co-operative operating “investment” (expenses) – focused on internalization of externalities (people, community, environment); generating patronage – a more holistic conversation on patronage (purpose and approaches); impact investing (including co-op investment in co-ops and impact funds more generally).

Dates and Locations:

October 2, 2018 (Washington, DC) - NCBA CLUSA office: 1775 Eye Street NW, 8th Floor, Washington, DC 20006

This course will happen just before the IMPACT Conference hosted by NCBA CLUSA.

Earlier Event: October 1
Coffee & Cooperatives
Later Event: October 3
Co-op IMPACT Conference