Real Co-op Magic: 2017's Group Meeting Impact

2017 was an exciting year of innovation, deepening collaboration and partnership for the Community Purchasing Alliance. (Download our Annual Report here.)

I’m especially proud of a diverse group of 3 schools, 2 synagogues, and 3 churches in DC that created a new program to get new roofs and solar panels installed at no upfront cost and receive deep discounts on their electricity bills.

Their leadership emerged at a group meeting talking about how they weren’t able to take advantage of a great offer from New Columbia Solar - because their roofs weren’t in good enough condition. Joe Naroditsky, CPA’s Director of Solar, brought New Columbia Solar and our members together and figured out a way to weave their interests into a path forward that replaced each of their roofs and used money from solar incentives to help make it all work.

We’ve known since the beginning that opportunities like this and others are possible by the power of group purchasing, which is why our peer groups are the heart and soul of this cooperative. This year we hosted over two dozen group meetings to tackle questions around facilities, HR, IT, and organizational development.

In the hopes of sharing what we’re learning, we launched and a nation-wide discussion with 12 partners on how to begin planting the seeds of new purchasing cooperatives in their communities. Many conversations are happening already in Durham, NC, Cincinnati, OH and in New Haven, CT leading to likely prospects for our co-op's growth in new regions.

Much of this growth has flowed naturally out of our partnership with Metro IAF, a network of more than 30 affiliates in 10 states, that invested $75,000 at the start of our cooperative. 5 years ago Martin Trimble, Supervising Organizer with Metro IAF, challenged our founding board to think bigger.

What if we could create a new vehicle for social change by creating an earned income stream for community organizing? What if we took the best of community organizing -- meaningful relationship building, disciplined and effective meetings, and practical, focused conversations -- and translated that to new collaborations on facilities and operations?

Four years since our incorporation in early 2014, I’m excited to report our model is working. We’ve helped our members secure more than $4.3 million in savings. We’re allocating more than $28,000 in member dividends this year and writing a check to Metro IAF to train and develop the next generation of organizers and community leaders.

So, what is the next horizon? Where do we fit in the broader landscape? These are the questions I invite you to ask with us. Our cooperative is made up of leaders just like you. We want to invite you to join us in making a deeper, more lasting impact by creating more spaces to operate your building and tackle some of our generation’s most difficult questions.

We look forward to working with you.