CPA’s Future: A Strategy Input Session
As CPA deepens its investment in the DC region and continues to look to growth in new regions, we convened a group of inspiring partners and entrepreneurial strategists interacting with the church and co-op sectors today. In a February video call, our Executive Director, Felipe Witchger, reached out to colleagues across disciplines to do just that.
So, who’s at the table? Dave Odom, the Executive Director of Leadership Education at Duke Divinity School, Dan Bryant, the Intrapraneur in Residence at Thrivent Financial, Ann Fedorchak, the Vice President of Specialty Finance at the National Cooperative Bank, Nathan Schneider, Professor of Media Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder, Michael Poffenberger, the Executive Director at the Center for Action and Contemplation, Greg Brodsky, Founder and CEO at Start.coop, Doug O’Brien, the President of the National Cooperative Business Association, Martin Trimble, the Supervising Organizer of Metro IAF and CPA Board member, and Paul Hazen, the Executive Director of the U.S. Overseas Cooperative Development Council¸ Finance Council of Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church, and a CPA Board member.
Where’s the talent? As we spoke together about the successes of CPA, the innovations of other purchasing co-op models, and the opportunities open to non-profit, land-holding organizations, we kept coming back to the question oftalent. A precondition for success, in the expansion of any entrepreneurial endeavor, is to find true talent – true believers – truly committed and skilled individuals who are on the ground and ready to learn this new way of doing things so that a good idea can actually have room to grow. Greg Brodsky spoke to the success of the cohort model in his context at Start.coop, a new “accelerator” for entrepreneurs building scalable, cooperatively owned businesses. He said, if you bring the right people together, to learn from each other and to learn from their mentor, you can create consistent support for fledgling and future leaders. “That’s the one thing you can’t solve for,” he said, “no matter how good the model is.”
What can CPA scale? We, at CPA, are committed to coming alongside churches, schools, and other community institutions to help them navigate facility management, contracting & real estate decisions and dramatically reduce their annual operating costs. But, as Dan Bryant pointed out, the growth and potential impact of CPA cannot be limited to consulting services. “If it’s a one-off, it’s not sustainable.” CPA’s model has some key pieces with the recurring rebate revenue model and building trust through group spaces for peer-to-peer value delivery. Dave Odom shared some of his experience serving on the finance committee of his local congregation. “I’ve been amazed by the talented business people that don’t have enough of a framing for the problems that they want to solve...they don’t know how to connect it to mission.” And this is where scalable and sustainable investment models come in. Our relationships with community organizations must include opportunities for them to both save on costs and also generate revenue while remaining committed to their greater missional purpose. Nathan Schneider, in his own observations on the needs of Catholic churches, especially religious orders and their properties, remarked, “the mission-orientation of CPA is an opportunity that will set it apart, as a partner.”
Where should we look next? Some of the highlights of this conversation were the exciting and diverse innovations in today’s cooperative model. We heard about churches turning under-utilized space into senior day-centers, co-working spaces, or accessing Opportunity Zones funds. We discussed methods for generating interest in CPA in new communities around the country, the possibilities of drawing on the franchise model, and identifying set standards and best practices to aid in the development of CPA co-ops in new geographic locations. And, of course, identifying that all-important talent in those locations. We talked about growth. But not growing so fast that future investors don’t see tangible results, as Ann Fedorchak, an early investor in CPA, cautioned.
And, at the end, we talked about our own growing community of cooperators. Our similar goals, challenges, and opportunities. How do we continue to create spaces to invite more into the conversation about taking the CPA model to the next level: evolving it, bringing it to new places & making it more meaningful.
We look forward continue widening the reach of the tables we’re building. Let us know if you’re interested in joining the next strategy input session.