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Editorial: We need you

by Josh Kramer

The cooperative business model is unique. It is pragmatic, mission-oriented and puts people first. Cooperatives strive to be a trusted voice in their communities. They’ve earned that trust because, while not perfect, they always have their members’ best interests at heart and are determined to enrich the lives of those living and working in the communities they serve – now and in the future.

Each October, we celebrate Co-op Month. It is a time for cooperatives to reflect on their shared values and core principles.

North Dakota’s electric cooperatives work hard to demonstrate the cooperative values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. The seven cooperative principles – voluntary and open membership; democratic member control; members’ economic participation; autonomy and independence; education, training and information; cooperation among cooperatives; and concern for community – drive everything our cooperatives do. These unique shared values and principles differentiate cooperatives from other types of businesses.

The feature story on page 6 of this North Dakota Living issue gives several examples of how electric cooperatives put these core principles into action. It provides a mere glimpse into “the cooperative difference,” as there are countless stories about the good work and the good people who contribute to our cooperative system – stories that we, cooperative members, are proud of.

As cooperative stakeholders, we all share the responsibility to teach each other, members and nonmembers, about the importance of the cooperative business model. Equally important is the need for member-owners to participate in their cooperatives, engage in cooperative self-governance and provide feedback. We must encourage participation any way we can and continually seek input, for we know our members offer a valuable perspective.

In nearly every conversation I have with our industry’s cooperative leaders, there are three questions that seem to surface: 1) How can we better serve our members? 2) How can we better teach others about the cooperative business model and our industry? 3) How can we better engage with our members?

I hope you would agree these essential questions focus on two things: the future and improvement. As a cooperative member, it is reassuring to know my cooperative is dedicated to an improvement-focused future. And in my position, I can attest that electric cooperative employees and leaders work hard to learn about new and emerging technologies, and issues and trends that affect our industry, communities and members.

Cooperative people are adamantly committed to providing safe, reliable and affordable energy. They do so with an eye to the future, anticipating and planning for the needs of tomorrow. Members like you built your co-op for you and community members yet to come. But, we need you. With your help, we’ll continue to learn about our members’ priorities, so we can best serve you – today, tomorrow and always.

Josh Kramer, editor-in-chief of North Dakota Living, is executive vice president and general manager of NDAREC. Contact him at