Cooperation Among Cooperatives: NH Co-ops Show the Way

By David J. Thompson

Three food co-ops in New Hampshire are leading the way in actions that carry out the Sixth Principle of the International Cooperative Alliance: “Cooperation among Cooperatives.”  First, Hanover Food Co-op, then Littleton Food Co-op and now Monadnock Food Co-op have all joined the national Cooperative Community Fund program. The members and boards of the co-ops have built their funds into three endowments that in total amount to close to $450,000. You will be amazed at what cooperation has achieved and for how many people in just one state.

Run by the Twin Pines Cooperative Foundation (TPCF), the Cooperative Community Fund (CCF) program is operated locally by about 45 food co-ops all across the USA. The CCF funds are endowments grown by each of the food co-ops where the annual interest earned is given by those 45 food co-ops to nonprofits in their community. On its part, TPCF invests the joint funds only in the development of cooperatives. The full $3 million in TPCF funds cycles only within our family of cooperatives and leverages $30 million in total for the development of cooperatives.  There are no dollars invested in the Stock Market but millions in Co-op Markets.

TPCF’s CCF policy is to invest its funds proportionately to spur cooperative development in the regions from where the funds come.

Using just one fund for example, TPCF has over $600,000 invested in the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund (NHCLF). The major program of the NHCLF is to help residents of mobile home parks in New Hampshire to form cooperatives to buy the parks they rent in, increasing the financial independence of these long-term renters. As of the end of 2016, NHCLF has funded the residents buying 121 parks in New Hampshire!

Residents of Pine Grove MHP Cooperative in West Swanzey built a bus stop shelter for the children in the community. From left, Peter Manosh, Susan Whitcomb, Claudette Helie, Doni-Anne Way, Jimmy tempesta and Mary Lucas.

The Cooperative Community Funds of these three NH food co-ops participate in the Twin Pines Cooperative Foundation, which invests in the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund, which in turn used the funds to help residents form co-ops to buy 28 mobile home parks in the three New Hampshire counties which are served by the three food co-ops. Eleven of these co-op parks are in Cheshire County, home to Monadnock Food Co-op. That truly is Cooperation among Cooperatives.

By helping those residents buy 121 mobile home parks, the NHCLF has helped 6,800 NH families to own not only their own home but cooperatively the land beneath their home. NHCLF has freed about 20,000 residents of NH from being permanent renters to being owners of their parks.

So think about that dollar you want to donate to charity and think about how each dollar given to a CCF immediately leverages ten dollars for the development of cooperatives both regionally and across our country, then delivers interest to be donated to local non-profits. How’s that for cooperation?

Stony Brook Estates’ conversion to resident-ownership was a Christmas Eve gift to its residents.

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International Co-operative Alliance, Sixth Principle, Co-operation Among Co-operatives” “Co-operatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the co-operative movement by working together through local, national, regional and international structures.”

David J. Thompson is President of the Twin Pines Cooperative Foundation which is the largest single co-op investor in cooperative development organizations in the USA. Twin Pines Cooperative Foundation is a long-term investor in the New Hampshire Community Loan Fund.