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Art & science of energy independence.

"The Art and Science of Cooperative Business Development," now in its fifth year, is the only training program available in the United States that addresses the unique attributes of developing and expanding cooperatively based enterprises.

Twice each year for five days of intensive training, participants are immersed in learning the practical applications of cooperative business development skills. The training uses a multi-faceted format that includes lectures, interactive sessions, case study analyses, panel discussions, study tours to local cooperative, and plenty of opportunities to network with faculty and students.

The program is produced by CooperationWorks!, a national service cooperative for co-op development centers. It takes place at the University of Wisconsin and Madison, a national nexus for cooperatives and credit unions.

Energy independence director speaks

A special highlight of the September 2007 session was a reception for the Madison co-op community, featuring guest speaker Judy Ziewacz. Currently the director of Wisconsin's new Office of Energy Independence, she was previously deputy director of the Wisconsin State Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Before that she was a national leader in cooperative development and one of the founders of CooperationWorks!

Ziewacz spoke about the role co-ops can and are playing in the move toward energy independence. Wisconsin's governor has challenged the legislature to mandate that 25 percent of electricity and 25 percent of transportation fuel come from renewable fuels by 2025. The state's dairy co-ops (part of a $20.6 billion industry) seem to be in a good position to benefit from such initiatives.

Ziewacz told the Madison crowd that people who look to generating renewable energy from the rural landscape but are intimidated by big projects should not be concerned. That's because the co-op model offers a way to make this happen by becoming more, not less, independent.

Business model that works

"When we first started the [co-op development] centers," she said in a recent interview, "we positioned cooperatives as a rural development tool that aggregates individual producers' enterprises in both vertical and horizontal linkages to the market. As the renewable energy field develops, we don't have to reinvent the wheel," she emphasized. "We already know a model that works."

The 2008 "Art & Science of Cooperative Business Development" program will begin this spring. For more information, contact Audrey Malan at 307-655-9162 or
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Author:Livingston, Jane
Publication:Rural Cooperatives
Date:Jan 1, 2008
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