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75 Years of Cooperative Impact: Harnessing the Resources of the US Co-op Community

The 40,000 cooperatives that flourished in the US in 1960 showed the potential of the model to meet the economic and social needs of producers, workers and communities. The cooperative idea, its distinct qualities and the expertise of implementers were underutilized in US overseas assistance programs until the passage of the Humphrey Amendment to the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961.


Responding to the Humphrey Amendment's mandate to include cooperative development in US Agency for International Development programs, CDF's predecessor organization -- the Fund for International Cooperative Development -- formed Worldwide Co-op Partners, a cohort of voluntary agencies, missions and foundations.


Worldwide Co-op Partners dispersed over 3,000 educators and organizers to establish training schools to encourage cooperative work in developing countries. The effort was the predecessor of VOCA (Volunteers in Overseas Cooperative Assistance). At the same time major US farm cooperatives formed the International Cooperative Development Association specifically to plan and manage cooperative economic enterprises in countries receiving foreign aid from the United States. Together the two organizations make up today's ACDI/VOCA.


This focus on cooperatives in international development launched the International Cooperative Training Center (ICTC) at the University of Wisconsin. With the help of the Fund for International Cooperative Development and federal funding to encourage the development and use of cooperatives and credit unions, ICTC trained over 2,000 cooperative leaders from nearly 100 countries on cooperative management, finance and governance. They also conducted training for future Peace Corps volunteers. Today ICTC is known as the University of Wisconsin Center for Cooperatives.

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