What excites me these days is that co-operatives in the region are going places, literally. What I mean by this is that several more established co-ops are putting up branches in strategic locations around the region. Like mushrooms during the start of the rainy season, these branches are popping up, to the amazement of both supporters, competitors and detractors. There is no other greater reward when you see the sector you serve, advancing towards economic growth and prosperity despite facing a tough economic situation in the country. This is an advantage when capital is internally generated from the members themselves rather than sourcing out funds elsewhere.
These co-op expansions, they are music to my ears. Beautiful music, that is. So I always find time to personally attend a branch opening every chance I get. In these past few weeks, I graced the opening of the Lamut Grassroots Savings and Development Co-op (LAGSADECO) Branch at Alfonso Lista, Ifugao. I recently approved the application of the Sagada based Treasure Link Coop Society Branch Office at La Trinidad, Benguet. And the latest is the opening of Taloy Norte Farmers MPC Branch at Atok, Benguet.
I believe that this exponential co-op growth is caused by this branching out among other important factors like training. Furthermore, by venturing out into other communities other than their own and set up their business there, co-ops have proven that they have the competence to manage a wide ranging and diversified business. As of this writing, there are a total 74 Branches and Satellite Offices from various co-ops in the region.
All I can see right now are positive signs of a promising future for co-ops. The transformation has been noticeable especially when we see them erecting their own buildings. This creates, if not restores, the image of co-ops that was marred by rampant mismanagement, incompetence and corruption in the past. A co-op observer would readily notice the stark difference between the situation in the past as compared to the co-ops today. Take a look at the latest statistics of CDA-CAR. In 2011, there are only 21 large co-ops with only one billionaire. The total numbers of large co-ops ballooned to 42 with 4 billionaires in 2018. It took almost two decades to achieve 21 large co-ops but that number has doubled in just a matter of 7 short years!
This outstanding development in the co-op sector however, should spill over to their members. As the co-op prospers, the members should also prosper. In the definition of a co-operative, you will find out that the purpose of a co-operative it to meet the economic, social and cultural needs of members. In short, it is to improve the quality of life of members. That must be understood and internalized of that noble intention of a co-op by management and its officers.
When the primordial purpose of every co-op it to improve the quality of life of members, keeping the members satisfied is not enough. There must be an easier access to financial services as compared to going to banks. Co-op members must be taught to socialize and that means teaching them to work together, to get along with other people despite differences and supporting one another.
Take note of the word ‘needs’ of members not their ‘wants’. When you focus on the wants the problem of greed occurs. When our concern is to uplift the quality of life of members, we should provide financial education so that they will maximize the use of their loans. We have to educate them regarding the use of their loans and more importantly, the obligation to pay it back. Then there is a need to teach skills, livelihood training for members so that they can maximize their loans, which should be used for income generating purposes.
There is more. The assistance to our members should level up by offering them wealth creation strategies. We teach them to save not just to borrow. We need to increase their desire to save more and spend less. Only when we uplift the quality of life of our members that we can consider our co-ops truly successful.