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A photo tour of Myanmar
Sesame co-op in Myanmar
Take a tour of Myanmar through the lens of CCA volunteer Romeo Cormier.  
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Myrna Bentley
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CCA is a not-for-profit co-operative that establishes and strengthens  co-operatives, credit unions, and community-based organizations to reduce poverty, build sustainable livelihoods, and improve civil society in less developed countries.  


To achieve this mission, CCA works closely with Canadian co-operatives and credit unions to channel their knowledge and experience to partner organizations and co-operatives in Africa, Asia, the Americas, Eastern Europe and Caribbean. 

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Volume 8 Number 12, November 13, 2014
A letter from Myanmar

For the past 11 months, a CDF funded project in Myanmar, has been supporting the creation of a co-op about 700 km north of Yangon.  The support has been mainly from three Canadian co-operative experts  

volunteering their time in Myanmar.  

 Romeo Cormier

One of these volunteers is  Romeo Cormier, formerly of   Co-op Atlantic, who is currently in Myanmar for four months. Romeo wrote to CCA with the following observations of his time building on his predecessor's work to get one of the first ever multi-village sesame producers' primary co-operatives off the ground - starting with its inaugural board.  Until now, the only co-operative these producers have known are the ones limited to their villages.  Members of the new co-op toured several other co-operatives then proceeded to elect their board. Business success is still a ways away, but these are small steps in the right direction.

Here is what Romeo had to say about the process.

Starting to write a new history  

After a memorable tour of co-operatives in the central and southern parts of the country, the delegates returned home last night extremely satisfied with their week-long experience.


I am very pleased to present the provisional board of directors of their producer (and perhaps trading)


Myanmar BOD Sesame Co-op
Newly elected sesame co-op board of directors in Myanmar
I have to say that I was impressed with the election process. I had prepared them for this milestone event two days prior to its holding.


During the Saturday night meeting, we detailed the process that was to lead to the election of the provisional board, on Sunday: canvassing among their peers, preparation of speeches, seeking help and ideas to formulate a compelling vision, etc.


When the secret ballots were cast, on Sunday morning, there was an air of high expectation among the group. But the surprising element was the clear victory of each officer, starting with the president's title, down to the board member. Every single one of those 7 persons won by a clear majority - often by a 3-to-1 margin. They had stayed up late into the night and small groups went from one room to the next, in a lobbying frenzy. Quite a sight and sound event, for sure.


That alone is convincing proof that they take their co-operative very seriously and have judiciously selected their leaders. The president, by the way, has already spoken about holding the first board meeting.


I think the first element for an incoming president to master is the first agenda, the debates/dialogues, calls for motions when sufficient discussion has occurred. If he/she fails, or takes too long to master the mechanics of democratic meetings, things can start to go wrong - so this will be key.


The other officer whose role is key at the first meeting is the secretary's. We have organized for good examples of minutes to be shown to him and we will find a couple of hardcover A4 notebooks for him. They are making history - their own, from now on.  At every coop, they stared at photos of the founding board and of visitors being welcomed to the coops.


I will also mention that we will need stationary for the board: binders for every director, notebooks, pens, loose leaf paper, as well as an offer of phone cards for the board members. It's only fair to help them along this line.

Offering their free time is one thing, but expecting them to make out-of-pocket expenses on an ongoing basis is another thing. We will also consider to determine a monthly amount for traveling expenses in their business territory.


I'm also going to draft a report of the week-long tour with the ideas that the exchanges with the presidents and the managing directors have spawned.    


They're starting to write their own history. And they have a sense of that already.



Enjoy your day.



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