International Dispatch

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Leather patchwork bag for CDF Co-op Wee auction

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Malawi Flood Relief Fund

CDF is appealing for donations to 
support the Malawi Union of Savings & Credit Cooperatives to help members rebuild after recent devastating floods in Malawi.
Aga Khan Foundation Presents 'Together'

Aga Khan Together

The Aga Kahn Foundation is launching a new travelling display called
Together: An exhibition on global development.
This is an innovative, interactive and multi-sensory experience designed to spark conversations about the role that Canadians can play in reducing global poverty.


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Myrna Bentley Memorial Fund
Myrna Bentley
CDF has created a tribute fund in memory of Myrna Bentley.  The fund will provide support for leadership development for women around the world including the Women's Mentorship Program.  
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CCA YouTube Channel

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Volume 9 Number 04, March 16, 2015

Reflecting on changes in the development world
Jo-Anne Ferguson, ED CCA
Jo-Anne Ferguson recently retired as executive director of the Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA) and the Co-operative Development Foundation of Canada (CDF).   As she looks forward to retirement, we asked her to look back on her long career with
co-operatives and international development.
As I take a step back from the Canadian Co-operative Association (CCA) and think back over the 15+ years I have been working with co-operatives in developing countries, two things become apparent: A lot has changed in the development world and my own understanding of development and co-operatives has also evolved.


The fundamental truths of development remain the same. We all strive for better lives and people around the world are working hard to improve their lives and the lives of their children.  The resources available to us and our capacity to utilize these resources are great factors in how successful we are.  In some developing countries people still struggle without supportive structures, often faced with obstructive structures, and without resources.   The only resource in many communities is hope and optimism, and these are key ingredients for co-operatives.


Co-operatives are the best solution for people to improve their own economic and social conditions on a lasting basis - to work their way out of poverty.  Co-operatives are complex organizations set within the traditions, norms and culture of communities and it takes time and work to build a good
co-op.  Poverty affects both developed and developing countries and offering handouts does not work.  CCA builds capacity in local populations to achieve independence through
co-operatives.  This transcends to building sustainable communities. 


The work of CCA and the Co-operative Development Foundation of Canada (CDF) would not be possible without Canada's co-operatives, who offer exactly the kind of assistance that is needed to enable this work.  Practical training, coaching and advising,  all delivered by knowledgeable co-operators from organizations that often discover they have a lot in common with their overseas counterparts when they meet.  The credibility of Canada's
co-ops brings new ideas and confidence.  Many Canadian volunteers donate time and talent to CCA and CDF every year and the financial support to CDF is growing because Canadian co-ops know that building a good co-op takes stable support over time.    


Jo-Anne Ferguson over the years
Jo-Anne over the years: (Clockwise from top left) Costa Rica 2000, Nepal 2011, Peru 2015, South Africa 2005.

CCA's approach to working directly with local organizations as genuine partners gives insight to the  complexities within the population and to ensure that efforts will achieve results.   International poverty indexes give national ratings but we understand there is a range of economic levels within a community:  poor, working poor, middle class, with differing needs and capacities.  All need to be actively engaged to build a relevant and sustainable
co-operative.   And a national co-operative must be built on the back of strong local co-operatives.  This has been proven repeatedly as well-intentioned foreign organizations fail when they try to speed up national co-operative development.     


Global accessibility of technology has been a game changer. Fifteen years ago it was surprisingly common to find TV antennas on the roof of very modest homes.  Today, as well as a TV, at least one person in the house will have a cell phone and be able to check updates of the weather, local market prices, and global events.  This changes the way we think about our work.  People everywhere want to be connected and have access to information - a basic need. Technology is changing the steps of organizational development. Credit unions in Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the world, are transferring member funds via cell phones.  All I can say is incredible!


One thing that has not changed in my years of doing this work is the feeling I get when visiting people in the field and hearing their stories.  One of my early trips with CCA was to South Africa where I visited a women's co-op who sang the national anthem to welcome us -I got chills down my spine - and I still get that feeling when people describe with unmistakable pride how they are working on making their lives better.


With the active involvement and support of Canada's
co-operatives, the work of CCA, on behalf of CDF is helping to ensure that people in 
developing countries overcome the many barriers to improve their lives.   

I'm proud to be part of this.

Jo-Anne Ferguson retired as executive director of the Canadian
Co-operative Association (CCA) and the Co-operative Development Foundation of Canada (CDF) on April 1st, 2015.
Michael Casey is now executive director of the two organisations.
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CCA is a not-for-profit
 co-operative with a mission to establish and grow
co-operatives internationally that build a better world.


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.