IYC barbecue a celebration of collaboration
By Kristian Partington
An International Year of Cooperatives (IYC) barbecue hosted by the Federation of Alberta Gas Co-ops Ltd. and the Alberta Federation of Rural Electrification Associations (AFREA) July 19 was a symbol of collaboration befitting of the co-operative movement.The two organizations share headquarters in Sherwood Park where they teamed up with local partners in the Strathcona County Co-ops to host the event with dignitaries from three levels of government and guests from throughout the community.
It was a chance to celebrate the legacy of co-operatives in the economic growth of the province while showcasing how the two major utility co-operative associations, and co-operatives as a whole, continue to impact the lives of Albertans.
Building that awareness is critical to the growth of the movement, and both Federation of Alberta Gas Co-ops Ltd. executive director Lyle Kusik and AFREA CEO Al Nagel agree the IYC is a great opportunity to engage with policymakers and community members.
The IYC, says Nagel, “is only the beginning. It’s brought a lot of the whole co-operative process out onto the world stage, where maybe a lot of people weren’t aware of it.”
The numbers speak for themselves: today, AFREA counts over 30,000 member consumers, while the gas co-ops count over 115,000 member consumers – making it the world’s largest rural natural gas distribution system.
If it weren’t for these co-operatives, both Kusik and Nagel agree that rural Alberta would be a much different place, and while many rural Albertans are aware of the power of the co-operative movement, many urban residents aren’t.
The biggest lesson to share, they say, is the model works well to answer the needs of society.
“The strength is in the numbers and commitment to the common goal and what you want to achieve, and we all who are in it can achieve success together,” Nagel says.
“Co-operatives, anywhere, are the result of a need in society that is not available anywhere.”
Kusik agrees, and when asked about the biggest thing he’s learned through a lifetime’s involvement with the movement, he sums it up with one short phrase: “Together, we can build anything,” he says.
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