The Power of One Member, One Vote

The Power of One Member, One Vote

What if each REA co-op member “owned” their power?

The Power of One - Q1 Advertising Campaign

One of the advantages we gain through our work as a Federation, is a bird’s eye view of the whole electricity landscape and how it is changing in Alberta right now. We get to evaluate what’s going on and advocate strongly for member REAs. We could not do this without our board, and our members, who step up regularly together to help steer REA co-ops in the right direction.

Imagine the kind of momentum we might achieve if a broad swath of REA members also stepped up and truly owned their power to speak, to act, and to vote for what they think is best for rural electricity? Fewer people today seem to be convinced their ownership in their co-op can change the course of events. And so, to start off 2018, we are revisiting the basic idea of democratic ownership. How do we live up to that key cooperative principle, Democratic Member Control? At the most basic level, a co-op is a democratic business. Yes, a business – but a democratic one that operates for the collective good of its members. Co-ops around the world are based on the principle of democratic ownership.

Alberta has a rich history of setting up co-ops so that rural Albertans could work together democratically to meet their own needs, with their own customized services, with the benefit of having their own capital flow back into their co-op and community. Co-ops start when people see that a need is not being met, or a problem solved through private interest or public service alone. That vacuum causes people to join forces and pool resources (talent, time, money) to deliver their own services. We are familiar with the historic co-op story of people joining together to get the power on in rural Alberta. (check out Country Power – The Electrical Revolution in Rural Alberta)

Cooperation needs to be ongoing, however. Like an old building that slowly crumbles from no maintenance, a co-op will suffer if bylaws grow irrelevant, finances go unmanaged, laws pass unnoticed, competitors move in, and members lose interest. A valuable community asset will be sold off and closed, its value permanently lost. A co-op does not thrive indefinitely without more members stepping up to participate as rightful owners of their business.

At the heart of it, it’s a matter of member-owners believing they each have the personal power to make a difference. When people act together on this belief, history has shown the effect can be… well, dynamite. What if more members believed, more often, what well-known author, Dr. Seuss, advises even our children? “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not.” As hard as we are working right now together as a Federation, what would happen if every REA co-op member decided to own their power?