How One Co-op Conducts Board Elections

Democracy is difficult to practice, especially when incumbents mange the process.

No one likes to give up positions or power, even if one is a volunteer.  This is true for local and national elections and in credit unions.

The press has reported on the attempt by four members of Virginia Credit Union to be considered for nomination to stand for election to the board.  Their efforts were ignored, and they were denied the chance to raise the issue at the March Annual meeting.

“The four people seeking to run for a board seat—Frank Moseley, Richard Walker, Tori Jones and Kati Hornung—have called the election a “sham” and alleged the process protected incumbent board members or their hand-picked candidates. The group said in earlier remarks that the CU’s chairman selects members of the Governance Committee that selected members to run for board seats, including the same CU chairman.”

An early account of their efforts can be found in this post,  The Fix is In.

A Shining Example of Democracy in a Coop

Shared Capital Cooperative is a lending and investment fund for co-ops of all types and sizes. They are cooperatively owned and managed by the co-ops that borrow from and invest in the firm. Borrowers and investors experience genuine cooperative finance—generating grassroots community wealth while building social, environmental, economic and racial justice.

The Coop’s vision is “building economic democracy.”

Founded in 1978, it is a Certified Development Financial Institution (CDFI) located in St. Paul, MN.   Its staff of 10 manages approximately $14 million in loans.  The board has eleven members elected from coops across the country.

The coop has both individual and 265 organizational members.  One board seat is voted by individuals and is not up this election.  There are six candidates for the three open board seats, each with a three-year term.

Board Election Ends Today

Voting is electronically from March 28 and ends today.   The link sent to me via email goes to an eleven-page listing of the candidates’ biographies.  The second link provides current board members’ backgrounds.   Here is an excerpt from the email:

Meet our candidates! For biographies and candidate statements of this year’s candidates please click here. For more information on our existing board, click here.

Cooperative members eligible to vote (not individual members like me) receive an email with their voting credentials. Annual meeting details are also given.

Shared Capital Cooperative’s Annual General Member Meeting and Cooperative Forum. It will be held virtually on Thursday, May 12th, from 12:00 pm to 1:30 pm CT.

The event will be free and open to the public. All are welcome! More details will be posted at www.sharedcapital.coop.

This relatively small, $16 million total assets organization, practices the democratic principles it committed to when formed.

Following Shared Cooperative’s Footsteps

This is an example of a board election/annual meeting that any credit union could emulate.   The process might prove enlivening and a confidence builder with members.  Especially as some credit unions struggle to involve members in this required annual democratic voting ritual.

This approach might result in more than a pro forma election; it could enhance member engagement and belief in the credit union!

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