Top 5 Reasons Cooperatives Are Cool
By Megan McBride, MMR Intern Extraordinaire
There are many benefits to becoming a member of a cooperative. Norman, Oklahoma is the heart of Oklahoma Electric Cooperative (OEC). Not only does OEC have reliable and secure electricity, we also provide exceptional member service. Whether it is an ice storm outage or simple everyday issue, we are committed to providing the best service to our members. OEC has been in action for over 80 years, we know electricity and how to satisfy our members. Are you still not sold on the concept of OEC? Below are five reasons that make OEC and all cooperatives awesome!
1. Member Owned and Not-for-Profit
Cooperatives are member owned and do not focus on gaining profits for their services. Contrary to a for-profit business, cooperatives give their surplus funds back to their members. This is called capital credit. At OEC, capital credits are returned to members on an approximately 11-year rotating basis. For instance, if a person began their membership in 2009, he could expect his capital credit to be returned to him in 2020 via check.
Not only do members get a capital credit back, they also help set and continue to regulate policies. This is done because cooperatives operate within a paradigm of democracy. Members who have been elected to serve on the Board of Trustees are typically the individuals that have the most jurisdiction over the regulations and policies.
2. Promotes Autonomy and Democracy
Cooperatives work together through local, regional, national, and international structures in order to better understand the needs of their communities, improve services for their members, and even bolster the community’s economic dependence. In short, this means that everyone is eligible to be a member of a cooperative. It also means that our members control the direction and investments of the overall entity through our member-elected Board of Trustees.
3. Emphasizes Non-discriminatory Values
Memberships are open to all people who can use the services and are willing to take on all the responsibilities of the membership. It is against the seven core cooperative principles to discriminate against a person who is seeking membership based on race, religion, gender, political, or economic circumstances. Every cooperative must uphold the cooperative principles.
4. Focused on Education and Learning
Cooperatives care about our youth. There are many programs for kids of all ages that are educational, innovative, and fun! Some examples of youth programs OEC has to offer are Youth Tour and Energy Camp. High school juniors can write an essay and be granted a scholarship for an all-expenses-paid trip to Washington D.C. Energy camp is for eighth graders. The eighth graders must apply, and if chosen, get to go on a short four-day getaway in the Ouachita Mountains. During the four days, the kids will learn what a cooperative is and how to run one. They are also able to work hands-on with real electric equipment and climb a utility pole!
5. Dedicated to Community Involvement
Many cooperatives have nonprofit organizations that aim to help organizations and communities within the cooperative’s service territory. Operation Round-Up (ORU) is a nonprofit that many cooperatives participate in. ORU provides grants to individuals and organizations in order to help the community financially. OEC is involved with ORU and has helped many school districts and organizations like Transition House and United Way. The grants can range from medical and dental assistance to providing funds for common household essentials. Nonprofits do an astronomical amount of work for communities in order to assist organizations and individuals with necessities.