I believe in the power of optimism.

Optimism nourishes the soul. It reassures us that we have purpose and a direction. Without it, doubt and despair can creep in.

How fortunate for us to be a part of a business model whose very foundation is optimism.

Electric cooperatives arose on the promise of a better future for their members. Our early successes and ability to adapt and grow over the decades have given our industry a deep-seated sense that we can and will accomplish whatever we set our minds to.

Is your co-op tapping into this river of optimism? If not, you’re missing an opportunity to grow and prosper, to unleash ideas and energy only accessible when you truly believe in your ability to create positive change.

One sure way to draw from this well of positive energy is simply to have a challenge. The act of confronting a common, co-op-wide issue draws out those team members who have hopeful, can-do spirits and raises everyone else up in the process.

Sometimes these challenges come out of the blue, like outages or other crises. But the kind of challenge I’m talking about is one the co-op deliberately identifies and takes on.

So what are the issues that will energize your co-op?

They will be determined by the culture of your co-op and the unique needs of your members. Conducting surveys is a great first step, but it goes beyond that. It involves really getting to know your members and their needs. It means going where they are both physically and digitally. Be active on social media. Host community forums on the future. Empanel member advisory groups.

Listen!

But fair warning: Your members are a diverse group with sometimes competing needs and opinions. Some may say high-speed internet is their priority. For others, it might be economic development or jobs. For still others, it may be expanded medical services, better housing, or access to better food.

Each community answer will be unique, as will each co-op’s response. But to all of us who know our program so well, we have every reason for optimism because we know from our decades of history that wherever there’s a co-op, there’s a way.

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