This March, Land O’’Lakes International Development launched the International Dairy Enterprise Alliance (IDEA) in Nairobi, Kenya. IDEA is a learning network designed to provide dairy cooperatives in developing countries with the information, resources and technology they need to thrive and be competitive in national and regional markets.

Created as a core component of Land O’’Lakes’ Cooperative Development Program (CDP), which is being funded by the American People through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), the IDEA network is comprised of cooperatives, development organizations, research organizations, input suppliers, government bodies and nongovernmental organizations and other private sector partners.

“Our goal with IDEA is to provide a mechanism for cooperative managers and leaders to network with dairy stakeholders around the globe, and share unique best practices and innovative solutions” explained Rebecca Savoie, Land O’’Lakes International Development’s practice manager for Enterprise, Cooperative and Association Development. “Considering 2012 is the International Year of Cooperatives, we think this is a particularly opportune moment to facilitate this type of robust dialogue.”

The three-day event, which was co-sponsored by Cooperative Resources International (CRI), covered three core topics: member engagement, governance and board manager relations. Participants came from 28 cooperatives of various sizes and types, including multibillion dollar businesses, from 9 countries spanning 4 continents. “Because the rules that govern cooperatives are universal and the cooperative structure is unique, everyone found that they shared similar challenges,” said Rebecca. “The stories that these high-level executives were telling about their business problems resonated profoundly with all participants. It was transformational for everyone involved.”

Plans are already in the works for the next IDEA Cooperative-to-Cooperative Learning Series, which will be held in India in 2013. IDEA will also develop a knowledge management portal for IDEA members to collaborate and share strategies and tools.