Electric cooperative communities are some of the best places in America to call home. We have majestic landscapes, deep-seated values, and a sense of connectedness like no other. One characteristic of electric cooperative members is that they know how to work together to make changes. Years ago, that’s how neighbors collaborated to bring electricity to rural areas. Today, it’s what makes policymakers take notice — the united voices of electric cooperative members, speaking out on issues they care about.
Voices for Cooperative Power (VCP) is a way for consumer-members to learn more about legislative issues that are important to electric cooperatives and important to them and to add their voices to a grassroots collective of electric cooperative members both in Ohio and nationwide who have something to tell policymakers about preserving their way of life. The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA) created the robust tool as a replacement for the much simpler advocacy tool, action.coop.
Some people may be wary of giving their name and information to yet another list. The last thing anyone needs is more junk email clogging their inboxes or more spam phone calls. But Voices for Cooperative Power is not junk mail. And members’ information will never be sold or given to anyone outside of the electric cooperative network.
“What VCP is intended to do, first and foremost, is educate members on issues that affect electric cooperatives,” says Doug Miller, vice president of statewide services at OEC. “Let’s say your big issue is that you need broadband. You’ll then have information about what electric cooperatives are doing to foster broadband development in rural America. So it’ll help you learn about issues that you care about but not be bogged down with issues that you don’t care about.”
What happens when you sign up?
You’ll have access to the Voices for Cooperative Power website, which is full of information that’s important to you. Or maybe some of it isn’t. That’s OK — you can customize your preferences to learn more about the issues that you care about. Do you feel passionate about rural broadband access? Maintaining an affordable, reliable, responsible energy supply? Environmental issues? Check those boxes, and VCP will help you to learn more about those issues as well as keep you posted as new information becomes available. Not interested in a particular issue? You’ll be excluded from those lists so the information you receive is only what’s important to you.
You also have options on how you want to engage with these issues. Follow the page on social media to find important information in your feeds. Maybe you’re interested in attending webinars or listening to podcasts on issues you care about. Maybe you’d like to send emails to your elected officials or even have the opportunity to talk to them in person. Or maybe you don’t want to engage in any of those ways, but rather are seeking ways to become more informed than you feel you can be by watching the usual media outlets. Those choices are all up to you as you create your own member journey within the program.
Based on your address, the tool provides information for you about your elected representatives and allows you to contact them with a few simple clicks.
One of the services OEC and NRECA provide to their members is government advocacy, on both state and national levels. Spencer Waugh, OEC manager of government affairs, says, “VCP allows us to communicate details on issues that we may know or NRECA may know because we’re tracking legislation, but most of the public won’t know. We can help consumer-members understand how those issues affect them and why they should care.”
Miller says, “You don’t ever have to take action, but there’ll be content directed to you that will help educate you. You’ll have the opportunity to voice your opinion with those certain elected officials to encourage them to take action on the things that you care about. You’re creating your own journey through VCP. It’s not a PAC, and not primarily an advocacy tool. It’s primarily an educational tool, and you can decide how you want to use that information.”
Still in its beginning stages, VCP has around 35,000 members signed up, with more added every day. All of those voices together can be a powerful motivator in Washington and in Columbus. Marc Armstrong, OEC director of government affairs, says, “VCP generates form emails that you can send with one click. It’s the volume that many elected officials care about. Legislators want to see every piece of mail. If you have a whole inbox of letters from electric co-ops, that really resonates with them. They pay attention.”