Updated: Oct 11
Through policy, education, and philanthropy, Leslie Mead has worked to promote cooperatives by quietly and resolutely motivating organizations and individuals to think more broadly and deliver more deeply, not only for their most vocal members and constituents, but equally for those without such voice.
After growing up in Indiana and attending college in Iowa, Mead moved to Washington, DC and took a job with the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC) as assistant general counsel. After a decade with NCFC, she moved into her role as an independent consultant, where she developed education projects for NCFC, set up the Leadership Scholarship Program for the newly formed Ralph K. Morris Foundation, and served as the executive administrator for the Association of Cooperative Educators (ACE).
Building upon its historic strengths, while redirecting resources to meet a more diverse contemporary and future audience, Mead helped ACE re-establish itself as a premier educational organization, with uniquely cross-cultural offerings. Mead then moved on to expand the impact of cooperative philanthropy, first as executive director of The Cooperative Foundation and then at the Cooperative Development Foundation (CDF).
During her tenure at CDF, Mead took on the herculean task of consolidating multiple funds under management, which lowered the costs of fund administration, and enabled CDF to invest more strategically and impactfully in cooperative development. She increased operating revenue by 64%, operating surplus by five-fold, and grant giving by ten. Though CDF supports every cooperative sector, among Mead’s most notable accomplishments is her work structuring and funding the Cooperative Home Care Initiative, a network to support a particularly vulnerable group of American workers. One of her parting contributions was the Unsung Cooperative Hero category launched in 2021 to recognize the contributions to cooperatives by members of historically overlooked and marginalized communities.