National Institute on Cooperative Education (NICE)

For nearly three-quarters of a century, the National Council of Farmer Cooperatives (NCFC) offered the National Institute on Cooperative Education (NICE), or its predecessor, the American Institute of Cooperation (AIC), as one of its educational conferences on cooperatives. In August of 2002, NCFC made the decision to streamline its educational opportunities in order to provide a better return on member investments of both time and money.

During the 2002 NICE, the last NCFC-sponsored youth event, a number of state delegations met to express interest in the continuation of the youth component of NICE. A decision was made to host the 2003 Diamond Anniversary NICE on the Virginia Tech campus, and to seek to rotate the conference to different universities in future years. This was actually a return to the model of the original AIC when the conference was hosted on university campuses. Since the conference is now focused solely on youth education, the return to the campus setting seems appropriate. Following the 2003 Diamond Anniversary Conference, participants decided to return to Virginia Tech for the 2004 conference with future conferences rotating to other venues in other states. Most recently, the conference was held at Purdue University (2011), and the University of Tennessee (2009 and 2010). The NICE conference returned to Virginia Tech in 2012 thru 2016. The conference was held at the University of Kentucky in 2017 and 2018.

The conference is intended to provide a deeper understanding of cooperatives to the youth participants who are the cooperative members, customers, employees, directors, and leaders of tomorrow. Participants will gain an understanding of how cooperatives differ from other business forms and will hear cooperative success stories in both the agricultural and non-agricultural sectors. In a team setting, attendees will serve as managers of a simulated cooperative store, competing with other stores in their market area for sales and profit. Teams will also analyze case studies, develop their own student-run cooperative, and participate in team-building and leadership development activities. The closing session will recognize the teams that have been the top performers in various conference activities. The Youth Scholar Program provides both educational and social activities.

NICE Program Objectives

  • Increase the understanding of basic cooperative principles, how cooperatives are organized and operated, and how to use cooperatives
  • Develop an understanding of the issues creating challenges and opportunities for cooperatives today;
  •  Provide opportunities for participation and leadership development
  • Encourage youth scholars to explore career possibilities with cooperatives
  • Provide opportunities to become acquainted with cooperative leaders, members, educators, and other youth.


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