People are involved in cooperatives in part because they value having a variety of input from diverse stakeholders in order to accomplish a larger goal. For board members who dedicate a large amount of time to serving their co-op each year, the value each board member brings becomes clear. Some are stronger with finance, others with communications. As the year goes on, each board member has an opportunity to bring their unique skills and talents to the table and to help the co-op move forward.
The Columinate Cooperative Board Leadership Development (CBLD) program provides annual board support that includes monthly consulting, facilitated board retreats, board training, and resource development. CBLD helps boards take advantage of their collective knowledge and talents, identify their annual goals, and connect with specific resources for their challenges of the moment. The program is run and staffed by industry professionals with experience and expertise in a variety of areas, and it can help to broaden the knowledge base each co-op has to draw upon to meet their goals.
The program began as a means to support retail food co-ops and still has a strong focus on that sector—but it has also grown and expanded. I spoke with Columinate consultant Leslie Watson about the first half of 2022 in the CBLD program and about what is still to come. Leslie has worked with over twenty boards during general manager transitions, has supported a co-op capital campaign, and has provided consulting and support to co-op boards through a variety of challenges.
How is the 2022 CBLD program going so far? What are some highlights?
The CBLD program is humming right along, with robust enrollment and great attendance at our online webinars. We were delighted to welcome new CBLD enrollees from outside the food co-op sector this year, which is a testament to the value of ongoing governance support—whether you’re selling groceries or cooperating in some other way.
What are some of the biggest challenges participating co-ops are dealing with?
Like people everywhere, many co-op directors are a little tapped out from the pandemic and other challenges of the last couple years. That can impact the capacity for routine oversight work, ongoing board perpetuation, and long-term strategic planning. At the same time, I see groups exhibiting a lot of wisdom around how to focus and prioritize amid these demands, while still caring for one another and their co-ops. It’s inspiring!
Who deserves shoutouts from the first half of the year?
I think that everyone who is serving on a co-op board deserves a resounding shoutout—this year and every year—for doing the essential but not especially glamorous work of protecting and perpetuating cooperative democracy.
What are you looking forward to from CBLD in the second half of the year?
Even as the CBLD year is in full swing, we are starting to plan for 2023. I’m really excited about some of our anticipated innovations, largely in response to client input. Stay tuned for details, and watch for the invitation to sign up for CBLD 2023 this September.
Anything else you think folks should know about CBLD?
Try it, you’ll like it!
The CBLD has a variety of workshops on both specific topic areas and on general opportunities for board members from around the country to interact.
A January session focused on trust and betrayal in the board–GM relationship. CBL 101 workshops provide training to new board members, and CBLD participants can even send co-op members who want to learn more about governance. More workshops are available in the second half of the year, and CBLD participants are encouraged to take advantage.
As Leslie points out, many boards are dealing with fatigue and burnout. Utilizing the full resources of the CBLD program can help boards maximize their oversight role with minimal effort, and enable them to tap into knowledge and expertise gained over decades in the business to help avoid pitfalls and extra work.
Have more questions?
Get in touch with one of our consultants.