We’ve been in the “new normal” long enough to not call it “new” anymore. Despite pressure from competition and rising minimum and livable wages, co-ops continue to work to be the employer of choice in their communities and to offer great compensation packages. We all know efficiencies are the main way we can afford to stay competitive, but other than just asking staff to do more faster, or increasing accountability, what else can co-ops do?
Just as we have assisted change in other organizations, we also recognized that it was time for a shift within our own cooperative. Our brand is built one-on-one in the work we do together with clients and consultants, and now we are building a new platform for those relationships. Doing this is part of our long-standing vision to initiate positive change and amplify our impact.
When I became general manager of Outpost Natural Foods in 1986, I had already been working at the co-op for seven years doing ordering, receiving, merchandising, marketing, managing, and assisting the general manager (GM) with board work. So naturally that made me the prime candidate for the GM job, since I was already skilled in operations, right? I sure had hoped the answer to [...]
From a director’s perspective, what are the core ingredients of a great board meeting? Starting and ending on time probably top the list for most people, followed closely by everybody arriving prepared to do work that’s worth doing. A bit of dinner or at least a communal bar or two of chocolate, shared in a comfortable and welcoming space, can also be a make-or-break [...]
By LaDonna Sanders–Redmond Seward Community Co-op (Minneapolis, Minn.) began its equity work in the fall of 2013. Seward’s second store, Friendship, and its first restaurant/commissary production facility, the Creamery Café, both opened in 2015. Building the Friendship Store in an historically African-American community required taking a closer look at the co-op’s commitment to equitable relationships as stated in the Seward ends statement. Taking a deep [...]
By Rebecca Torpie, Thane Joyal 196 May-June 2018 What does it mean to be an owner of a consumer cooperative? At the most fundamental level, cooperative ownership means that we are in business together. And for the owners of a cooperative that is under substantial market pressure (and what business isn’t?), everything the business does needs to match the needs and aspirations of the community that [...]
Strengthening Co-op Elections: How Boards are Ensuring that Members Can Vote for Excellent Candidates
In her book Democracy’s Edge, Frances Moore Lappe makes a strong case that a healthy democracy is about much more than elections and voting. Even so, board elections are still a particularly important and visible part of cooperative governance. A successful board election includes at least two critical elements: enough qualified candidates on the ballot and enough information so that members can make educated [...]
By Sarah Dahl 195 March-April 2018 It’s hard to understand how something as benevolent as paying a living wage could cause resentment within the workforce. With over half (29) of states and an additional 39 localities mandating a minimum wage higher than the legal threshold of $7.25, more co-ops are attempting to provide a living wage for their lowest-paid employees. While this is a [...]
By Sarah Dahl 191 July-August 2017 No one is a perfect communicator, and no co-op experiences completely effective communication at all times. While some co-ops may do better than others—at least as reported in more than 200 staff surveys conducted by CDS Consulting Co-op—communication issues are nearly always on the list of things that staff want to see improved. While communication issues can be as [...]
By Art Sherwood 191 July-August 2017 If we created opportunities in meaningful participation by seeking win-win, it would be a game changer—in our relationships, in our customer service, in our strategies, in our partnerships, and in our innovative approaches to solving pressing social problems. Democracy is hard. And because it is hard, it takes skills and practice and a willingness to work with others. Why [...]