This year Solutions is focused on the concept of the empowerment and accountability stream and how decisions are made in our cooperatives. For this issue, we look specifically at how members, at the top of the empowerment stream, give power to boards, and how boards use it and are accountable to the members.

Membership empowerment can be a particularly challenging idea. How a nebulous body of diverse voices and perspectives empowers co-op leadership almost seems to be an invisible force. Apart from the bylaws, there are no other formal directives from owners passing on power to their boards. It almost feels like, “Ok, we elected you, now go do it. Make our co-op great.” Mad floundering may or may not ensue!

As the feature article shows, there are definite channels for securing member empowerment: We just need to pull back the curtain on its supposed invisibility. It’s truly astonishing what you can see then, and what aggregated power lies beyond. Our case study store is Whole Foods Co-op in Duluth, Minn. Their board’s impressive listening project demonstrates the real power of codifying all those diverse voices and moving the co-op in a direction of shares values. What they’ve accomplished since they embarked on hearing from their members is so exciting. Don’t miss reading on to find out more about the results.

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