Neighborhood Co-op Grocery
Getting a group of people together for a day of conversation and sharing co-op stories through the CBLD in-person events has evolved as an important means of training and education for the Neighborhood Co-op Grocery’s board in Carbondale, IL. For many years running, it’s something they don’t want to miss, whether it isCBL 101 for new board members, leadership training sessions, or the Cooperative Cafes (formerly Strategic Seminars). According to Mary Avery, the current chair of Neighborhood Co-op’s board, the co-op has benefited tremendously from what they have learned, especially through the interactions with other board members from the area and around the country. It has contributed to an energized and educated board.
“We try to communicate what we learn from these events. That way we get more for our money,” Avery said. The purpose of attendance is not only to share experiences, but also extend what individuals and groups learn so it goes further into the organization. “You have to be able to translate what you learned to your co-op and bring it back. Going to a CBLD session is always a ‘good feeling’ but if you don’t share it, it’s not as useful to the organization.” This has also led to Neighborhood Co-op making a concerted effort to send more and more people to the CBLDevents, which also enhances their learning and alignment. “We’ve had quite a few people go to them from our co-op,” she said. “The value to our co-op is higher when a lot of people participate inCBLD events.”
Avery also said that she finds the Cooperative Cafe format is great for people who are newer to the co-op as well as those who have been around long term. She cited as an example her experiences at the cafe in LaCrosse, WI in 2012, and another in Asheville, NC in 2013. She found that she had really different (and good) outcomes year to year. “The discussions were very different from one to another,” Avery said. Avery said other Neighborhood Co-op board members also went to cafes in Vermont and New York. The cross-pollination and stimulating conversations were invaluable. “We find out what other co-ops are doing and that has been very helpful for all of us.”
As an aside Avery also mentioned how gracious and helpful she thought the host co-ops were for the visitors. She believes that adds value to the experience as well. She said everyone at her co-op who has gone to a CBLD in-person event has “got a lot out of it.”
“The quality of our board has risen,” Avery said as a result of their attendance. “It’s greatly improved because of utilizing the opportunity to go to the CBLD sessions.” She said that what they’ve learned has helped their process of working with their general manager, and she has understood more about her leadership role as board chair. Avery also said that past board members who attended CBLD events over the years also made a difference. Their participation helped lay the groundwork for the effective board they have now. “We are starting to bear the fruits of all that hard work,” she added.