Who is responsible for the future of the co-op movement? That is a question that can be answered myriad ways, and every one of them could be correct. That’s the beauty of cooperation, everyone gets to participate and everyone shares the responsibility. The rewards of working as a team is that we reap a real connection to our co-op community.
Our CDS consultant team met recently for a two-day meeting in order to address some of those big and small questions for ourselves. As consultants doing work within the co-op community, we feel as responsible as anyone for the success our movement, and applying our group’s capacity to it energizes us individually and collectively. During our time together, we identified a number of big-picture areas our team continues to address on behalf of the groups we consult with, as well as the nuts and bolts of being a group of individuals who have chosen to work together as a team. Here’s how we see the CDS team continuing to interface with co-ops to augment the efforts of the greater co-op movement:
• Competition in the marketplace demands a higher level of leadership and need for improved performance and benchmarks.
• Collaboration with regional and national organizations is crucial, as we believe greater cooperation is the key to survival. We believe our cooperatives need to be straegically aligned for food co-ops to gain the benefits of a chain, without being a chain, while competing with a chain.
• The cooperative advantage must be increasingly and broadly articulated, developed and implemented.
• Training and systems are needed to promote the leadership and increased business sophistication necessary to remain competitive and expand cooperation, especially with regard to market analysis, governance and management.
• Cooperatives (even the best performers) need continuous improvement through building systems, annual assessment, planning and training.
• Stratetic, market and opeational decisions need to be based on good data.
• Cooperatives need to grow and expand in current markets, and investigate new markets with potential to expand cooperation.
As a team of consultants, CDS combined efforts support every person’s work, adding greater value to the programs and training offered by individuals. Linda Stier, board consultant and trainer, offered this perspective on it, “It’s an inspiration to have this affinity with people, knowing the future of what we want to impact and the reality of what we are doing for it.”