Remember the last time you had a heart-to-heart conversation with someone that left you refreshed and energized? That kind of experience has the power to expand your worldview, increase your optimism, and motivate you to be your best.
Now food co-op board members and managers around the country have the same chance to participate in meaningful conversations with each other at the Strategic Co-op Seminars produced by theCDS Consulting Co-op and sponsored by the National Cooperative Grocers Association. These seminars take the salon concept one step beyond just talk, and give participants practical tools for taking the conversation further into their local communities.
It’s been a very exciting development for food cooperatives, and board members from around the U.S. are jazzed about the real-world opportunities to “talk co-op” and to spread the word in ways that promote and support a cooperative economy. In our time-pressed world an experience like this is not only unique, but has user-friendly value for sharing the co-op model with increasing numbers of people.
Some of the concepts for the Strategic Co-op Seminars come from the book, The World Café Book: Shaping our Futures Through Conversations that Matter. The idea is that by starting small locally-based dialogues about values we share, the exchanges will continue to grow to include more and more people who will be empowered to act on things they care about. Thus, the Cooperative Café was created as a co-op-specific framework for engaging in these seminars.
“I was really impressed by this,” said Tim Clougher, board member of Bloomingfoods Market and Deli in Bloomington, Ind. He attended the seminar in Raleigh, N.C. held in early March. “I thought the planned activities throughout the day were really great.” This included a meet-and-greet, videos from various community leaders and cross-co-op sectors, and the Cooperative Café conversations.
“My favorite was the Cooperative Café,” Clougher said. The group was asked to address two questions: How can we engage our community in conversation about co-ops? How can we ensure that the co-op model achieves its full potential? Participants were broken up into small groups that rotated throughout the afternoon, with each group exchange expanding the discussions further. “It was actually challenging to take a break because the conversation was so inspiring,” Clougher said. He was also excited by how he thinks the café concept can be used by the board and staff at his own co-op. “It’s a useful model for how to do things.”
Molly Langley, the general manager from The CO-OP Natural Foods in Sioux Falls, S.D., attended the Strategic Co-op Seminar in La Crosse, Wis., in mid-March. She felt the seminar provided on-the-ground training in participatory democracy that reinforces the cooperative business model.
Walden Swanson participated in the Brattleboro, Vt., seminar at the end of March. “It worked very well! Stimulating, entertaining, broadening, and led to some good discussions.”
The council president of GreenStar Cooperative Markets, 12th Moon, also attended that one and enjoyed the interaction with other cooperators. He said, “It was a great opportunity to discuss relevant issues with people familiar with co-op issues, with various experiences and different perspectives. A mini-CCMA, full of sharing and comparing.”
We’d like you to come to the next Strategic Co-op Seminar held in Seattle, Wash., October 6, 2012. This seminar will follow the NCBAAnnual Meeting & Co-op Conference and will be part of a two-day event: Cultivating NW Co-ops 2012: Celebrating Our Food Communities. More information will be available soon here.
The Cooperative Café Resources
There, you’ll also find a sample workbook used during the seminars, a “Bring It Home” guide that includes ideas of how to use this information in your own community, and the roundup of answers to the questions addressed at the seminars.