Marilyn Scholl, the manager of the CDS Consulting Co-op, (and not too proud to call herself the “designated co-op old fart”) provides a succinct recap of the food co-op movement in the United States through history in order to glean lessons and learnings from the past.  Scholl addresses the questions relevant to food cooperators in this new era of competition:  How did we get here?  Will we survive?  The video is a great synopsis, and would be useful for board trainings and strategic learning sessions.

Scholl points out that the robust old wave food co-ops of the 1940s went from 300 storefronts to a handful two decades later.  How did that happen?  The cooperatives that didn’t engage their owners, demonstrate the cooperative difference, or distinguish themselves amongst their competition did not survive.  The second wave co-ops of the 1970s were motivated by social justice and environmental movements and “food for people, not for profit” was their mantra.  As competitors opened cleaner, better-run stores, many of them did not survive either.  The current food co-ops decided to aggregate its power and create better support networks in order to compete, and in recent years also to meet the needs of the new wave of startup co-ops.  Will food co-ops survive?  Watch the video and ponder the question.

“Member capital is as critical today as it was then [1840s] for the growth and expansion of our cooperatives.”
–Marilyn Scholl, CDS Consulting Co-op

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