Sage-Turner-pullout-wideIt can seem difficult in our mega-scheduled lives to set aside a day dedicated to discussion about issues that are important to us in our co-ops and communities.  And when we make the time, it better be inspiring, worthwhile and awesome.  The great news is that the Cooperative Cafe events are all of that and more.  Time and again we hear from participants—all along the spectrum of co-op involvement—that their participation is extremely motivating, informative and powerful.  Everyone gets a chance to move the conversation forward.  We’d like to share with you what people tell us about why they find attending the Cooperative Cafes so valuable.

Eight Co-op Cafe Participants Share the Experience

“The Cafe is an enormously important opportunity to take a step back and take stock of the changing world that our Co-ops are in and how critically important our work is. I left the cafe feeling much more focused on what was needed from me as a leader to help our store survive and thrive into the future.”—Michael Faber, general manager, Monadnock Food Co-op

Co-op Cafe Asheville 2016 WEB-30“This was my third Cafe and (my) first time that representatives from staff, management, ownership, and board were present. It was great. Sometimes we get so caught up in the day-to-day work that we forget to step back and talk to each other about why we love co-ops. The Cafe gives us the space to do that, to hear from other co-ops, and to connect with our peers. I leave inspired every time.”—Sage Turner, finance and project manager, French Broad Food Co-op

“Sending a large group including multiple layers of co-op stakeholders is extremely valuable to our organization. It gets everyone on the same page with current thinking coming out of the NCG and CDS Consulting Co-op, which is aptly dispensed to the general managers and some board members, but not always to owners, other staff members and the entire board. Having them hear it in a forum where they can participate in moving the conversations forward means buy-in and it gives us all a common language with which to continue the conversation at our stores. Also stakeholders get a chance to mingle with their contemporaries from other co-ops, and the kind of conversations that materialize from this type of peer interaction would not likely come about were it not for the cafe style interplay.”—Bobby Sullivan, general manager, French Broad Food Co-op

Co-op Cafe Asheville 2016 WEB-7“The co-op cafe is great format for building shared understanding of important issues facing our co-ops, and moving our collective thinking forward. This year’s theme of Embracing Change through Courageous Leadership drew 42 people from River Valley Co-op. A mix of owners, directors, staff, and management began the conversation on the bus ride to the event, participated throughout the day with cooperators from all over the region, and then kept the conversation going all the way home. Of course, the conversation doesn’t stop there, we will each continue to share across our overlapping networks, and ensure that the lessons learned grow beyond that event to inform our larger co-op community.”—Dorian Gregory, board chair, River Valley Co-op

“We very much enjoyed the opportunity to think about courageous leadership with our co-op neighbors. Since courageous leadership is required at all levels of our organization, our board members and the members of our management team who participated will be able to reflect this discussion with their own teams, and continue to challenge each other to bring our best qualities to guide our co-op through this murky phase.”—Sabine Rhyne, general manager, Brattleboro Food Co-op

“This opportunity allowed our group to participate on a level that suits my management style. All levels of staff were allowed to participate in the conversations on equal levels, which in my experience generates the most positive outcomes. After we left that day, we ate dinner and began our 3.5 hour drive home and spent 45 mins of that time working as a group on our takeaways and on a game plan of action for when we returned! Inspiration, creativity, thoughtfulness, educational and empowerment is what we took back to our co-op with us.”—David Dellea, general manager, Chatham Marketplace

Co-op Cafe Asheville 2016 WEB-29“We had five of eight Board members attend. I think the biggest benefit for us was the chance to explore the greater food world. We do some of this with our monthly Study and Engagement sessions, but to look at the changing competitive landscape with other cooperators and share ideas and experiences, was both stimulating and affirming.”—Steve Breckheimer, board chair, Hendersonville Food Co-op

“Daily has been through a lot of change over the past 4 years and we’re in the process of figuring out when/where/how we can expand to meet more of our community’s needs. This was a perfect time to step back and discuss courageous leadership with other co-ops who have been through their own transformations. At our board meeting the following Monday, we shared the critical importance of strengthening relationships among owners, board, and staff. We also talked about the importance of being able to hold two opposing views simultaneously. In our world of increased competition, co-ops have lots of opportunities to remain relevant as long as we have the courage to commit to things that really matter—the triple bottom line.”—Delene Porter, board chair, Daily Groceries