The Big Picture

Here is another "big picture" edition, after the previous one's annual survey report.

The new Food Co-op Directory is the most complete such listing available and summarizes the current extent of retail co-op development. The Directory format creates an interesting leveling effect by presenting in identical fashion co-ops that are over sixty years and under six months in age, whether serving markets of six million people or six thousand -- underscoring the need to be inclusive in devising strategies for co-ops.

That is no small challenge, given how the community-based forces that drive these businesses also lead many of them to value their uniqueness more than their commonality with other cooperatives. When looking at the directory, some will be surprised to recognize their arrival in an era and an industry in which all food co-op addresses are publicly available in both printed and electronic form. On the other hand, most of my colleagues in co-ops are eager to have this new tool available. The new directory is simply a contribution to strengthening cooperatives and thus is in the same vein as the programs and services discussed elsewhere in these pages.

The Directory and the launching of Cooperative Grocer Online are new steps marking the completion of fifteen years of this magazine. In fewer than fifteen lines, what has been learned?

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  • A cooperative rule:  The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

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  • A cooperative outlook:  Our uniqueness is less important than our commonality -- we are all in this together.

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  • A cooperative ethic:  Cooperatives are a gift from those who preceded us, and we have an obligation to share them and pass them on.

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  • A cooperative purpose:  To realize the above, we must establish and extend democratic control of capital.
  • A cooperative praxis:  Keep learning!
See other articles from this issue: #090 September - October - 2000