The website owned by and operated for the benefit of food co-ops at www.cgin.coop continues to grow in scope and volume with each passing month. Thanks to the generosity of many food co-op managers, staff, and directors, we’ve been able to add the following new items to our site in the past couple of months:
• several checklists of “remodeling best practices” from Outpost Natural Foods
• the employee bonus program at Ashland Food Co-op
• guidelines for managing margins from GreenStar Co-op Market
• several sample donation policies from different co-ops
• kids in-store activity pages found at Seward Co-op
• in-store operational checklists on receiving, scheduling, “store readiness,” and review meetings
• a sampling of materials about gluten-free products from a variety of co-ops
• a new member guide from Hanover Consumers Co-op
• several sample employee handbooks, personnel forms, and evaluation systems
• and dozens of new and timely newsletter
While our basic resource library continues to take in new items and receives steady use by those researching various issues, our listserves help connect cooperators each and every day. The basic CGIN listserve continues with almost 400 subscribers. Each week, it seems, a new topic crops up that inspires discussion and exchange. In January, subscribers shared ideas about a minimum age for membership, having a cash register at the deli counter, board liability insurance, offering fruit to kids who accompany a shopper, bylaws and participation in political activities, coffee grinders, and how to celebrate reaching landmark membership numbers.
Similarly, the specialized listserve devoted to co-op membership and marketing staff gives those involved a chance to exchange more specific, targeted ideas related to this area. Recent examples of discussion topics are: store maps, cooking classes, shelf labels for specific product attributes (GMOs or GMO-free, trans-fat content, etc.), requiring social security numbers on membership applications, location of membership/
service desks, and preferred terminology—“member” vs. “owner.” For information about either listserve, see www.cgin.coop/listserve.html.
CGIN has now been operating for six years and continues to run on a very modest annual budget (approximately $40,000). At the same time, several indicators make us think we continue to provide value to our members and to the entire food co-op community:
• As of the end of 2003, we had 123 retail food co-op members and 10 “associate” members (wholesalers, organizations, consultants).
• On an average day, 160 people log onto CGIN and spend 9–10 minutes looking around. n 404 different delicious and successful deli recipes are now available in our deli recipe exchange.
• Our site experiences close to 4,800 “user sessions” per month (the number of times someone lands one of our site’s pages), up 24% from a year ago.
In early February we added the 700th item to our basic resource library (where we have job descriptions, training materials, sample operational forms, board policies, newsletter articles, etc.).
We maintain an archive of past listserve messages at archive.cgin.coop. Like our listserve, this archive is open to anyone, not restricted to CGIN members. However, the listserve archive now does require a login and password—which helps protect the addresses of those who post messages from web “bots” which harvest addresses to sell to spammers. The login and password to access the listserve archive should be visible to you as you try to visit the archive—login is list; password is archive.
We’ve also been very pleased to host a web discussion board for the members of the NCGA as they discuss and consider the proposal to reorganize the system of regional CGAs. This web board is a new tool to us and we’re finding it useful for some types of communications. The NCGA discussion board has seen steady activity over the past several months. At the request of the NCGA, we have also developed a special section of this discussion forum where board members can share ideas among themselves. (See page 16.) For more information about access to either, contact NCGA at [email protected]. You can find information about the board, as well as links to it at www.cgin.coop/discussion.html.
In the spring of 2004, we will be working with Carolee Colter to update the co-op “livable wage” model that we first posted on our site last year. We will be adding some short short case studies illustrating how different co-ops have used the model, as well as some sample materials that can describe our model and how to understand it when communicating about it to co-op staff, members, or directors. And, of course, we will be updating the methodology and links to help you calculate what a livable wage would likely be in your community.
There’s plenty more to check out on our site. Stop by any time; we’re open 24/7.
New Web Forum for Co-op Board Leaders
BY MARK GOEHRING AND MICHAEL HEALY
Following last year’s co-op conference in Lexington, Kentucky, a small group of board presidents, along with a team from Cooperative Development Services, began working on a project to enhance board effectiveness at all food cooperatives. Those presidents—Heather Albinger of Outpost Natural Foods Coop, Linda Stier of Weaver Street Market, Mark Goehring of Brattleboro Food Coop, and Katie Neff Dawson of Whole Foods Co-op (Duluth)—would like to invite all co-op board leaders to join this project by participating in a new web forum discussion focused on effective cooperative boards. Local boards face many challenges, and this forum is intended to provide support, perspectives, and resources for co-op board leaders.
A web board allows participants to discuss topics through a structured forum. This means that you can read others’ questions or views and then add your own perspectives, organized in specific topic areas.
The forum is up and running with two topics: “Local Board Effectiveness” and “What’s Your Board Doing?” These topics are starting up in the spirit that if local boards are effective, we impact the whole system’s effectiveness. Just what does it mean for a board to be effective? How is effectiveness achieved? What are other boards doing? What can we learn from each other? These questions and many others will be explored in these topics.
We thank National Cooperative Grocers Association for sponsoring this forum as part of its work to achieve “thriving retail food cooperatives.” We look forward to your participation!
Accessing the discussion:
The web forum is closed-access. Board leaders should ask their general managers to e-mail the following information to [email protected]:
• board leader name
• board leader e-mail address
Board leaders will then receive instructions via e-mail from [email protected] on how to access the site. Please join in! Karen Zimbelman is Western Corridor development director for the National Cooperative Grocers Association ([email protected] or 707/445-4849).