Featured Article

Understanding the Meaning of "Speaking With One Voice”

Boards of directors regularly struggle with the concept of “speaking with one voice”— primarily because the concept has a dual meaning. Within the context of Policy Governance, which many food co-op boards use, the principle of board holism is sometimes described as “speaking with one voice.” However, the same term is also used to describe or prescribe how a board should express itself publicly. This article will explore the dual meanings of this concept and aims to help boards make their own best decisions about what they want their “one voice” to sound like.

Five Steps for Handling Co-op Conflicts

In my time as general manager at Lexington Co-op (Buffalo, N.Y.), I have made many decisions that have made owners angry. We moved the co-op in 2005 in the face of opposition from the neighborhood organization and a neighbor’s lawsuit. The local alternative-weekly compared my leadership to that of Josef Goebbels. In 2006, we refused to drop a bread that was made by a religious group, the Twelve Tribes (that time, the alt-weekly ran the headline, “Hate Bread at the Co-op”). We ended member-work in 2007 with a letter and two weeks’ warning—not good.

Meat Managers Share Advice on Competing with the Big Boys

A decade ago, it was still a challenge for consumers to find high quality, locally raised meats. Nowadays, there is no shortage of choices. Everyone from the mom-and-pop grocer to the big-box retailer offers some kind of deal on meat—even the gas station! Competitors of all stripes have learned how to capitalize on trends such as fresh, sustainable, organic, local, and no hormones/antibiotics.

The Future of Domestic Fair Trade

Communication across cities, states, and countries is easier than ever. Laptops, conference-call services, and video chatting have made it possible for international organizations such as the Domestic Fair Trade Association (DFTA) to build a strong coalition of over 30 farmworker groups, farmer organizations, retailers, manufacturers, processors, distributors, and non-government organizations in the United States and Canada. Still, no matter how hard we try, new technology can never replace the benefits of meeting face to face.  

Eastside Expansion

Eastside Food Co-op opened its doors to the community of Northeast Minneapolis in December 2003, with first-year sales of $2 million. Eastside’s early years proved to be quite challenging, and the debt load was heavy. Through perseverance and much hard work, the co-op, led by Amy Fields, the general manager during its first 13 years, was able to grow sales and net earnings. By 2012, Eastside was planning for expansion, and the co-op’s strong growth has continued throughout that process.  

Surviving Storms in the Weather System

As I began to write this, the United States had just seen the largest day of protests in its history. The Women’s March in Washington drew thousands to peacefully speak out about a wide range of issues—from health care and reproductive rights, to rampant misogyny and implicit racism, climate change, immigration reform, and the very integrity (or lack thereof) of our political system. This hopeful, ephemeral event was reinforced by demonstrations of support from huge communities of citizens all around the world. Let’s not forget that in the days ahead.

Peer Conversations Boost Startups

There are seven call groups happening in three regions of the country, serving two dozen startups, plus requests for calls in more regions.

Food co-op startups are helping each other out through regular conversations. “What do you all want to focus our call on next month? What challenges are front and center for your startup right now?” 

Food Co-op Initiative Announces New FCI Guide to Starting a Food Co-op

Food Co-op Initiative is thrilled to announce its all-new Guide to Starting a Food Co-op. Built on ten years of experience supporting and observing Third Wave food co-ops, this new Guide incorporates the best ideas and most successful approaches communities are using to organize startup food co-ops. Every year, food co-ops face stronger competition and higher startup costs, yet they are still able to open vibrant, successful stores.

Striking the Balance for Co-op Success

A truly successful co-op is one that not only runs a stellar store and keeps the books in the black. Such a co-op also makes room for co-op participants—owners, customers, and staff—to play a part in its forward momentum, in a space where they are given the chance to shape the future co-op.  If we think about the co-op as a place that reflects and acts on the values of its owners and works toward ends based on those values, then it’s critical that the co-op provide ways that owners can share in the accomplishment of those goals. 

Multi-stakeholder Cooperatives and Consumer Co-ops

Multi-stakeholder cooperative governance may not be familiar to many in the U.S. consumer co-op movement, but it is widely seen as an appropriate and progressive model of governance for cooperatives of all kinds. More importantly, it is a way to foster the kind of member engagement that many see as crucial if cooperatives are to survive and thrive in the modern world.