Reckoning with the New Reality

Monday, June 7, 2021, 11:00 a.m. – 12:15 p.m. CT

2020 was a challenging and exhausting year for food retailers, including retail food co-ops. It also saw co-ops doing remarkable things in response to the challenges we faced, confronting uncertainty and leading our organizations forward even when the path was not clear. Since no one has a crystal ball, co-ops need to be aware of and prepare for a variety of future possibilities.

2021 will bring additional challenges and change. Our co-ops grapple with continued industry and environmental changes, evolving and contrasting consumer needs, and business pressures that threaten long-term sustainability. The good news is that many of the strategies we leaned on in 2020 will continue to serve us going forward, specifically: leading with intention; a willingness to experiment, learn and adapt; and the courage to let go of ideas, attitudes and practices that no longer serve us well.

In this session, NCG will talk about the state of Retail Food Co-ops in a V.U.C.A (Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous) landscape. We will share with attendees the next set of challenges we need to be willing to face, and provide context for understanding them. These challenges include:

  • Sustaining efforts to make our co-ops more diverse, equitable and inclusive spaces
  • Building a tolerance for experimentation and flexibility in what we offer to shoppers
  •  The reality of price inflation, and what it will mean for our co-ops and shoppers
  • The tension between product attributes that define quality at many retail food co-ops (local, organic, fair trade or non-exploitive), and those that define accessibility (familiar, convenient and most of all, affordable)
  • The need for higher wages and what needs to happen to accommodate higher wages and still be viable businesses

Finally, we will discuss the importance of board and management alignment, and of supporting difficult decisions needed to sustain the business. We will discuss some ways that boards can collaborate with management to chart a path through uncertainty based on cooperative values and principles and the strategic vision.


Dave Olson, Senior Director of Retail Support, National Co+op Grocers
C.E. Pugh, CEO, National Co+op Grocers
Prasanna Regmi, Co-op Resource Manager, National Co+op Grocers

Living Our Cooperative Principles: An Examination of Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity in Practice

Monday, June 7, 2021, 2:00 – 3:15 p.m. CT

Cooperatives rely on the seven cooperative principles as a set of philosophical tenets to guide them. Inspired by the operating rules of the Rochdale Co-op, the principles provide the blueprint by which cooperatives distinguish themselves from other organizations, illustrating our core values, economic model, and governance practices. Over the years, the cooperative principles have been modified to reflect the changing world. Once again, our movement is being challenged to respond to the urgent needs of our time. 

In what ways are the cooperative principles both a barrier and an opportunity to achieving true diversity, equity, and inclusion within the cooperative movement?

Many U.S. co-ops have a narrative about the principles that is white centric, or a definition of community that in not inclusive. As a cooperative movement we need to examine and expand our notion of community – as it greatly influences our application of the cooperative principles. We also must acknowledge the ways in which cooperatives maintain a status quo that harms marginalized communities through institutional racism and exclusion in order to move toward a more diverse and inclusive cooperative movement. In this session, representatives from consumer cooperative sectors will discuss how their cooperatives are putting into practice diversity, equity, and inclusion to fully live out our cooperative principles.

Moderator: Doug O’Brien, President and CEO, National Cooperative Business Association CLUSA International


headshot of Victor Corro

Victor Corro

President of CU DEI Collaborative and CEO of Coopera

Headshot of Dr. Jessica Gordon Nembhard

Dr. Jessica Gordon Nembhard

Professor of Community Justice and Social Economic Development in the Department of Africana Studies at John Jay College, of the City University of New York 

Headshot of Vina Kay

Vina Kay

Board Secretary of Seward Community Co-op and  Vice President of Movement and Capacity Building at Race Forward

Investing in Co-op Culture

Friday, June 11, 2021, 11:00 a.m. – 12: 30 p.m. CT

Many co-ops (and other businesses) talk about the importance of company culture. Many studies have shown that the most successful businesses are the ones with the strongest company cultures. But, what is culture? Why is it important? And how do we nurture and build an improved culture within our organizations?

At Twin Cities Co-op Partners, we identified company culture as a way to help us get from good to great. How could we improve the employee experience and customer experience to strengthen our business? In this session, we will take you through our process of how we evaluated the state of our current culture — and identified what an “ideal” culture looked like. And then talk about the efforts we undertook to build our company culture – our “Key Ingredients” program. We will discuss our company-wide rollout of the program and also ways in which we have ensured that the behaviors that are core to the new culture are now part of our ongoing operations — from hiring to on-going training to reviews to rewards and recognition.

Michael Hodges, DEI Manager, Twin Cities Co-op Partners
Doug Peterson, Director of Retail Operations, Twin Cities Co-op Partners
Josh Resnik, CEO, Twin Cities Co-op Partners