Friday, June 10, 2022
8:30 – 10:00 a.m. CT
Resilience through Cooperative Strategies and Values: Lessons from Cooperative Ecosystems
As history reveals, cooperatives often emerge during times of crisis to fulfill needs that both market and state fail to address. Cooperatives have proven to be more resilient in times of crisis than conventional business due to member-centric model and an embeddedness in local communities as well as a global movement. In this session, we will hear from leaders from three distinct cooperative ecosystems with different challenges and strengths, development timelines, and future plans. We will learn how the principles of cooperation, participation, social responsibility, and innovation drive their cooperatives and help them weather uncertain times.
Jamila Medley, Consultant, Columinate and former Executive Director of Philadelphia Area Cooperative Alliance
João Marcos Silva Martins, International Relations, Organização das Cooperativas Brasileiras
Ibon Zugasti, International Project Manager, LKS Cooperative, Mondragon Corporation
Moderator: Courtney Berner, Executive Director, UW Center for Cooperatives
10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. CT
Marquette: Scaling Up without Jeopardizing the Mothership
While the grocery industry is an uneven playing field skewed to favor large corporate players, cooperatives can compete through leveraging their community connections, increasing community-owned assets, and serving community needs beyond the traditional co-op. Now is the time for food co-op boards to think deeply about their communities and for cooperative management to identify and recognize community needs and fill holes where those holes appear. In this session, Marquette Food Co-op leaders will share their strategy to grow the co-op through diversified, measured, and feasible investments that are responsive to community needs. Over the past three years, Marquette Food Co-op has explored “bite-sized” investments including the acquisition of a small artisanal local bakery, the development of a convenience store where a long-time neighborhood grocer once stood and investing time and expertise in a struggling but popular cooperatively owned brewery positioning it for acquisition. Attendees will learn how their entrepreneurial spirit is driving this diversification, how they determine viability of projects, and how these business ventures will differ and complement (and not jeopardize) the traditional co-op storefront.
Matt Gougeon, General Manager, Marquette Food Co-op
Mary Moe, Operations Manager, Marquette Food Co-op
Michelle Augustyn, Director, Marquette Food Co-op
River Valley Co-op: Building a Strong Board/GM Relationship
What’s one formula sure to maximize your impact in your community? A strong Board plus a strong GM = a strong Board/GM relationship. In this panel presentation, we’ll focus on the experiences of River Valley Co-op to learn more about how to maximize the impact of this crucial co-op relationship.
Startling the food co-op world before it even opened, River Valley Co-op earned a remarkable $1 million dollar owners in member-owner investments before opening its doors. After numerous setbacks, finally opening in the Great Recession of 2008 (at that time the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression), River Valley Co-op exceeded its sales expectations annually, going on to win CCMA’s Retailer of the Year award in 2014. Two subsequent owner loan campaigns exceeded $2 million and $5 million dollars in owner investments. River Valley successfully opened its second store last year in the midst of a global pandemic, has over 13,000 owners, and is poised to exceed $43 million in annual sales this fiscal year.
To get to where it is today, River Valley Co-op had to successfully overcome significant challenges, including losing over $1 million dollars its in first year. How do they do it? A strong Board/GM relationship has been foundational to River Valley Co-op’s success. Facilitated by Jade Barker, a former River Valley Co-op Board President, this panel will include current GM Rochelle Prunty, previous long-serving President Dorian Gregory, Human Resources consultant Carolee Colter, and possibly the current president, Abby Skillicorn. Great relationships are not accidental, they require conscious effort from everyone involved. Prunty will share, from the perspective of a GM, the wisdom she’s gained about building and nurturing a successful Board/GM relationship. Past long-term Board President Dorian Gregory and current Board President Abby Skillicorn will share their thoughts from the perspective of the Board. Co-op consultants Jade Barker and Carolee Colter will also share their perspectives on what works and what doesn’t in the Board/GM relationship based on work with dozens of food co-ops over the years.
Jade Barker, Governance and Leadership Consultant, Columinate
Rochelle Prunty, General Manager, River Valley Co-op
Dorian Gregory, Former Board President, River Valley Co-op
Carolee Colter, Human Resources consultant, Columinate
1:30 – 3:00 p.m. CT
Do we really understand the co-op enterprise model? Your business model is your best friend
Our co-operative identity is our competitive advantage. Most of us do not learn about co-ops in business school and so we approach our work with gaps in our knowledge. Join this session to learn the essentials. We’ll explore a collection of case studies with these panelists, as they share about their journey into more deeply understanding the unique business model of a co-operative enterprise and implementing changes in their co-op as they go. When we comprehend the co-op enterprise model fully, we understand and approach our work differently and we see new ways to address emerging issues. Our people-centered, member-centered business model allows us to organize to serve members and the wider community through our work in food supply/access/justice. Capital serves our people-centered goals, but is not the driving force of our business model.
You will hear from students and graduates of the Master of Management, Co-operatives and Credit Unions program (Saint Mary’s University) about how their deeper learning has transformed their everyday and their bigger vision for their work.
We will explore many specific examples, including:
- Employee empowerment in relation to member owners
- Member education approaches
- Navigating the important dynamic between the key players in the co-op (GM/board chair/members)
- Scorecards embedding the co-operative principles
- Rethinking co-operative accounting practices
Being fluent in our enterprise model and our co-op identity is the keystone to optimizing our co-operative difference. And that difference should be felt for members, employees and the wider community. Co-operatives have a complex purpose and the co-op identity is our tool for growth, stability, loyalty, legitimacy and social currency. Serving many ends is not as simple as serving one economic bottom line, but the co-operative way of doing business is an opportunity to run businesses that live out the co-operative identity in terms of building values chains and partnerships, as well as operationalizing the co-operative principles and values in all aspects of our work. Being a co-op is not something we do off the side of running a ‘traditional business’, but rather informs and optimizes the whole enterprise.
Erbin Crowell, Executive Director, Neighboring Food Co-op Association
Patty Smith, Operations Manager, Willimantic Food Co-op
Learner Limbach, General Manager, Orcas Food Co-op
Erin Hancock, Education Manager, International Centre for Co-operative Management, Saint Mary’s University
Why Food Co-ops?
A single interaction at the checkout can dramatically alter the trajectory of an existing or future member’s perception of your food co-op. On the retail floor, at the checkout, or at the dinner table, staff and boards have a tremendous opportunity to motivate new and fresh ways to understand why food co-ops are so important and so different from any other grocer. More than ever before, consumers are asking themselves important questions when shopping for groceries (“How was this produced?”, “Where is it from?”, “What company is behind the label?”). This is great! But how do we best encourage shoppers to also consider the ripple effects of; “Where am I purchasing this product?”. The session offers effective talking points to spread the ‘co-op difference’ message.
Jon Steinman, Author, Grocery Story: The Promise of Food Co-ops in the Age of Grocery Giants
3:30 – 5:00 p.m. CT
Is every BODY welcome?: Lettuce Uproot Disabling Norms
When asked if diversity and inclusion are a high priority, 90% of companies worldwide answer “Yes!” Yet only 4% of those same companies consider disabilities when it comes to inclusion despite the fact that Disabled people make up 24% of the population and have a spending power of more than $5 trillion. Join Nikki, a disabled Accessibility Advocate, to learn about simple ways to make your co-op truly inclusive to all. Our discussion will include a brief disability etiquette lesson, the benefits (to your co-op) of being accessible, and practical steps you can take to be more inclusive. In her presentation, Nikki covers relevant topics such as ableism, tokenism and intersectionality of marginalized identities in a relatable and eye opening way. Come prepared to laugh and to ask yourself some hard questions.
Nikki Jackson, Disability and Accessibility Advocate, tenRhu consulting
Building a Board-Member Linkage Plan
As a governing board operating through policy and making decisions on behalf of its members, it’s incumbent upon the board to seek avenues to consistently, systematically, and in an unbiased way solicit feedback from the diverse voices of its broad membership. For years, the Hanover Co-op Food Store’s board had been operating without a strategic plan to gather ownership feedback. How can the board make broad policy decisions and set ends policies (long-term goals) for the co-op without the board engaging the membership and better understanding the values and priorities of its members? With this question in mind the board created a rolling 3-year Board–Member Linkage Plan with a mission to achieve a clear understanding of the diverse viewpoints that are representative of the ownership of the Hanover Consumer Cooperative Society in order to best inform the board’s policy decisions.
The Hanover Team will share the story of guiding the board through this strategic plan development—including going back to the basic premise of the need to listen to its constituency rather than talk to its constituency. Attendees will learn how the Member Link Committee developed the strategic, rolling 3-year Member Linkage Plan, and discuss why it was important to the board to leverage collaboration and tap into ongoing engagement programs and services to not only increase board visibility but to better understand the membership. Participants will leave with information to help support the work at their own co-op and with ideas on how to develop their own member linkage plans.
Marta Ceroni, Board Member and chair of the Ends Committee, Hanover Food Co-op
Jessica Giordani, Board Member and Chair of Member Linkage Committee, Hanover Food Co-op
April Harkness, Governance & Community Engagement Specialist, Hanover Food Co-op
Emily Rogers, Education Manager, Hanover Food Co-op
Saturday, June 11, 2022
8:30 – 10:00 a.m. CT
Food Sovereignty: Reclaiming Indigenous Foodways
Food sovereignty is about reclaiming power—it is the idea that all people should have the right to make decisions about their food systems. In recent decades, there has been a resurgence of food sovereignty movements advocating for healthier relationships between people and the land and promoting practices such as homesteading, foraging, and community gardening.
This session will feature inspiring stories from Indigenous leaders who are working at the forefront of food systems change in their communities. Bijiibah Begaye will share how the Navajo community is harnessing the cooperative model to increase food security and access to healthy, affordable foods on their nation. Nick Hernandez will highlight the ways his organization, Makoce Agriculture Development, is using education and local systems change to develop the infrastructure and resources needed to create a thriving local food system for the Oglala Lakota Nation. Despite centuries of colonization, systemic racism, and unmet obligations by the U.S. government, Indigenous communities across the nation are reclaiming ancestral foodways and strengthening their food sovereignty in powerful ways.
Bijiibah Begaye, Co-Director, The Cooperative Catalyst of New Mexico
Nick Hernandez, Founder, Makoce Agriculture Development
Moderator: Kevin Edberg, Executive Director, Cooperative Development Services
10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. CT
Striving to be a Better Employer
In this time of uncertainty, hardship, and change, one thing has become certain: our Co-ops are increasingly looked to as places of stability, security and optimism within our communities, including in our role as employers. As our co-ops have faced challenges beyond anything we imagined, the needs of our employees have also shifted dramatically. Many are also looking for work with meaning and that makes a difference in our communities and the world around us. This raises some critical questions: How can we use our Co-operative Identity to differentiate ourselves as employers? How can we effectively leverage our Values and Principles to become better employers today than yesterday? And how can we do so in a way that is genuine, relevant, and provides a greater sense of stability, purpose, and fulfillment for our staff, supporting the success of the organization?
In this panel discussion, members of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association will share inspiring stories of their co-ops who, in the face of various challenges, are working to improve their policies, practices and programs through strong leadership, innovation, and pragmatic solutions, and how they’re doing so through the lens of the Co-operative Identity, supporting higher employee morale and a greater sense of purpose and stability. We’ll touch on topics such as recruitment strategies, compensation, staff engagement, employee membership and participation, servant leadership, and approaches to addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion.
Nicole Cowlin, Director of Human Resources, River Valley Co-op
Naya Flanzala, HR Manager, Belfast Community Co-op
Laura King, HR Manager, Middlebury Food Co-op
Rachel Watrous, Store Manager, Fiddleheads Food Co-op
Simplify Your Board Processes for Greater Impact
Board systems and policies evolve over time. If not regularly curated, the complexity of governance systems can exceed their value to the cooperative. In this workshop we will share ideas and tips for streamlining and simplifying board systems and policies. We’ll consider what it would look like we eliminated every process, every practice, effort or even word that does not add value to the co-op. Simple board systems are simple and fun to use. We’ll invite participants to bring documents from their own board to simplify during the workshop using our tips and tricks. Presenters, a Quality Assurance Specialist/Board President and a Cooperative Governance Consultant, will use their experiences and insights to inspire participants to explore ways their co-op might benefit from simplified governance systems.
Thane Joyal, Governance Consultant, Columinate
Valerie Smith, Quality Assurance Specialist & Board President, La Montañita
12:30 – 2:00 p.m. CT
CCMA Award Ceremony
CCMA Awards honor cooperatives, cooperative managers, board members, and their colleagues for outstanding accomplishment. These award are an opportunity to recognize and honor cooperatives and their leaders for exceptional dedication and hard work.
2:00 – 3:30 p.m. CT
DEI in Practice – Building an Equity Alliance
This workshop will present a case study of the Weaver Street Co-op diversity, equity, and inclusion work. Specifically, the workshop will focus on an initiative to increase the number of Black vendors in the co-op supply chain. The project was conceived and implemented by a small group of Black workers who challenged the leadership of the cooperative to take a bold step towards building a more inclusive and equitable cooperative. This workshop will describe that journey and offer cooperators in attendance a framework for creating their own equity alliance within their stores.
LaDonna Sanders Redmond, Consultant, Redmond Consulting/Columinate Consulting
Allanah Hines, Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Manager, Weaver Street Market
As you plan for the expansion of your co-op, there are many challenges you will face. One of the primary challenges is lining up the financing that can make it possible. Whether you are planning to expand in your current location, move to a new location or add an additional location, you will be working to put together the right financing package. In this session, co-op managers and lenders will share their experiences from two recent, successful expansions — Sioux Falls Food Co-op in 2020 and River Valley Co-op in 2021.
In 2020, Sioux Falls Food Co-op launched an expansion of its store in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. To make the $2.5 million project a reality, the co-op assembled financing from equity (preferred shares), a local credit union backed by a USDA guarantee, and Shared Capital Cooperative, a cooperative CDFI loan fund.
In 2021, River Valley Co-op in Northampton, Massachusetts, opened a second store in Easthampton MA. Building funds began in 2018,with a co-op owner loan campaign that raised $2.8 million by year’s end. By 2019, the co-op exceeded their $5 million fundraising goal for the Easthampton project, incorporating $16mm in New Market Tax Credits into the capital stack. In the end, this expansion was a $20mm project.
Patrick Sayler, General Manager, Sioux Falls Food Co+op
Rochelle Prunty, General manager, River Valley Co-op|
Dorian Gregory, Deputy Director, Cooperative Fund of the North East
Christina Jennings, Executive Director, Shared Capital Cooperative