Did you know Legos make great financial building blocks? I didn’t. I also didn’t know the first food cooperative opened in 1844. Thanks to the Cooperative Board Leadership Program 101, I am now equipped to serve you, members of the Three Rivers Market, as a newly elected director on the board.
Cooperative Board Leadership Development (CBLD) is an innovative program of the CDS Consulting Co-op and designed specifically for members of cooperative boards that focuses on four pillars of cooperative governance: Teaming, Accountable Empowerment, Strategic Leadership, and Democracy.
Saturday, January 5, 2019, I joined three of my fellow board members and Jacqueline Arthur, the general manager of Three Rivers, for a one-day training hosted by the French Broad Co-op in Asheville, North Carolina. Throughout the day, we learned what it takes to be an engaged and effective member of a food cooperative.
The day kicked off with an overview of the history, values, and principles of cooperatives. Although we as a species have been cooperating since the dawn of time, it was the Rochdale Pioneers in England (circa 1840s) who created a replicable model, complete with written guiding principles, that we still use to this day. Interested in learning more? David Thompson, president of the Twin Pines Cooperative Foundation, wrote Weavers of Dreams, a book about the Rochdale Pioneers and the founding of the modern cooperative movement. It’s on my Wish List for sure!
Throughout the day, we learned about the cooperative governance model and board leadership. We ate yummy food provided by our hosts, and ended the day playing with Legos. Yes, Legos – a child’s toy to help adults understand the intricacies of fiscal responsibility and balance sheets.
One of the biggest take-aways for me is the landscape within which we as food cooperatives operate. In 2005, “big box” grocery stores had roughly three percent of the organic food market. In 2016, that number jumped to 10 percent. We may not think about it, but we have competition! We need to change the dialogue about food co-ops as “hippies with cash registers” to stress the importance of our model of member-owned grocery stores that make ethical choices about food and community. Are you ready to have that conversation?
Amanda Womac, Director, 2019 Board of Directors