One of the seven Co-op Principles that historically unites and guides consumer co-operatives is: “Education, Training, and Information.” This principle directs that cooperatives shall “…provide education and training for their members, elected representatives, managers and employees so they can contribute effectively to the development of their co-operatives.”
To stay connected to this principle many food cooperatives, the Monadnock Food Co-op (MFC) among them, utilize the services of the CDS Consulting Co-op, a consulting cooperative that’s “dedicated to building and strengthening cooperative businesses.” CDS Consulting offers many services, including a board development web-based resource library and regional co-op leadership training programs.
One of these training programs was held in Keene on January 10, 2015. Approximately 60 Co-op staff, board members and store management from New England and beyond shared their collective experience and insights while participating in one of two workshops. Five members of your MFC board were in attendance.
New co-op board members and recently hired general managers attended a “Foundation for Leadership” workshop. More experienced GM’s, long time co-op staff and board members attended a workshop about leadership training and skill building. These workshops helped participants understand the larger context of consumer food co-ops, the cooperative movement, and co-op history.
The leadership training workshops used the model of the Four Pillars of Cooperative Governance as a starting point for conversations about board management and leadership. The four pillars are teaming, accountable empowerment, democracy, and strategic leadership. These pillars stand on a foundation of cooperative values and principles, and support the fundamental, over-all success of the co-op. Member-Owners, Co-op supporters, staff, the GM, and the board all work to support the Co-op’s success and touch these pillars in different ways.
Another topic in the leadership training workshop was servant leadership and cooperation. The role of board members as stewards of the co-op, entrusted by Member-Owners to guide and oversee the organization, is an important responsibility. Some of the qualities of a servant leader include foresight, commitment to growth of people, building community, listening and awareness. Workshop participants shared experiences with servant leadership and discussed ways to become more effective co-op managers and board members.
On March 7, 2015 CDS Consulting Co-op has scheduled another New England regional event. This will be a Co-operative Café: Connecting our Co-ops and Communities. Co-op staff, committee members and board directors involved in cooperatives’ relationships with its members and the community will discuss the topic “Thriving in the New Competitive Landscape.”