Our co-op is built on the values and needs of our members, but how do those 3000 members have a say in what happens with the co-op’s resources? The members, by participating in annual elections, select representatives who share those values. By choosing its Board of Directors in a democratic election, the “cooperative of members” hand over power to the board and hold it responsible for guiding the operation and development of our co-op.
So, how do 3000 members express those values and control the operation of the Board? The organization’s by-laws describe how the Board does its work, makes decisions and carries out its responsibilities on behalf of all the members. However, the exchange of power and accountability between members and leadership is more dynamic and exciting than dry and boring by-laws.
The relationship requires the two-way exchange of information on member needs and wants, hopes and ideas as well as how the board is planning and making decisions about the future of the cooperative. Annual reports, social media postings, newsletters, minutes of Board meetings, and the Annual meeting are all ways in which the organization can keep that information/accountability exchange lively and relevant.
It is through this process that members can understand not just the business of our co-op, but also the how important the co-op is to the rest of the community.
One of the most tangible ways that a member can empower the board is to invest capital in the work of our co-op. The board is then accountable to the membership to provide a formal mechanism to raise money through member loans and to use that capital to secure the future of the co-op for the benefit of the whole community.
As a board member, it can be challenging to take into account the diverse viewpoints of so many members, but rewarding to use all the data we have to make the best possible decisions for the whole cooperative.