A lot has changed in Cuba since the July 2014 visit by U.S. cooperators, reported in these pages by Stuart Reid (CG#175, Nov.¬Dec. 2014). A few of us couldn’t resist jumping on a recent opportunity to explore the new Cuban cooperative initiative. So, in February 2015, we flew from Cancun to Havana with three other curious, cooperatively inclined Americans for a bucket-list adventure tailored to the social economy and agronomy geek.
As we go to press, Cooperative Grocer Network is about to launch a new iteration of its website. Let’s take a look at its main features.
We have a fresh new design and include a bold description of the stakeholders in our national movement: “We are hundreds of thousands of people using the cooperative business model to provide nourishing food for ourselves, our families, our communities, and the next generation.” Yes, that’s all of us.
Expansion projects for food co-ops fall somewhere between a labyrinth and a maze. With continuous improvement and development of best practices, expansion projects are moving closer to the one path of a labyrinth and further away from the messiness of a maze.
There are two commonly seen staffing problems in co-ops that may at first seem unrelated:
Cooperative grocery stores across the country are making efforts to integrate their cooperatives across race and class. How did they get into this work? What are they doing? What are they learning? And what are the benefits?
To be hopeful in bad times is not just foolishly romantic. It is based on the fact that human history is a history not only of cruelty, but also of compassion, sacrifice, courage, kindness. What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives... The future is an indefinite succession of presents, and to live now as we think human beings should live, in defiance of that that is bad around us, is itself a marvelous victory.—Howard Zinn
Food cooperatives have a special relationship with their owners and customers, but even the best relationships need to be continually nurtured and cultivated. In a rapidly changing marketplace, one in which skillful competitors can outstrip other grocers on price, convenience, and amenities, customer loyalty is king. And consumers these days are notoriously fickle. A generation ago, people shopped somewhere for life. Today, one-third of grocery store consumers have switched primary stores within the last five years.1
Eleven new food co-ops have opened since we reported last year, and as always, it’s a diverse group. The strong interest in food co-ops in New York City is reflected by two openings, and more are on the way. Larger startups in Durham, N.C. and Portland, Me., benefitted from the expertise of the National Co+op Grocers Development Cooperative. And on a small island off the coast of Seattle, the Orcas Co-op is showing how even a small, remote community can open a food co-op that exceeds expectations.
How will food co-ops differentiate themselves? How will they become more inclusive?
These were key themes for nearly 400 cooperators and allies from across the U.S. and Canada at the 59th annual Consumer Cooperative Management Association (CCMA) conference in Boise, Idaho. Attendees discussed the elements of these questions from many angles, and the atmosphere combined camaraderie with worries over how co-ops will address a changed and much more competitive market.
Keynote address, Good Economy Conference, Zagreb 2015
I want to speak today about a crisis that has gripped Europe, and the Western democracies, over the last 30 years. I describe the crisis as the inability of our governments to protect the interests of their citizens. It is a crisis of legitimacy that is undermining the foundations of liberal democracy. Its most recent manifestation are the doctrine of austerity and the rapid destruction of democratic civic life.…