The idea for CGN came from a group of co-op leaders—Dan Foley, Bill Gessner, Gail Graham, Alan Mathewson, and Carolee Colter. They embraced the goal of connecting people from co-ops across the country, encouraging them to share ideas and resources.

June 1997: A meeting attended by about 60 participants was held at the Consumer Cooperative Management Association (CCMA) conference to discuss the idea for CGIN and to solicit support. Thirty-five organizations contributed over $11,000 to help finance organizational planning, and a steering committee was formed. Paul Cultrera was hired to develop the business plan for a “national co-op information service.” Based on the strength of that plan, the NCB Development Corporation provided a generous grant to help finance CGIN start-up expenses.

1998: CGIN was incorporated as a nonprofit association in the state of Vermont. The new group was named Cooperative Grocers’ Information Network— referred to as CGIN (see-gin). 

CGIN held its first membership meeting at CCMA in June 1998. Members were elected to the organization’s first board, and its bylaws were approved. CGIN received 501c6 tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service in October.

Karen Zimbelman was selected as the manager of CGIN. Bella Waters eventually became CGN administrative assistant and later served as CGIN manager. 

CGIN developed email listservs to facilitate communication among members. 

2007: CGIN contracted with National Cooperative Grocers Association to assume responsibility for the management of CGIN.

2011: The CGIN board moved its management contract to Triangle Park Creative, a communications firm in Minneapolis with strong ties to the food co-op sector, including management of Cooperative Grocer magazine publishing for NCGA. TPC owner Dan Nordley became CGN executive director.

Winter 2012: The CGIN board engaged in a two-day strategic retreat with the aim of developing a new plan, calling for CGIN to:

  • Facilitate organic sharing and collaboration
  • Grow its membership
  • Strengthen operational services and systems
  • Acquire and integrate Cooperative Grocer magazine into CGIN 

June 2012: NCGA transferred ownership of Cooperative Grocer magazine to CGN. The CGN bylaws were changed to make membership more accessible to smaller and start-up co-ops, and a full reset of the website was undertaken. Articles from Cooperative Grocer were archived on the site.

With the merger with the magazine, the board decided to change the organization name to Cooperative Grocer Network, still referring to it as CGN ("see-gin").

June 2015: Ellen Michel became executive director of CGN.