CGIN: 10 Years and Changes Ahead


This year will mark the 10th anniversary of the Cooperative Grocers’ Information Network (CGIN), which inspires us to reflect on what we’ve been able to accomplish as we close in on a decade of operations. It will also be a year of change—some little and one big one. More on that in a minute.

To date, CGIN’s success is a strong statement of our members’ truly generous natures and tirelessly cooperative spirits. Without a doubt, we would not be where we are today—with an increasingly comprehensive and ever-expanding library of resources, more and more self-generated content (e.g., How to Start a Food Co-op manual, the Livable Wage model, and some upcoming legal white papers), photo exhibits, deli recipes, training materials, three lively listserves, a web discussion board, and countless other resources on our site. None of this would have been possible without the continued contributions of our member co-ops and their staff.

For those of you who like numbers, as of the end of 2006 CGIN had:

  • 138 retail co-op members—up from 100 in 2001.
  • Over 1,275 different items in our “basic resource library”—up from 1,000 last year and 348 five years ago.
  • Continued growth in the use of our site, as measured by “page views” per month—up an average of 84 percent over last year for the past 12 months and up at least 360 percent from four years ago.
  • 46 different exhibits in the CGIN “photo gallery”—which was just started in 2001 and had four exhibits at the end of that year.
  • About 210 different “user sessions” each day—up from 90 a year ago and 46 four years ago.
  • 421 subscribers to our “main” listserve, 112 subscribers to the “Marketing and Membership” specialized listserve, and 71 participants in the listserve for Human Resources managers;
  • Approximately 4,720 different individuals who use the site each month—up from 1,000 four years ago.

Highlights from 2006
We were also really pleased to work with Carolee Colter this past year in a major upgrade to the CGIN “Livable Wage” model. We had a great task force of HR and general managers who helped with the process: Michele Buchanan (New Leaf Market), Crystal Halvorson (Menomonie Market), Kari Kaminski (Outpost Natural Foods Co-op), and Sharret Rose (La Montañita Co-op). Since the original cooperative livable wage model was developed in 2003, we’ve been collecting feedback and updating the model and tools in small ways each year. However, for 2006, we felt it was time for an “upgrade” to the whole model and a close review of how all aspects of the model work in practice. The CGIN Livable Wage model, version 2.0, is now available online.

CGIN also helped coordinate a tour of the MidCounties Co-op, headquartered in Oxford, England, to better understand the important work they are doing on co-op branding and messaging. Our group included participants from CGIN and NCGA, as well as Paul Hazen from the NCBA, and was of great inspiration to all involved. (See “Cutting Edge in the Cotswolds?” in CG #127, November-December 2006.)

And, of course, we continue to try to build improvements to our site to make it easier and more useful for members. In 2006, we:

  • Finalized our online job posting system so users can post, edit, and remove their own job notices directly, including an email notification service for those looking for
    co-op jobs.
  • Added contributor profiles to our system, so users can better understand the operational context and scope of those who contributed materials to the site.
  • Refined the index of materials in our basic resources library—to add more sub-topic and even “sub-sub-topic” areas to make it easier for users to find items.
  • Upgraded the M&M and HR listserves to new software.
  • Updated the web discussion board that we host for NCGA to facilitate discussion about its new national supply agreement among NCGA members.

Changes coming in 2007
We have now added the capacity for members to submit items to the site online. This should help you and CGIN streamline the process of getting new items online for sharing. When you’re ready to submit new items, you’ll be able to do so directly by going to The accompanying illustration just shows part of the online form but will give you a sense of what to look for. We hope this makes it easier for you to send in items. We’re also looking forward to upgrading the CGIN-list (open forum) listserve, as well as working with the Food Co-op 500 project on ways that CGIN can support new co-op development efforts.

After a very exciting and visionary planning retreat last June, CGIN has now developed an ambitious three-year plan that identifies how it can more fully realize its potential. This is an exciting time for CGIN; your organization is well poised to build its ability to contribute in even more ways to the success of food co-ops.

This leads to our “bigger” change in 2007. This new plan makes it clear that CGIN’s potential far exceeds its current capacity, given its limited resources in terms of annual budget and staffing. Accordingly, I will be passing the baton for CGIN management on to a new contractor in 2007. We have posted a job opening announcement on the CGIN job listings pages (see There you can also find a detailed “request for proposal” for CGIN’s overall management, including an overview of our three-year plan. Please help us find someone great to take over this wonderful organization and resource.

CGIN is built on a very solid foundation—with a highly functional website that generates good traffic and provides valuable assistance to food co-ops; with three active listserves that help folks share information and ideas daily; with tax-exempt, nonprofit status; and with a history of profitable operations. Financially, CGIN can afford to run a little deficit in 2007 to help a new executive director get up to speed and develop the capacity to deliver on CGIN’s plan. The CGIN board agrees that this is a great investment in CGIN’s future—to enhance its capacity. As an organization, CGIN’s foundation is solid, and this is a great time for CGIN to move into the hands of someone who can devote more to its success and transformation.

In the meantime, we’ll be here and will continue to be happy to help you. Bella ([email protected]) and I both are happy to continue to keep CGIN rolling until the board has completed its hiring process. Call or email us whenever you need help from CGIN.


Karen Zimbelman is Western Corridor development director for the National Cooperative Grocers Association ([email protected] or 707/445-4849).

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