A Common Vision?

Last time I briefly mentioned the cultural shift required for us to work together with effectiveness and accountability. As more and more projects reach a pivotal point, I become increasingly aware of the need to address a common vision for our efforts and outcomes.

We have many successfully operating Cooperative Grocers Associations (CGAs) throughout the country, and more forming. We have stores in a broad range of size, format and style. The same is true for CGAs. We are developing programs that are attractive to some, while potentially burdensome to others. How do we reconcile this within a national framework that serves the sector as a whole? The idea of a common national vision seems obvious from a needs perspective, yet not so simple from a practical one.

There may be a wide range of opinions about the overarching vision for the food co-op sector and what is most important. We repeatedly face this question as we elevate our activities to a national scale. Our individual needs may vary, but what is the ultimate outcome we seek?

In mid-April a group of retail managers, industry experts, and co-op leaders from a variety of organizations met by invitation from NCGA to discuss a common vision for our sector and share a broad range of perspectives on possible solutions to our challenges of implementation, resources, and capacity to act upon opportunities. Discussions like these are very important, and NCGA would like to convene them on an ongoing basis, providing a context in which to discuss and plan. We were fortunate to receive funding from the NCB Development Corporation to help with these meetings while we are getting on our feet. I am grateful for that ongoing support and applaud NCBDC's continued investment in our endeavors.

NCGA realizes that there is a limit to its capacity. By involving leaders from throughout our sector we are hoping to minimize duplication and gain better coordination of efforts.These are interesting times and, I truly believe, represent a pivotal period in the evolution of food co-ops as part of the wellness movement and the greater cooperative business movement. We have an opportunity to solidify and expand our place in the wellness world, which will position us to do more for the cooperative movement and the principles of social and economic democracy. We are in a position to assert our fundamental values and ideals in an environment ripe for what we have espoused for many years.

Our opportunity is valid, profound and more attainable today than ever before. Our demonstrated effort to combine resources and coordinate activities proves that we have in place the beginnings of a system that can accommodate national initiatives like a Co-op brand in the wellness marketplace. We simply must challenge ourselves to define a common vision and guide our efforts in concert toward its realization.

I look forward to reporting the results of the April strategy meeting next issue, and hope to see many familiar and new faces at CCMA in June.

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