Directors Find Gold at 50th CCMA

"I wouldn’t keep coming back if I didn’t find it inspiring," said Jens Koepke, director, Co-opportunity, Santa Monica, Calif., at his sixth CCMA (Consumer Cooperative Management Association). Directors at the 50th annual CCMA in Atlanta reflected on past successes and envisioned the future of the co-op movement and their co-ops.

:We focused on diversity," said Ann Hoyt, professor, Urban Cooperative Initiative, University of Wisconsin-Madison, and conference coordinator. "I don’t think we yet have a broad-based commitment to diversity.” The question of how do we provide for our successors led to attracting youth.”

With over 400 attendees from 29 states, three countries, 84 cooperatives, and 22 support organizations, directors used the golden opportunity to learn, network, grow the co-op movement, inspire, and be inspired. Sevananda Natural Foods Cooperative in Atlanta, one of the Southeast’s largest consumer-owned cooperatives, hosted the well-run conference.

Learn: At Thursday afternoon bus tours of the Atlanta area and Sevananda, attendees learned about civil rights, co-housing, green building design, organic gardening, and an outstanding community cooperative. During five workshop periods, attendees selected from eight separate program tracks, including two specifically for directors.

“Everybody said it was important to be here. They were right. The information I’m getting here is really going to give us traction to move forward,” said Davis Taylor, director, Mt. Desert Island Co-op (under development), Bar Harbor, Maine, at his first CCMA. As Taylor works toward a storefront, “It’s so nice to have an enthusiastic response when you ask for help.”

After almost two years as a director of North Coast Cooperative, Arcata and Eureka, Calif., Wayne Hawkins came because “I want to learn more about policy governance.”

Network: About 15 directors from 11 co-ops attended the first Central Corridor directors’ dialogue. Heather Frayer, a director of People’s Food Co-op, Kalamazoo, Mich., said, “The recurring theme was education, since we share values.” Kim Petrie, also a director at that co-op, said, “It was helpful to hear what other co-ops are doing to help us come together and find solutions.”

Ribbons affixed to name badges identifying directors by corridor and co-op size aided networking. “Directors talked about how [they are] inspiring boards to have the conversation about creating the future,” said Mark Goehring, co-op consultant and former director, Brattleboro Food Co-op, Brattleboro, Vt. Goehring facilitated the Central Corridor directors’ dialogue and a workshop on creating our future together.

Grow the co-op movement: Howard Bowers Fund scholarships allowed over 50 cooperators to attend, including Velda Welch, steering committee chair, and Lori Hopkinson, committee member, Medford Market, Medford, Ore. The Medford Market, under development, received a grant as part of the Food Co-op 500 program. “We appreciate it greatly,” said Welch. “I’m ecstatic,” said Hopkinson. “We’ve learned so much from the keynote speakers and sessions.”

Negash Alem, Community Food Co-op, Bellingham, Wash., attended his third CCMA in his seventh year as director. “Every time I learn something. Understanding the movement makes us strong.”

Inspire and be inspired: Peter Couchman, Midcounties Co-operative, United Kingdom, stimulated questions and spirited discussion with his keynote presentation and images of branding and cooperation among cooperatives. Keynoter David Pearce Snyder described forces shaping our rapidly changing future. Keynote speaker Bernice Johnson Reagon warned against righteousness and reminded attendees, “Nothing works all the time.” We must learn from others.

CCMA attendees each received The Midcounties Co-operative mug with a Gandhi quote, “You must be the change you want to see in the world.” Networking with cooperators inspired many directors to continue emphasizing member ownership and the cooperative advantage.

CCMA 2007: People’s Food Co-op will host the 51st annual CCMA Conference on June 14–16, 2007 in La Crosse, Wis. Plan now to attend!

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