There’s no mystery to it. Willy Street Co-op Board meetings function much like you might imagine.

We share a meal during an informal education session aimed to make us better informed and able to serve as your Board. Then, the meeting is officially called to order, we review and approve the past month’s meeting minutes, general announcements are declared, and we begin to move through the agenda. When a decision is needed to move forward on an item presented, a Board member must motion to approve, there is a call to second it, and finally a vote is taken. Nothing out of the ordinary.

However, it’s within those decisions that the magic happens. It’s the decisions we make, and the values that drive them, that sets Willy Street Co-op apart from other retail and grocery businesses. And as Owners, we all have a lot to be proud of because of the impact of those decisions.

Through these Reader articles, we aim to provide you with an inside look at your Board—what we do, why we do it, and how we make the decisions we make. You may have read in recent articles that the Board serves to develop and monitor adherence to a set of Ends Policies—the results for which the organization exists. These Ends guide all Board-level decisions.

During meetings, we evaluate if the decisions and actions of management and the Board are consistent and aligned with our Ends, which, because we are a cooperatively owned business, are based on a shared set of values. At the highest level, our mission is to operate a retail grocery store that forms the cornerstone of a vibrant economically and environmentally sound community.

We meet our Ends by making decisions that allow Owners to make informed choices about food, agricultural and environmentally sound practices, and the cooperative movement; by encouraging a sense of community and owner participation at the Co-op; by ensuring employees have a humane work environment and are recognized and rewarded for their fundamental contributions; and by pursuing growth and expansion opportunities to better serve Owners and employees, to name a few.
In my time serving on the Board so far (I was elected in August 2012), I’ve been a part of some pretty great decisions that I’m proud we’ve made.

  • In September, we approved a plan to allocate a part of our surplus, or profit, back to Owners as a patronage refund. While management is responsible for deciding the logistics for how it’s refunded, it was the Board’s decision to move forward with the plan—the second patronage refund in Willy Street Co-op history (the first was in Fiscal Year 2010). This refund serves to remind Owners of the unique benefits of belonging to a Co-op and meets our Ends by helping Owners become better informed on the practices of the cooperative movement. It rewards our most loyal Owners for their shopping and allows the Co-op to build equity to continue to serve Owners in the best way possible.
  • In November, we approved $25,000 for the Community Reinvestment Fund, the same as last year but up from $20,000 two years ago. This Fund is one of the primary ways the Co-op contributes to building a more vibrant community and positively impact organizations that are consistent with the Co-op’s values and goals. Through this decision to maintain increased funding, we are supporting more projects and events related to healthy food, nutrition, well-being, sustainable agriculture, cooperative education and social change. In turn, our Owners have more opportunities to become better informed in these areas, thus meeting our Ends.
  • In December, we approved a partnership with the Food Enterprise & Economic Development (FEED) Kitchens Project and a $10,000 sponsorship to help them purchase needed equipment. A proposal for making a long-term strategic commitment to the organization was first presented in our October meeting. The FEED Project will improve access to local food and agricultural production. We made the decision to move forward with this partnership primarily because FEED’s mission aligns with the Co-op’s values and goals. This decision enables the Co-op to bring more local products into the store and onto your plate, meeting our Ends regarding sustainability, partnership with local producers and the production of local foods.

Clearly, the decisions we make at the Board level do matter—for Owners, employees, and members of our community at large. And all of us, as Owners, can impact who serves on the Board and thus the decisions that are made.

Voting in the annual Board election is the most common way to participate as an Owner and have an impact on the decisions that are made. Often, there are opportunities for Owners to join and serve on Board committees, which make informed recommendations to help the Board come to decisions. The most direct and hands-on approach would be to run for a seat on the Board.

In fact, if you’re interested, nomination and election materials will be released soon. We invite you to join us in an upcoming Board meeting to see first-hand what it’s like (see the Board meeting schedule on the table of contents page). If you love your Co-op and want to contribute to all the positive impacts it has on our community, employees and Owners, you won’t be disappointed with your decision.

Dr.Ingo Mahn

YumTum DeliversHuntington Learning CenterUnion Technology Cooperative