In October 2013 the Willy Street Co-op Board of Directors reviewed its first annual Ends Policy Report! This is a very important and exciting shift in how we report on our highest level policies.

Ends Policies 101
Your Co-op has a number of policies that are used to keep the organization running smoothly and effectively. Some policies are reviewed by the Board of Directors, which follows the Carver Policy Governance method of leadership. Simply put, the Board ensures that the Co-op is working right and headed in the best direction by setting policy and monitoring how well Co-op staff are meeting the standards set therein. There are two kinds of policies set and reviewed by the Board: monitoring policies and Ends policies. Monitoring policies are reported on throughout the year and keep track of important operational areas, like the Co-op’s financial health, management continuity, etc. The Ends policies are the grander policies that dictate the higher level goals of Willy Street Co-op as a whole. Another way of understanding what Ends policies comes from John Carver (of Policy Governance fame), “The ends concept—unique to Policy Governance—is a very special type of goal, one that designates the results for which the organization exists, the recipients or beneficiaries of those results, and the worth of the results or the results for certain recipient groups.”

Willy Street Co-op’s Ends Policies
WSGC’s Ends policies (also available on the Co-op’s website) read:
The Williamson Street Grocery Co-op is, and will remain, an economically viable and environmentally sound business cooperatively owned by its Owners; its primary mission, as expressed in section 2 of our bylaws, is to operate a retail grocery organization that forms a cornerstone of a vibrant community.

To evaluate progress towards these ends, the Board shall monitor whether;

Policy A1:
Owners are provided information to make informed choices about food, agricultural practices, environmentally sound practices and the cooperative movement.

Policy A2:
Owners have a sense of Williamson Street Grocery Co-op (WSGC) community and realize the responsibility of ownership.
A2.1: Owners participate in decision-making.
A2.2: Promote owner involvement.
A2.3: Celebrate, educate, and promote community.

Policy A3:
WSGC is a cornerstone of a vibrant economically and environmentally sound community.
A3.1: Local farmers, manufacturers and distributors work in partnership with WSGC.
A3.1.1: Foster local production of goods.
A3.2: Other businesses, neighborhood groups and co-ops link with WSGC to improve services.
A3.3: Persons of all ages and economic groups view the Co-op as an important resource for their well-being.

Policy A4:
Workers participate in management, work in a humane environment and are recognized and rewarded as being fundamental to a thriving community.
A4.1: Become an employer of choice in Dane County.

Policy A5:
WSGC supports and promotes the cooperative business model.
A5.1: The Co-op pursues growth and expansion opportunities that meet the long-term needs of our Owners and workers.
A5.2: The Co-op works to grow and link regional cooperatives.

Policy A6:
Board and management commit to ongoing system improvement.
A6.1: Make healthy, timely decisions.
A6.2: Best operational practices are identified and implemented.
A6.3: There exists a systems approach to sustainability.

Annual Ends Reporting
The wording in these policies is intentionally broad, to give the Co-op’s General Manager and other staff room for various interpretations over time. In the past, each specific policy within the Ends was reported on separately throughout the year. For Fiscal Year 2013 the Board requested a unified Ends report, which will be updated each year. This is exciting for a number of reasons!

  1. A unified Ends Policy Report gives a clear picture of the work the entire organization does each year. This will enable the Board and management to see areas of excellence and areas where the Co-op can improve.
  2. This annual report will also help the Board evaluate the usefulness of the actual Ends policies themselves. The Board is responsible for ensuring that the Co-op’s Ends accurately reflect the priorities and values of the organization. By seeing the end results of the Ends policies, it will be simpler to see areas that could use tweaking or an overhaul.
  3. Operational Definitions (O.D.) are also a new feature in this Ends Report. Drafted by the General Manager, O.D.s communicate how management interprets each policy. The process of articulating clear operational definitions for each policy area gives the Board and the GM an opportunity to align around the ways each End will be met.
  4. The Ends Report can function as a mirror for staff as they set goals and priorities for each department. Annual records will help answer questions like, “How well did we meet each Ends policy last year? How can we do better this year? How can my department contribute to X, Y, Z Ends policy?”
  5. This report will be shared with all staff and Owners! The Ends policies are our guiding documents, stating the priorities of the entire organization. This report will give everyone an opportunity to better understand what is happening in our Co-op.

A Couple of Highlights from the Fiscal Year 2013 Ends Report
This is the first unified Ends Report, and we have already identified a number of ways to improve it for next year. If you have any questions or suggestions for this report, feel free to email me at . That being said, here are some highlights from the Fiscal Year 2013 Report!

  • From A2.3: “Celebrate, educate and promote community:” The Community Reinvestment Fund distributed $25,000 to 23 community organizations in FY13.
  • From A3.1: “Local farmers, manufacturers and distributors work in partnership with WSGC:” All service suppliers are located within the product department’s local geographic range. In addition, most custodial supplies are purchased through local providers. And, the IT Department procurement decisions for services and products prioritizes local businesses and cooperatives. We have contracts with local businesses for security/fire detection, telecom services, and web hosting/virtualization. Our POS vendor, North Country Business Products (NCBP), is 100% employee-owned.
  • From A4.2: “Become an employer of choice in Dane County:” In FY13 the Co-op started a bike transportation benefit in addition to pre-standing transportation, FSA and dependent care benefits

Read the full report on our website at: willystreet.coop/2013-ends-policy-report.
For more information on the Carver Policy Governance model, check out this site: www.carvergovernance.com/index.html.