Cooperatives are democratic organizations. As such, it is vital that the values and voices of Owners are used to shape our Co-op’s actions. Your Board of Directors is one of the most important links to Owners’ values and voices and is responsible for making decisions with that in mind. Through our Co-op’s policy governance system, the Board writes Ends Policies that serve as a set of decisions about the outcomes and stakeholders that the organization exists to produce and to benefit.
What new ends?
As my fellow Board member, Mike Engel, wrote about in last month’s Board article, the Board approved a new set of Ends during the Board Retreat in November. These Ends replace our previous ones to modernize and reflect the Co-op’s current place in our community and direct the impact we can and should have in benefiting our community in the future:
Willy Street Co-op will be at the forefront of a cooperative and just society that:
- has a robust local economy built around equitable relationships;
- nourishes and enriches our community and environment; and
- has a culture of respect, generosity, and authenticity.
Why new ends?
The Board wanted a simpler, more compelling way to explain the purpose and direction of the Co-op and to guide where we’re headed in clear language that makes sense to all our stakeholders.
These new Ends are also purposely broad and aspirational to allow the General Manager and the Co-op’s operational teams to be nimble, creative and proactive in their expertise as they carry out the hard work of making our Co-op live up to our Ends.
Ends matter to strategy!
Ends are start of the Co-op’s strategic approach. As the umbrella directional statements for which the organization is not only held accountable, but strives to accomplish, they are the primary driving force for strategic and daily decision-making.
Now that the Board has agreed these Ends encapsulate the path the Co-op should take forward, it is the General Manager’s job to turn them into plans, and then actions—and all along the process, tell the story of the outcomes of our Ends and the ways in which our communities are benefiting. And all of these components are critical pieces of strategy. And strategy will help us get where our Ends tell us to go.
Where do we go from here?
Starting with the new Ends, the General Manager works with the Board and her operational teams to interpret the Ends and craft the operational definitions that bring the Ends to life;in other words, translating these highest-level directions into what it means in daily operations and how these actions will be measured. This operational strategy has checks in place to ensure we are making progress and are able to adjust if needed along the way. Progress and results are recorded and reported out to the Board in annual monitoring reports.
As an example of how we build our strategy, let’s look at just the first component of the Ends: “Has a robust local economy built around equitable relationships.” The General Manager must outline what it means to do this in our actions and what work the Co-op will focus on in this effort. Part of this strategy work will include guidance on when the work will be accomplished and how we will measure if we’ve done it. And of course, we will need more definitive and shared understandings of terms like “robust,” “local” and “equitable relationships” so to remove ambiguity when evaluating and reporting our progress.
Ends are for everybody!
Owners’ voices and values inform the Board’s decisions on determining the Co-op’s Ends. The Co-op’s Ends determine what the Co-op is trying to achieve. The General Manager and operational teams interpret the Ends and create shared definitions of broad terms in the Ends which become the starting points of operational strategic plans. The Co-op’s strategic plan details what actions will be taken, when it will happen and how it will be measured. In this way, a thread is strategically and thoughtfully woven through the entire Co-op, from the Owners’ input in this democratic organization to the Co-op’s daily actions and outputs.