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Accountable Empowerment and What’s Exciting at the Co-op

Last month I wrote about how the Board of Directors is taking time to build skills around how we monitor the policies we have created for the Co-op, to ensure that we are always focused on doing the right work and achieving the right results, in support of our highest purpose.

In our last Board meeting, we examined each policy monitoring report (the evaluation of how we performed over the past year in relation to the direction set forth in the policy) reported on by the General Manager. We did so with new skill, building on learnings from past Board retreats and educationsessions. 

We also spent important time addressing how we will report on the policies for which the Board is accountable for documenting action and progress. These are the policies that fall under the “Board Process” and “Board/GM Relationship” categories and help us see if we are doing the best job we can and should be doing as your Co-op’s Board. The intention with these types of monitor reports is to efficiently facilitate a meaningful conversation about how we are doing with each of the policies and what we can do to get better.

With our new policy roster in place, the Board focus is shifting toward building skills in “Accountable Empowerment.” When we say this, we could just call it accountability, but in cooperative governance, we like to think of the importance of empowering those to whom we delegate responsibility—be it the General Manager or ourselves—and then holding them (or ourselves) accountable.

What’s so great about this?

As the Board continues to grow more effective and efficient in creating a shared understanding of our work by:

1.Writing down what we (the Co-op) are going to do (e.g., drafting policy), 

2.Assigning responsibility for executing and operating within the boundaries of our policies (e.g., the General Manager or the Board),

3.And then having a regular practice of monitoring the General Manager’s work or the Board’s self-evaluation, …we can be reasonably assured that the most important governance work as stewards and fiduciaries of the Co-op is being done and that we are always focused on continuing to get better at it every year.

The better we get at this work, the more we can look forward to what’s ahead, anticipate new needs and make better decisions for the Co-op to have even greater impact on our community in alignment with our mission.

Exciting work at the Co-op

We talked about a lot of exciting work the Co-op is involved in right now during our last meeting. Two things that most excited me and made me proud to be a Board member are:

•The Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program—in partnership with the City, UW Health Northeast Family Medical Center, Second Harvest Food Bank Hunger Care Coalition, and Public Health Madison and Dane County. This program began on February 1st and is, to my knowledge, the first of its kind in Madison. The program is for patients at UW Health Northeast Family Medical Clinic who test positive for food insecurity and allows them to get prescriptions for fresh fruits and vegetables in the form of coupons which can be redeemed at any Willy Street Co-op store.

•Community Reinvestment Fund—the Co-op took applications from local community groups for grant funding throughout February and will meet in March and April to decide which programs will receive funding. I’ve been personally involved in discussions with organizations that received funds through this program and can attest to the fact that this funding has a significant impact on the recipient organizations.

One more piece of exciting news to note: In January, the Co-op had its highest sales week yet—$1,078,374—which marked the fifth million-dollar sales week of the fiscal year. This tells me the Co-op is strong even in the face of increasing competition and challenging economic times. It is the commitment and dedication of our 34,000-plus members that allows us to be in this position. Thank you very much for your continued support of the Co-op! 

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