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Consumer Cooperatives Abound this June!

by Emma Cameron, Board Member
Many of us know and appreciate the efforts that Willy Street Co-op makes in our neighborhoods, towards the goal of providing and improving access to fresh, local, sustainable produce and other options for food in Madison. However, Willy Street Co-op does not exist in a vacuum. We are one consumer cooperative that operates somewhat similarly to others across the nation, in which owners play a role in making decisions and guiding the direction of their co-op. One place where all of these consumer co-ops are able to get together and discuss the state of the industry, suggest new ideas, form collaborative relationships, and network is at the Consumer Cooperative Management Association (CCMA) annual meeting.


Courageous Evolution

This year, the annual meeting will be held from May 31–June 2 in Portland, Oregon and has the theme of “Courageous Evolution: Strategies for Strong Co-ops and Communities.” On the forefront of many attendees’ minds will likely be some of the numerous hot button issues in the consumer co-op community. Amazon’s recent purchase of Whole Foods has consumer co-ops wondering how we should respond, and how our sales and members will ultimately be affected. As time goes on, there is also more of a focus on e-commerce options for delivery of groceries. When many people are not necessarily looking for an in-person shopping experience to get their groceries, how should co-ops like Willy Street Co-op respond? Willy Street Co-op and other consumer co-ops have always held at front and center the mission of expanding access to healthy food, respecting farmers, treating employees fairly, and engaging with local communities to attempt to address issues of social injustice. How do we as Willy Street Co-op and as the consumer cooperative movement address these questions, and respond in the face of these coming changes? We are always most interested in ensuring that Willy Street Co-op’s Ends Policies are met and fulfilling our mission in whatever way we can. These, however, will be new challenges that have yet to be tackled.


Local tours

At CCMA this year, attendees, including a number of Board and staff members, will have the option to tour local co-ops before the conference itself. During the conference, there will be a variety of keynotes, breakout sessions addressing the issues touched on above, and networking/social opportunities. Portland, Oregon is also in particular a hub for cooperatives, of both the consumer variety as well as worker co-ops and housing co-ops. Board and staff attendees at CCMA will likely return to Madison invigorated with new ideas to address upcoming challenges for Willy Street Co-op and to further enact our Ends through potential work on generative policies.


Run for the Board

If these sorts of issues sound particularly exciting to you, maybe consider running for Willy Street Co-op Board of Directors! Nominations are open through the end of May and require a few steps to complete your candidacy. Board candidates should strive to attend one Board meeting, and the last one is coming up: May 15th from 6:30-8:30 pm at the Willy Street Co-op Central Office on E. Washington Ave. We also highly suggest that candidates attend candidate orientation. The last session will be held at Willy East from 6:00–7:00pm on Monday, May 21.

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