Co-ops play a vital part in our everyday lives and in the health of our economy. More than 800 million people around the world belong to cooperatives, and at least 100 million people are employed by co-ops. Willy Street Co-op alone has more than 19,700 members and 161 employees. Cooperative businesses account for more than $650 billion in revenue and two million American jobs annually. A study recently released by UW-Madison confirms that our business is part of a greater national movement that drives the American economy. “The Research on the Economic Impact of Cooperatives,” led by UW’s Center for Cooperatives, is the result of several years’ worth of studies and surveys that looked into the over 29,000 cooperatives in the United States, encompassing virtually every industry.
As our economy struggles to break free from the grip of a recession, it is important to remember that tens of thousands of cooperatively-owned businesses maintain focus on meeting the needs of their owners and serving the community, not just turning a profit. It is no coincidence that co-ops like Willy Street Co-op are run entirely by the people who live and work in the communities they serve. Being deeply rooted in the Madison community affords us a different perspective from businesses owned by distant investors. We sell produce from local farmers that we meet with each year. We have a vendor loan program to help our local vendors through hard times. We partner with local food producers to highlight their goods and celebrate our community. These connections are of even greater importance during times of economic hardship, when communities need to work together to minimize the negative impact.
Willy Street Co-op and all other co-ops have a shared set of principles that direct our operations and spell out our commitment to our communities. Honesty, openness, care for others and social responsibility are values demonstrated through our daily practices and procedures. These values guide cooperatives worldwide and within our own community. Each day, cooperatives live out their values and serve hundreds of millions of Americans in every industry from groceries to electricity to daycare.
Despite this diversity, co-ops have many things in common. We are owned and democratically controlled by the people who use our services or buy our goods. We are motivated by service to our Owners. These characteristics give us a genuine loyalty and commitment to the communities we serve. Read more about the ways the Co-op impacts and works with our communities in this month’s Reader feature article, “Our Impact on the Community, Part II” on page 18.
Beyond shopping, there are many ways for Owners to participate in the Co-op. Customer comment cards may seems like a small form of feedback, but they are taken seriously by staff and have a major impact. We bring in over 100 products each year just based on customer comments. Customer comments have also sparked changes in practices and procedure, and have sparked interesting and fruitful conversations throughout the organization. Answering surveys, contributing to comment periods about important issues and participating in focus groups all help us make improvements to the Co-op and better tailor it to be the place Owners want it to be. And, of course, there are annual Board elections—consider running for office, and please vote for candidates you believe in!
February retreat highlights
- The Board met at the Goodman Community Center for their annual retreat in February. The group discussed the role of the Board in a two-store structure and Medium Range Planning for Willy Street Co-op—the next 3 to 5 years.
On the April meeting agenda
- At the April meeting the Board will approve the Community Reinvestment Fund recipients, review a variety of reports, and select CCMA participants.
- The Board’s Nominations Committee will also work with all Board members to draft a list of desired skills for candidates in August’s election cycle.
- The Board’s one standing committee, the Finance Committee, reviews monthly financial reports at each of its meetings.
- The Nominations Committee has once again been formed and is beginning to prepare the way for August’s elections.
- The Patronage Refund and Non-Owner Surcharge Committee continues to look into the advantages and disadvantages of the non-member mark-up. Your input is very important to this group, so please continue to share your perspective!
- The Strategic Planning Committee will work with the Board on further developing a greater Willy Street Co-op vision for the future—look for opportunities for input!
- The Board of Directors will be engaging in educational sessions from 6:00-6:45pm, immediately prior to the Board meeting. This month’s Educational Session is on Peer Co-op Expansions. All members are welcome and encouraged to attend! Be sure to check out the Owner Forum as well, from 5:30-6:00pm by the coffee. Snacks are provided!
Remember, you can always catch play-by-play board minutes at: https://board.willystreet.coop:444/board_minutes/board_minutes_home