United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently declared, “Cooperatives are a reminder to the international community that it is possible to pursue both economic viability and social responsibility.” The Secretary-General’s statement was made in advance of the announcement that the UN would declare 2012 the “International Year of Cooperatives.” What this means is that during 2012 you will likely see a flurry of activity around the cooperative business model. Conferences will be convened, advertisements will be aired, and editorials will be written all with the goal of educating the world about the benefits of the cooperative ownership model. While Willy Street Co-op is not directly involved in these planning activities, this whole International Year of Cooperatives “hubbub” got me thinking about the activities we currently do to illustrate our cooperative-ness and why it is so important for our future.
The first stop on this journey is in the here and now with your friendly Director of Cooperative Services, Lynn Olson. Although everyone involved in the Co-op (Board, staff, Owners) has a role in living the cooperative difference, Lynn has the enviable task of ensuring that she integrates education about cooperatives into Willy Street Co-op’s operations. In her newsletter articles and communications with Willy Street Co-op Owners, Lynn shares exciting activities such as the P6 project (http://p6.coop/), the Community Reinvestment Fund, and the mechanics of your recent patronage refund. From any objective standpoint Willy Street Co-op does a wonderful job today living our cooperative principles. However, we can’t become complacent about our cooperative difference. We need to constantly think about new ways of magnifying this difference in creative and bold ways.
So, in February your Board and management team spent a good deal of time talking and thinking about such future-focused issues during the strategic planning process. Our end goal in this exercise was to set a course to remain relevant for our current and future Owners. One finding of the strategic planning process was to figure out how to extend and amplify our cooperative difference. The actions we take as a result of the strategic planning process will start to take shape in the years to come. Be onthe lookout for opportunities to participate as Owners in this process.
While I don’t know if Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon will invite Willy Street Co-op staff or Board to his big co-op party in 2012, though I imagine it would be fun and we could bring some delicious organic food to the New York City shindig (hint, hint, Secretary-General), I do know that we will continue to enhance, communicate and live the cooperative difference for many, many years to come.