A Core of Hope

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I just returned from a national co-op meeting that included a presentation by Ari Weinzweig, one of the founders of Zingerman’s Deli in Ann Arbor, MI, from whom we have adopted a few business practices, including customer service training and open book management. He’s been thinking a lot about how we take actions based on our beliefs, a lesson that is all around us lately. Further, he thinks that focusing on positive beliefs engenders positive action, and that there is a chain reaction to this approach.

Respect and Dignity

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Much has been said about how we as human beings have been communicating with each other, especially when we disagree. There is plenty to be grateful for, in the discourse that is happening around a very problematic cultural fabric we live in and contribute to—namely, that we are finally beginning, very slowly and painfully, to grapple with differences. But the impulse to

What’s Cookin’

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In recent conversations, I have referred multiple times to an article that I read last fall, and its conclusions never fail to surprise the listeners. In a Harvard Business Review article,1 Eddie Yoon observed some consumer trends over a fifteen-year period, which have direct impact on how the grocery industry interacts with its customers—or rather, how the customers interact with the industry.

Hearing Voices

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We are asking you to take some extra time this month to give us feedback. Not a lot of time, mind you, and although we have already heard from many of you about recent changes, this will be a more holistic survey that we conduct every couple of years to check in on your view of the entire range of Co-op activity. The results of our survey certainly inform us about things, but also get aggregated with

Measuring Impact, Part Two

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At the turn of the millennium, the leadership of our Co-op, both on the board and on the management team, worked on understanding where our business could make changes in order to not only reduce its footprint, but actually to work towards becoming “a regenerative business that has a net positive environmental impact.” This became our fourth Ends policy. We have reported on the sales of local products in our store, which—due to how much of it we sell—clearly has some effect on our overall impact. These products clearly burn

Measuring Impact

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I have previously referred to the process that our board uses to measure how well we are achieving our goals at nearly every board meeting. As the one charged with the execution of these goals, this methodology forces me to quantify our success. Few assessments are more important than monitoring the overarching “Ends” policies, which hopefully you reviewed and commented on at our annual meeting last month. These policies are quite extensive in their scope, and challenging to encapsulate in an annual report, but reviewing the data is fascinating and useful.

Concern for Community

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For some of us, fall brings sports events worth watching, along with harvests and leaves. I too enjoy a few hours spent watching amazing athletes banding together in pursuit of championships. That’s why I happened to see a TV commercial for a very large national chain touting its support of nutrition in the school system, through the employ of chefs and the education of providers in the benefits of good, healthy eating for our youth.

Onward and Upward

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I received a wide spectrum of comments on last month’s column. Some were shocked—they had no idea how much we have been swept into the struggles that confront so many in our town. Others, who are more aware of this, were largely positive about shining a light on the situation. I take heart in the mostly positive reactions, and hope that you who have read this and thought more deeply about it share

In the Balance

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I have been thinking about balance lately. This concept governs so much of what we do here at the Co-op, where we try to be true to our values, while respecting boundaries of economic, social, and individual realities. Last month, I reported on the process of negotiating a contract that respects and supports our staff, while keeping prices reasonable and paying producers fairly. These days, we have had to think about the challenges of being in business as a

A New Dawn

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On July 15, the BFC staff represented by the United Food and Commercial Workers, Local 1459, voted to ratify a new three-year contract. This is the second contract for our staff, and this one was arrived at by a group of folks from both management and the bargaining unit who met nearly every week since March 30 to work through an understanding, using the principles of “interest-based problem-solving.” This methodology first identifies the interests of each side,

Cooperatives in a Collaborative Economy

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We all have our own ways to officially welcome summer. There are the Memorial-Day-weekend folks, the last-day-of-school folks, and the day-the-pool-opens folks. And let’s not forget the Strolling of the Heifers weekend, this year paired again with the Slow Living Summit. Our Co-op once more represented proudly with our crackerjack Shopping Cart Precision Drill Team, an amazingly athletic and complex labor of love at which the rest of us can only marvel.