I have to be honest with you: there are several areas of Board focus and work that are not easy. These areas involve careful and thoughtful focus on detail – sometimes numbers, sometimes reports or information, and sometimes words. In the end, words are often the most challenging in part because words are so hard to come up with when we are trying to communicate a particular value, belief or principle clearly, and once chosen, getting agreement can be difficult: personal preferences and different interpretations affect coming to agreement.
The Ends Ad Hoc Committee has found itself in the thick of word choice and phrasing, values, beliefs and principles. We have assessed and discussed the Co-op’s Purpose and Mission Statements with an eye to ensuring two clear statements to bring to you, our Shareholders, and that we can then use as the basis for discussing the Co-op’s Ends.
A tiny bit of background: especially older co-ops have gone back to their Purpose and Mission statements, and to their Ends, to rewrite them so as to better reflect today’s co-ops, their shareholders and shoppers, and each co-op’s role in their community. We began this work at the end of last year, and this spring the board formed an Ends Task Force to review what we currently have. At our April 2020 meeting, the Task Force made a series of recommendations to the board: to change to the Purpose and Mission Statement, and to carefully review the Ends  to suggest changes to reduce redundancy and provide greater clarity for everyone, including the General Manager. At that point, the Ends Ad Hoc Committee came into existence.
The committee started with the Purpose and Mission Statements, both stated in Article 1 Organization, Section 1.2 Purpose and Mission, in the Co-op’s Bylaws.
The Co-op exists for the purpose of meeting the needs of its shareholders, on a cooperative and nonprofit basis, with a focus on food and related products, and supporting the larger cooperative movement.
The Co-op is a consumer cooperative whose mission is to provide quality products at a reasonable price in an environment, which is organized fairly and honestly, for its shareholders, staff and community. The Co-op:
- supports the active participation of its shareholders;
- supports local and regional growers/producers, as well as other cooperatives; and
- strives to educate about social, political, environmental and economic issues as they relate to food.
The ad hoc committee decided to separate Purpose (why the Co-op exists) and Mission statements. Here is the proposed Purpose Statement, now recommended by the Board for a vote in November of this year:
1.2.1 Purpose: The BFC shall be owned by its members and shall operate with a focus on food and related products in accord with the ICA Statement on Cooperative Identity (cooperative principles) for the mutual benefit of its members.
The ad hoc committee determined that the Mission statement needed to be rewritten for a couple of reasons. A mission statement sets out a cooperative’s intent and guiding aspiration, including what makes it unique. We felt that, as they are now written, the Purpose and Mission statements are, in fact, an articulation of most of our Ends. Secondly, we felt the mission needed to be more succinct.
After substantial work over the better part of several months, we had narrowed down our thoughts to the following possibility, while we continue to play with a couple of variations on it:
The BFC serves the community, providing a welcoming shopping and work environment that is inclusively, equitably and honestly run, and engaging with a steadfast commitment to environmental and social responsibility.
The committee’s work has been a thought-provoking and rich journey. We would like the Purpose and Mission statement to contain wording that captures and reflects shared beliefs and values about who we are, what makes us unique and what is important to us as a community.
If you would like to send feedback or different wording to the possible Mission Statement above, please do so. You can contact us via this link, or go to the BFC website, click on Join and then click on BFC Board of Directors. At the bottom of the Board page, you will find a big yellow bar that invites you to contact the Board. Click on it and type in your feedback. Finally, you can always leave the Board ideas and feedback at Shareholder Services.
And the process continues: the Ends Ad Hoc committee will meet again, and considering further thinking and feedback on the wording, we will redraft as necessary and hope to be making a recommendation for the Board in September.
Our proposed Purpose and Mission statement will come to the membership for ratification in November 2020 during the voting period that begins Wednesday, November 11 at the Annual Meeting.
Addendum to the original article
At its last meeting, the Ends Ad Hoc Committee talked through feedback we received on the possible Mission statement. We agreed that we will bring the following recommendation to the board: that in order to simplify and clarify our bylaws, we will remove the statement of mission from the bylaws (subject to shareholder approval) and provide a mission-type statement with our Ends Policies. This explicitly links and highlights the relationship between Mission and Ends, which, we hope, will provide context for the Ends Policies so they are more meaningful. You will find a rationale for our recommendation on the ballot if not in a later Food For Thought article that explains all board recommendations for changes to our bylaws.
 Cooperative Ends policies define results, outcomes or benefits which result from the co-op’s work for stated beneficiaries/recipients, at a cost or level of relative priority. Ends policies “should be meaningful and clear enough to provide long-term direction for the management to plan and work towards.” (https://columinate.coop/writing-ends-policies/) The Brattleboro Food Co-op currently has 7 Ends policies; they are posted in the store and available to read on the website here: https://www.brattleborofoodcoop.coop/about-us/principles/
By Beth Neher