Being a Co-op Board Member
Reflections from Patrick Pesek-Herriges
As I end my time as a board member (on 7/31) it’s a good time to say what that role has meant to me. I ran for election in 2011 out of my convictions about the value of the cooperative model. I’ve stayed on the board this long for the same reason. My convictions have only deepened.
Working with the board on one of its main jobs – the vision (we call it Big Long Term Ends) –my research led me to learn of the Democracy Collaborative and its Community Wealth project. They help municipalities of all sizes develop strategies, policies and programs to build local wealth. Local wealth is built through local ownership, stable jobs with livable pay and health benefits, institutions working to offset poverty and provide opportunity, accessible health care, and active support for a healthy environment.
A lot of what MMFC does contributes to community wealth. First, it certainly is locally owned, by 2,439 persons and their families (as of 6/27/18). The co-op store strives to offer good jobs. Co-op revenues are redistributed into the community through the “multiplier effect”, at a much higher rate than private and especially corporate markets. The co-op also contributes directly to area service organizations, and staff members are supported to volunteer their services. When the store is profitable, it returns dividends to owners.
In particular, MMFC states in its Ends that it will be “central to a thriving, healthy community”. The board has been working to understand and define “thriving” and “healthy”. I think the people at community-wealth.org have a pretty good handle on what that means. Visit that website to learn more.
A few other things I’ve learned in my seven+ years on the board:
o MMFC is a member of the National Co+op Grocers(NCG), which provides amazing services to its members in virtually every aspect of management.
o The profit margin in the grocery business is slim, and expansion is a costly undertaking that impacts profitability until debt is paid.
o The food business is evolving at an exponential rate, and competition is fierce – especially competition from national and international food marketers.
o Policy Governance is not perfect – it’s a human invention, after all – but it’s very good, and it prevents a lot of organizational problems.
o MMFC is particularly fortunate to be supported by a community of owners and a remarkable operational staff, employed by a skilled General Manager.
Hopefully, our owners share my convictions about the cooperative model and what it does for the community.
I urge owners to think about the difference between standard economics and cooperative economics. I urge owners to be active in support of MMFC’s Ends.
Help us build a thriving, healthy community!