At our annual February board retreat, we discussed global trends affecting our world and how we as a member-owned co-operative business could also affect the future of the world we share. According to the International Co-operative Alliance, there are approximately one billion people who are members of co-ops worldwide. Ten thousand of them are BCS members. This is our moment in history to take giant leaps forward in creating fair systems of sharing Earth's resources.
There are numerous problems facing the world, many which could be grouped under the heading of "environmental degradation," something which affects every living thing. Crises loom. Historically, however, co-ops resist crises. People joining together in behalf of the interests of the whole have always solved their common problems.
How does this work? Usually, a situation presents itself which is not easily resolved by one's independent ability to work harder or longer, and when no government or social program is able to fill the need, people organize into co-operating groups. Holding to non-confrontational principles, these groups look instead at what is right and how to build on it.
We ask, "What is alive in us? How can we engage this aliveness, this vitality, in a way that benefits the whole?" After gathering information for our knowledge pool, we decide on our common purpose, crafting a vision from our minds and hearts. From there, we continue the process of planning, taking action, monitoring what we have done, then re-assessing the best ways to meet our evolving goals and continue the process.
You, as member-owners of your local co-op, are the people who depend on each other to make not only our food stores, but our whole community - all of its families, businesses and social institutions - a smooth-running system providing us all with a sustainable lifestyle. We do this best by making our vision of a just world compelling and by living our highest principles. (The Seven International Co-op Principles are listed in "Co-op 101" in this newsletter.)
Your co-op board ongoingly assesses how we are exemplifying the co-op principles as a business. We discuss how these abstract, general guidelines can be broken down into clear policies which can be measured and monitored. The General Manager and staff then have the job of figuring out how to operate within the policy guidelines while fulfilling the numerous daily tasks a business requires. This seemingly "small stuff" is huge. To make all levels work together, it is necessary that our co-op vision be as clear as possible.
Co-operating in today's fast-paced, high-tech world is more than just going next door to borrow a cup of sugar and later returning the favor. The stakes are high and the challenges immense; but we are now, locally, 10,000 member-owners strong in creating co-operative ways to make our world work well. And that is just BCS, one of many organizations dedicated to helpful purposes.
You are so important in making things happen. Not only every dollar you spend, but every time you talk to anyone about your values of making our local area a model of good citizenship ( a seemingly outdated but important word), you empower us all.
You are the juice. As you get excited about and support what is going right, others come on board. They bring their energy and resources into the vision, and the world we want happens. Do not underestimate your power to generate the real economy of people who come together easily, happily, resourcefully to pool talents and skills in behalf of each other. Worldwide, this is our co-op moment.
Carol Bridges, for the Board of Directors