Our visionary work
The Oneota Co-op Board of Directors has been busy creating a draft of our ends policies. Sound dry? Perhaps. But I can safely say that creating these ends has been one of the most interesting and visionary times that I’ve had as a board member. To me, this is what being a board member is all about! I can’t wait to begin the process of trying to achieve them.
What are Ends Policies?
Co-ops are interesting creatures in that we can make creating a good world part of what we want our business to achieve. Creating this good world becomes our “ends.” They are our best statement of why we exist, and what good things we hope to accomplish because of that existence.
Our co-op has had a great mission statement. Throughout our history we have used our mission statement as a kind of compass to guide our decision-making. It has worked well to tell whether we were going the right direction, but it didn’t work well to plot a course toward any destination in particular. We referred to the mission statement when we needed clarity, but it didn’t function to help us create plans for the future.
On the other hand, ends policies are more like a chart than a compass. Ends policies help us plot the course for our journey, they help us keep track of our progress, and help us know if we have arrived in the place we intended. Throughout this journey, our compass keeps us on track, but without a chart and a course, we cannot consciously work toward a destination in a systematic way. Ends policies allow for systematic forward motion.
For the first time our co-op will have a set of ends policies that we will publicly state and consciously work to fulfill through careful planning and diligent effort. We will measure our progress toward fulfilling these ends, and we will revise and re-interpret them on a regular basis. How exciting! Bon voyage!
How the Board Created the Ends Policies
The board of directors began to develop the current ends policy draft in a day-long, early April meeting facilitated by our Cooperative Board Leadership Development consultant. Our question was this: What do we want to be in 25 years? 10 years? 5 years? This was an exciting process of dreaming and imagining.
The next step was to look back at our mission statement and the co-operative principles to see if we had left anything out from our past. Our question was: What does our past tell us that we should not forget?
In the third step we looked outward, toward the larger world of co-operatives. Many of these co-ops were going, or had gone, through similar processes of imagining a future. Our question for this phase was this: What do others have to teach us?
Finally, we brought all of this information together and, through a series of focused discussions, we arrived at the ends policies that we present to the membership for your consideration.
How Will the Ends Policies be Used?
After members help the board revise the ends policies (more on that in the next section), they will be presented to the general manager and the store staff for interpretation.
The GM, with the help of the staff, will interpret the ends policies that the board presents. And from these discussions will emerge a plan to achieve the lofty goals we, the members, have set for ourselves.
The questions before the GM and staff will likely be ones like these: What, at this moment in our history, does it mean to “encourage the expansion of sustainable local food sources?” What does it mean that our Co-op should “create a community that is more knowledgeable about healthy food…?”
Finally, the co-op will try the plan that is developed—the plan will certainly be revised as data are collected—all for the purpose of moving us forward toward achieving the good things we said we would achieve. When will we achieve these? We will make more plans, and the world will be a better place because of them!
A tall task, indeed, but what a worthy one!
What Can Members Do?
Please review the ends policy draft that the board has created. You can find a copy in the Scoop and on the Board’s board in the foyer of the Co-op. We ask that you think through what you see. Here are some questions that might help with that thinking:
a. Should we eliminate any of our expectations for our future work?
b. Should we change any of our expectations for our future work?
c. Are any expectations for our future work missing from this list?
If you have any ideas or comments, please make sure that the board of directors gets them. You can drop them off at the information desk at the store and they will be passed on to the board, you can e-mail us (email@example.com), or you can call board members using the contact information in this issue of the Scoop.
We will discuss your ideas at our monthly meetings. Our goal is to present the final draft to the GM in late May, a month after our annual member meeting.