My Answers to the Co-op's Questions
The Co-op circulated three questions and said that if candidates sent in answers by February 18 the answers would appear on the official election web site. I sent in my answers on February 19 -- a day late -- so the Co-op has refused to publish them. But here they are:
1. Why do you believe you are qualified to serve on the Board of the Hanover Consumer Cooperative Society?
My interest in democratizing and localizing the economy has led me to immerse myself in cooperatives for the past 13 years, beginning with a decade-long stint on the Board of the Co-op from 2003 to 2013. I’ve previously been the Board’s president, vice-president and treasurer. I’m one of several former Board members who have reached out to the Concerned About the Co-op (CATC) group, believing that the Co-op should welcome and encourage member activism in whatever form it takes. I’ve served on the board of the Cooperative Fund of New England – a key player in building the region’s cooperative movement – and I am a founding board member of a new nonprofit, We Own It, Inc., which seeks to empower and activate members of cooperatives, particularly in the electric sector.
2. What is your vision for the future of our Co-op? What short-term AND long-term challenges does your vision help to address?
Our 80-year legacy of member trust is the Co-op’s most precious asset; in an increasingly competitive retail grocery environment, it is the one thing the supermarkets can never steal or replicate. We must continue to earn the trust of our members by proving we are different than investor-owned competition, and to do it we must pay particular attention to the fifth of the seven Cooperative Principles: Education, Training and Information. We must not be afraid to tell members everything they want and need to know about the grocery business, our workplaces, and the way we buy at wholesale and sell at retail on their behalf.
In the near term, the Co-op faces its biggest challenge in several decades: that of picking a new general manager and helping her assemble the right leadership team. In the long term, we have to figure out how to leverage our trustworthiness to earn our members’ fierce loyalty, how to resist the temptation to turn locally controlled food co-ops into one big national co-op, and how to find new ways of serving members (on-line services? computer retailing? more automobile services? journalism?) without becoming too big to be truly connected to members.
3. The work of the board is not operational. How will you stay focused on the larger visions without being distracted by the day to day operations of the co-op?
I respectfully disagree with the premise of the question. The work of the Board is “operational” because the Board is ultimately responsible for every aspect of the Co-op. Board members must make wise choices about how much specific guidance to provide to the management team. That wisdom comes from experience, which means Board members should learn as much as they can about how the Co-op really works. Fortified with that knowledge, I would use my seat on the Board to give management the discretion it earns while holding management accountable for the choices it makes.
Do you have other questions you would like to see discussed in connection with the election? Please reach out to me! And of course don't forget to vote between April 1 and April 30 -- you can vote on line at mycoopvote.com.