This wise statement was made by a long-time co-op organizer. I think this is a profound statement and directly confronts a malady of our society today. We pretty much expect most things to come to us for free. We have free apps on our phones, we can access free news articles, we avoid taxes as much as possible. In our city, Grand Rapids, we have some very wealthy and generous donors who have helped build important venues and social services to revitalize our city and make it a very desirable place to live. So it is very easy to begin thinking that we don't need to invest our hard earned money back into the community to help it thrive.
There is a very subtle trap to this kind of thinking. It keeps us effectively living in a feudal economy. We begin to think that if the big donors aren't behind a project then it will never come to fruition. We rely on the foundations to make the needed changes for social justice. We can bask in their good works. And we are therefore dependents rather than actors. Co-ops are a powerful way to move us out of this feudal mindset and come together to make needed change ourselves. With our own dollars, our own energy and ideas, our own businesses we can envision and bring to fruition the change we want to see. I hope you will join us to bring the best food possible to central Grand Rapids where food access is most challenging. And maybe even think about starting other co-ops to make other much needed changes in our community.
We just got back from a wonderful weekend at the Circle Pines Center near Hastings, Michigan. This is cooperative retreat center located in the woods of central lower Michigan. We met with folks from other food co-ops around Michigan as well as folks from housing co-ops and worker co-ops. Folks came from as far away as Waterloo, Ontario and Durham, North Carolina. We had a very informative discussion of the current state of food co-ops with people who have been involved with food co-op management for years as well as people who are just starting food co-ops. We learned that there is a great deal of competition right now in the area of organic and natural foods, the very area that food co-ops developed! Now everyone is doing it! So what do food co-ops have to offer as the new, cutting edge niche? And perhaps more importantly to my rebel mind, why do the food co-ops always need to find a new niche? Why isn't our business model the dominant one and the "free" market capitalists the ones working around us? I hope these questions will generate some dialogue here. What are your thoughts? What do food co-ops offer today that makes us special? How can co-ops become a more important presence in the marketplace?
Accomplishments 2016 GRFCI
Priorities for 2017
Top Circle: Collaboration with food co-ops nearby, use current grant money, board training
Diversity: Bolster diversity/reach out to all communities
Finance: Funding/grant partnerships, income accessibility/voice for all
Marketing: outreach and advocacy, grow membership
Membership: plan for membership growth, effectively engage volunteers
So we've had another election where the majority (or at least the majority of states) elected the President and other members of our government and the minority were left holding the bag. Half the country is jubilant and half the country is sad.
We're finding that there is an alternative model. Our co-op is practicing another way to do democracy. It's called Sociocracy. Through this model of organization, every voice is heard equally, elections are held by consent of everyone affected, new proposals to solve issues are crafted by everyone in the circle until everyone can consent. All our circles of engaged volunteers are in effective communication with the other circles so folks know what is going on throughout the organization. We are loving the community that this model of democracy is building! The best ideas can bubble up and the work gets done efficiently and effectively (for the most part!).
Currently the top circle (our development board) is crafting a program to make sure our neighbors on low or fixed incomes are able to become member/owners of our coop in a way that is affordable for them. Its called our Food for All program. More details to follow as we get them worked out.
We are three months into our membership drive and have 21 official member/owners. We are hoping to have 100 members by the end of the year so we can have our first official membership meeting and elect our first elected top circle. We have a very committed group of volunteers working on our action circles in the areas of membership, marketing, finance and diversity. Folks are hosting house parties and others are staffing tabling events around town to get the word out and encourage more member/owners. We are planning pop-up events and member/owner benefits with area farms and stores. If you want to get involved just let us know.
After we get a significant number of member/owners and we have the investment capital lined up from several sources including our members, foundations, government programs, commercial lenders and food co-op lending organizations, we will start looking for our store location. We hope to have the financing in order to build a 10,000 to 15,000 square-foot store. This will probably take about three years. We want our store to be a one-stop grocery store with plenty of parking and room in the aisles for the grocery carts. We hope to have a deli, hot bar, salad bar and a great place to eat and visit with friends and others in our community. Our food will be as local, as healthy, and as affordable as possible. We know that we are really building community through food and we want our store to be in a part of town that currently has food challenges. We want our store to be a warm and welcoming place for everyone in our town!
Help us build this dream by becoming a member/owner yourself. We welcome your comments and suggestions and look forward to meeting you at one of our events.