cooperative ecosystem

Thoughts on Our Cooperative Ecosystem

Hello to our cooperative community!

As we approach August, this is the time of year we start thinking about what 2023 will hold and setting future goals for our cooperative. Over the next few months, we’ll be working with teams throughout our co-op on business planning and budgeting for the following year. This can be a daunting but exciting time. We can’t foresee the future, but we can make highly informed assumptions and think about how we will adapt.

Our current market is undeniably a challenging one. With inflation rates of 9 percent and unemployment rates at a low of 2 percent, we’re faced with the unique challenge of adapting the way we do business. How our members shop and drive (and therefore, what they need from our cooperative) is evolving. So, we must adjust in how we respond and how we meet those needs.

While these external factors can feel overwhelming or impossible when we’re facing them ourselves, it’s important to remember that our cooperative is a large ecosystem. Everything is connected and when something impacts one area, it has ripple effects throughout the entire system. We thrive and we weather storms together as an entity.

I recently used an analogy for our current situation with a colleague in our Hanover store that she encouraged me to share. Years ago, as a recent college graduate with a background in environmental science, I led education programs in Yellowstone National Park. In my time there, I had many conversations with people about shifting perspectives on seemingly destructive environmental forces. A great example of this was forest fires. It is common for this area to experience fires. And while they may seem destructive (and they absolutely can be to towns and cities impacted by them), they are actually a powerful force of rejuvenation and a natural process of change for the ecosystem. Certain trees have cones that only open when exposed to high temperatures, the kind of temperatures that fire can produce. As the fire burns through a system, it burns other vegetation, which creates rich and fertile soils and opens these cones so they can seed new growth. The result of this disruption is a healthy, rejuvenated ecosystem.

I know it can feel like a forest fire right now. We’re all experiencing it, and it can be scary. When we are in the midst of change and challenge, we naturally feel the heat and we’re focused on surviving. But really, what we are doing is slowly changing with the conditions, and rebuilding and strengthening our ecosystem.

We are in a state of rebuilding and adaptation right now in many ways. Our future will look different than our past, and putting our organization together in a new way that meets the needs of that future is the work ahead of us.

Think about the rest of the ecosystem. How can we support one another? How can we rethink the way that we do work? What new ways can we meet the challenges ahead? How can we ensure the health of our entire ecosystem of businesses? These are the questions I would ask our members to consider, and to reach out to me with your thoughts and ideas.

Thanks, members! I look forward to hearing from you.

—Amanda

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Amanda Charland

Amanda Charland

Amanda Charland is the General Manager of the Co-op Food Stores. She was first hired as the Co-op's Sustainability Coordinator in 2012, and joined the Co-op Leadership Team as Member Services and Outreach Director in 2014. She earned a Master's Degree in Cooperative Management in 2017, and she was promoted to Director of Cooperative Engagement in 2018. She was hired by the Co-op Board of Directors as General Manager in 2022. Contact her at acharland@coopfoodstore.com.