The world is chock full of theoretical approaches to things—with varying degrees of interest, follow-through, and success.
Think of a mission statement, as one familiar example. We see them regularly—printed in publications, framed on company walls, and showcased in advertising and annual reports—yet we often give little or no thought to the work that went into creating them or why it was done in the first place.
But the best such statements are more than just words on paper, and they have an important purpose. If done right, a well-conceived mission or vision is a written guide that outlines goals, establishes direction, and perhaps most importantly, helps facilitate current and future decision-making. In short, the thoughts influence action. These are ideals that are not just envisioned, but are also effectively and regularly put into practice.
The Co-op Ends policy is our cooperative’s long-range vision—a broad, multifaceted theoretical framework that was authored by the Co-op Board of Directors and can be summarized as the ends the Co-op strives to create in the world.
The Co-op Global Ends statements states that the Hanover Consumer Cooperative Society exists to provide cooperative commerce for the greater good of our members and community. The Ends policy is the subsequent call to action. It states that seven distinct groups comprise our members and community: Co-op members, non-member customers, Co-op staff and their families, local suppliers, the local community, the larger cooperative community, and the past and future generations of Hanover Co-op members. The policy also goes on to state that, because of the Hanover Consumer Cooperative Society:
- 1. The Upper Valley will have a retail source of food that is affordable, healthy, grown and/or processed locally to the fullest extent possible.
- 2. There will be economic value returned to the community via charitable contributions, outreach projects, patronage refunds to member and other avenues.
- 3. Customers and staff will be better educated about food issues and, as a result, make healthier choices.
- 4. There will be a vibrant cooperative sector in the economy, both nationally and regionally, and a local community educated in the value of cooperative principles and enterprises.
- 5. The cooperative’s bioregion will have a vibrant local agricultural community and that community will, in turn, have a reliable retail market for its products.
- 6. There will be a major source of employment in the community that provides personal satisfaction to employees, livable wages and financial security for employees and their families.
- 7. There will be a thriving business organization that protects and restores the environment.
Just words on paper, or is it all something more?
Co-op members regularly see room for improvement in their cooperative and have concerns with decisions and direction. However, as ever-vigilant member/owners examine the broad sweep of their Co-op’s actions over a long period of time—commitment to environmental sustainability, concern for the public welfare, support of local growers, emphasis on consumer education, and so on—the policy’s role as a guiding light should be inherently obvious.
Moving forward through the vast myriad of challenges that will face cooperatives in the future, the guiding light of that policy—as well as members’ watchdog approach to making sure it stays on track—may be even more important than it is today.
Want to help keep your co-op on track? Vote! The Board of Directors election is going on now. Vote at mycoopvote.com now through April 30.