By Benoit Roisin, Board Director & Treasurer
This is a question we ask ourselves at various stages of our personal life, and its sub-question might as well be: Am I on the right track? Organizations are no different for, as they progress through the years, their health depends in large part on their consciousness, their sense of identity. It is therefore a good exercise for us as a cooperative to re-examine once in a while why we are here, what we seek to accomplish, for whom, and by which means. The French have a word for this, which has made its way into the English lexicon, la raison d’être. The dictionary tells us it is “the most important reason or purpose for someone or something’s existence.”
The kernel of the answer to our existential question is evidently found in the reason of our founding back in 1936, as a consumer’s club to provide fresh fruit and vegetables to families in Hanover and Norwich during the Great Depression. This consumer’s club was later incorporated as the Hanover Consumer Cooperative Society. Although this remains our legal name, we have grown and grown over the decades, now serving the entire Upper Valley, promoting sustainable agriculture in a broader area, assisting other coops across the country, and even supporting fair trade in distant parts of the globe. We are a major and beloved local employer, and we do not have enough fingers to count all the farmers who depend on us for their livelihood. Through Pennies for Change, we extend our care to the less fortunate among us. We are doing so much good to so many people; our footprint has become so wide and so deep it has become hard to perceive. So, now, 83 years into our existence, who have we become? Clearly, today’s answer has grown way beyond its initial kernel.
It is hard to circumscribe a multi-faceted answer, and the thinking can only arise from a collective endeavor. It is for this reason that the Board of Directors has initiated an outreach to the community to begin the formulation of a contemporary answer to our existential question: Who are we? The initiative will begin with the work of the newly established Ends Committee, to which I was appointed as chair. Our committee, composed of directors, member-owners and employees, is tasked with reaching out to as many of you as possible to hear your thoughts, to gather them, and to report the findings to the whole Board of Directors. The Board will then rethink and possibly revise its so-called Ends, our raison d’être.
Cooperators are called to cooperate. So, I and the committee count on your participation. Let us know what the organization means to you and what you think it means to the rest of us as a community, thoughtfully, frankly, and candidly. I guarantee you that your voice will be heard, and I am looking forward to hearing it.