Update on The Cooperative

ica flag
The last twelve months have earned a place in the 170 history of The Cooperative Group. The organization that grew out of the Rochdale Society of Pioneers (founded December 21, 1844) to become the Cooperative Warehouse Society and the largest consumer cooperative in the world found itself staring deeply into the ash heap of history. The Cooperative Bank found itself without the means to cover over two billion dollars in shortfall and was forced to sell a significant portion of its ownership to the same US venture capitalists that recently forced Argentina into default. The consumer members of the Cooperative Bank have been left with only 30% ownership and are subject to the whims of for-profit-only money managers.

The upheaval threatened, for a time, to bring the entire cooperative down and forced a lot of soul searching among the leadership and the members. More than soul searching, The Cooperative Group also had to answer tough questions to a Conservative government. This has led to the beginning of governance reform within the organization. In February, the Cooperative Group published its responses to Lord Myner's review.

The first of key points regarding how The Cooperative Group will change its governance stipulate that the member's will be front and center:

"The challenges of 2013 call for deep learning and, where appropriate, radical responses. Drawing on lessons from elsewhere, though, it may be that, for the governance of the Co-operative Bank, there was not enough cooperative member control, genuinely reflective of the customer base, rather than too much."

Governance, it is argued, must add value to the membership experience.

Ian Snaith, writing for The Cooperative News, analyzed the changes and notes that there is a significant improvement concluding, "The current proposals represent a major improvement in the level of control available to Co-operative Group members compared with the existing system. They also provide an innovative and creative example for other large co-operatives faced by the perennial problems of combining expertise with member control in a diverse business."

This, of course, is very good news. There were real fears that the whole system would crumble under the financial strain and there were calls for The Coop to reduce membership involvement. I have seen this elsewhere. People who don't really understand coops see a crisis and determine that "democracy" is the problem. They tend to argue the neoliberal line that coops need to run like "real" businesses. It is almost as if they think that by saying "austerity plan" that they sound like authentic business people.

They tend to ignore the colossal failure of "real businesses" and the "real" governance structures that led to the 2008 Great Recession (and every other financial panic and crisis since the dawn of capitalism). The Cooperative Group's short-comings were that they were trying too hard to compete on the wrong playing field.

I look forward to seeing them move forward with the new plans. As the largest consumer cooperative, they have a real leadership role throughout the world. They need to model the cooperative identity and show that it can work even in large organizations. Time will tell, along with this new governance, but also be a commitment to education, information and training throughout the organization. They need to develop leadership among the membership but also among the workforce. The workers, from the front-line to the CEO, must understand the cooperative difference if it is to really have a market value.

My tweets

ica flag

Tags:

My tweets

ica flag

Tags:

My tweets

ica flag

Tags:

Life on the Salish Sea*

ica flag
It has been way too long since I posted on this blog and I imagine that I have lost most if not all of the folks who read it. It was difficult, I found, to continue maintaining blog entries, work almost full-time, go to school full-time and be a full-time spouse and step-parent. Something had to give.

Since my last post (at least one that wasn't a twitter feed), I have made some big changes. The biggest occurred in April when my partner and I fled Madison for Olympia, WA. "Fled" might be too strong a word, but it was a mad dash of last minute packing to get to the Van Galder which took us to Union Station! I parted from the coop that I called home for 26 years and we boarded a train west.

It has been almost four months since we found our new home in Oyster Bay off of the Totten Inlet, a community known for its namesake, but also rich in history and, to an extent, an area in which Europeans newcomers and the indigenous peoples found a way to make do and work together. An excellent biography of a remarkable woman, Katie Gale, provides a study of this period from the end of the US attack on "Indians" in the region to the dawning of the industrial age (1850-1900).

It is also home to a wonderful liberal arts college, The Evergreen State College. I am a bit biased as they were kind enough to allow me the incredible opportunity to create and present a college level course on worker cooperatives. The course examines the unique nature of managing in a worker owned and operated democratic environment with a focus on governance, finances and accountability within the larger context of the cooperative identity, history and the international movement. I am currently half way through the 5 week (40 hour) course.

After four months, I am finally finding my new groove. It is an exciting time for the cooperative community. There is so much opportunity for us to engage the world and it is vital that we do so. So, in the immortal words of George Castanza, "I'm Back, Baby!"

*The US Government officially renamed the estuary known as Puget Sound to its original pre-European name Salish Sea.

My tweets

ica flag
Read more...Collapse )

Tags:

My tweets

ica flag

Tags:

My tweets

ica flag
  • Wed, 13:25: Haiven: associative intelligence a feature of member participation which creates social capital for community-schools of democracy #coop
  • Wed, 13:27: Marcelo Vieta: even factories become "knowledge work" when under worker coop model-value added feature of worker #coop
  • Thu, 08:31: Findlay: Fun, Food, Friendships key to Qualitative Coop Research #coops #casc #dawn
  • Thu, 08:33: Practice "constructive subversion" everyday. #coops #casc
  • Thu, 08:37: A danger in challenging the status quo is that we may only end up changing the players without the power structure. #coops
  • Thu, 08:38: Mansplaining is never pretty.
  • Thu, 09:02: It is time for a cooperative paradigm in management and organizational theory. Our coop research process must reflect the coop id. #coops

Tags:

My tweets

ica flag

Tags:

My tweets

ica flag
  • Tue, 10:48: JJMcMurtry: Coop studies are at a point where we need to start talking about the uncomfortable questions. #coops #congress2014
  • Tue, 10:51: Coops must avoid mimicking investor owned firms. Getting big and growth sound modern, but may hold the seeds of failure #coops
  • Tue, 10:55: The key to natural foods (or organics) is to consider the entire food chain. Coops don't automatically mean a resilient food chain. #coops
  • Tue, 11:03: JJMcMurtry: Coops work best when they are a social movement and not tied to an individual. #coops
  • Tue, 11:11: Organic Valley: participatory, mission driven governance. Growth is based on building a sustainable market. #coops
  • Tue, 11:28: It is great to hear about @OrganicValley from a Canadian perspective. They are a shining star in the US Coop movement. #coops

Tags:

Latest Month

August 2014
S M T W T F S
     12
3456789
10111213141516
17181920212223
24252627282930
31      

Tags

Syndicate

RSS Atom

Facebook

Powered by LiveJournal.com
Designed by Tiffany Chow