inclusion

A Yearly Get-Together – Diversity, Equity and Inclusion

On a cold Saturday on January 26th, the Board of Directors of the Co-op met for a day-long retreat, as it does every winter. Part of the group was also Glenn Lower, General Manager of the MNFC, Greg Prescott, Operations Manager, Karin Mott, Marketing, Education and Membership Manager, Emily Landenberger, Assistant Marketing, Education and Membership Manager, and Victoria Dewind, Board/Staff Liaison. Michael Healy was also with us. He is a facilitator from Columinate (a consulting cooperative) who has worked with us many times and who helps us stay on track and keep our eyes on our objectives.

Besides our monthly board meetings and the occasional committee meetings, once per year, we get together to delve deep into a topic that, over the course of the previous year, has been on our minds and that we would like to discuss and explore further. This year the topic was Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI). Glenn, the managers, and the whole staff have been and are already doing a lot in terms of discussion and action to better serve the community. What we wanted to explore was how to look at the issue of DEI from the point of view of the board. Looking at our Ends, Policies, Executive Limitations, what more can we do to better support the staff of MNFC in their work for creating an increasingly diverse, equal, and inclusive store?

In the words of Michael Healy, the main goal of the retreat was “to decide whether we should amend the current Ends policy to more specifically articulate our values about diversity, equity, and inclusion.” It was a “safe strategic conversation:” We wanted to think and discuss an issue that is so thoroughly connected to what the Co-op does. For many hours we talked freely and we listened carefully, working in small groups and then all together. Having members of the staff there made all the difference: they gave us invaluable input and “kept us real” when we strayed in abstract territories… At the end of these conversations, we agreed that we should add specific language about DEI in our policies. This would make it a stated goal, on which the General Manager would have to report and that the Board of Directors would have to monitor. The work is not done, stay tuned.

Another goal for the retreat was to “enjoy each other’s company and build a collaborative spirit (but we could also say “cooperative spirit”!)”,  and enjoy each other we did! Every time I participate in one of these retreats, I am amazed by the kind of work and connection that happens when such a safe space gets created (and when delicious Coop food is provided!).

Ilaria Brancoli Busdraghi is a Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op Board Member

 

Celebrate International Day of Cooperatives!

The United Nations International Day of Cooperatives is celebrated annually on the first Saturday of July. The aim of this celebration is to increase awareness of cooperatives, the work we do in our communities, and the things that make our business model unique. 

The theme of the International Day of Cooperatives for 2019 is COOPS 4 DECENT WORK. We are shouting out the message that cooperatives are people-centered enterprises characterized by democratic control that prioritize human development and social justice within the workplace.

Cooperative employment is far from a marginal phenomenon. According to a recent estimate, cooperatives around the world employ or are the main source of income for more than 279 million people—almost 10% of humanity’s total working population!

Here’s a look at the cooperative impact in New England:

Together, the Neighboring Food Co-op Association includes more than 35 food co-ops and start-ups that are
 
  • Locally owned by 150,000 people (up from 144,000 last year)
  • Provide more than 2,300 good local jobs (up from 2,000)
  • Generate $340 million in shared revenue (up from $330M)
  • and sell over $93 million in local products every year (up from $90M)
 

Beyond these numbers, different studies have confirmed that, by comparison with employment in other sectors, cooperative jobs…

  • tend to be more sustainable over time
  • show a smaller gap in earnings between higher and lower-paid positions, and
  • are more evenly distributed between rural and urban areas.

Co-operative businesses granted equal voting rights for women almost a century before most parliaments of the world did! 

As businesses driven by values, not just profit, cooperatives share internationally agreed principles and act together to build a better world through cooperation. Putting fairness, equality and social justice at the heart of the enterprise, cooperatives around the world are allowing people to work together to create sustainable enterprises that generate long-term jobs and prosperity. 

As people-centered enterprises, cooperatives have an important role to play in the creation of decent jobs and the social and economic empowerment of local communities. The second International Cooperative Principle, “Democratic member control,” enables communities to own and govern cooperatives jointly through democratic control that brings about inclusive and sustainable growth, leaving no one behind.

As member-owned, member-run and member-serving businesses, cooperatives empower people to collectively realize their economic aspirations, while strengthening their social and human capital and developing their communities.

So on Saturday, July 6th join us as we celebrate a future in which human development and social justice are priorities! Through #CoopsDay, local, national and global policymakers, civil society organizations and the public, in general, can learn how cooperatives contribute to a decent working environment.

To learn more visit: www.coopsday.coop

 

NFCA Statement on Diversity & Inclusion

The Neighboring Food Co-op Association (NFCA) is a co-operative federation bringing together 35 food co-ops and start-up initiatives throughout New England that are working together toward a shared vision of a thriving co-operative economy, rooted in a healthy, just and sustainable regional food system and a vibrant community of co-operative enterprise. Our Co-op is a proud member of NFCA and in light of recent occurrences of political, social, and economic division, the NFCA Board of Directors released the following statement to clarify our collective position on these events:

 

For over 170 years, the Co-operative Movement has stood for ideals of democracy, empowerment and inclusion — ideals that are at the heart of the America’s journey as a nation, and that we continue to strive toward today. From our beginnings, co-ops have celebrated human diversity and worked to bring people together to meet our needs and achieve our aspirations. In short, we believe that we are better when we are welcoming, when we lift one another up, and when we work together to make life better for everyone.

In keeping with the principles of the International Co-operative Alliance, our food co-ops work to ensure that our doors are open to all persons, “without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.” As community-owned enterprises, we value respectful dialog, debate, and participation as expressions of economic democracy. As organizations of people who depend on a healthy planet to survive and thrive, we are committed to development policies and strategies that will sustain our communities over time.

Today, we are witnessing levels of political, social, and economic division that we believe do not reflect our ideals as a nation. While we honor differences of opinion, we are concerned that actions by this administration are fundamentally at odds with American principles of democracy, diversity and inclusion, as well as co-operative values of equality, solidarity, and caring for others. Specifically, we are seeing initiatives that we believe undermine human rights, immigration policies that exclude people based on their origin and religious beliefs, and initiatives that undercut efforts to slow climate change.

In this context, we reaffirm our commitment to being not just welcoming businesses, but empowering community enterprises. We seek to be a positive resource and influence, presenting opportunities for constructive dialog and collective action for change. And we will explore ways that we can reach beyond our walls, advocating for policies that will contribute to democracy and equality, advance human rights, and support environmental sustainability.

As a federation of community-owned food co-ops, we seek to empower people to enjoy healthier lives, build stronger local communities, and provide good jobs. We advocate for a deeper sense of corporate social responsibility that includes democratic ownership, the full expression of human diversity and the needs of future generations. In taking this stand, we acknowledge that we can always do better and must challenge ourselves to live up to our values and principles. By working together, we believe that we can help build stronger communities, a more inclusive nation, and a better world for everyone.

Sincerely,

The Board of Directors & Staff of the Neighboring Food Co-op Association

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