THE SEVEN CO-OP PRINCIPLES, PRINCIPLE #5
We hope you have enjoyed this series so far and have gained key information and knowledge about the values and principles of co-operatives and how Grassroots will positively impact your community.
This week, we are expanding on Principle # 5, Education, Training and Information.
THE SEVEN CO-OP PRINCIPLES - PRINCIPLE #5: EDUCATION, TRAINING AND INFORMATION
Education is vital within a co-operative organization and to the community. Co-operatives provide continuous education to their members, staff and directors. By making this a priority, the co-op can ensure that all co-operative representatives efficiently and effectively develop and maintain a healthy and balanced organization.
SEVEN COOPERATIVE PRINCIPLES
- Voluntary, Open Ownership. Open to all without gender, social, racial, political, or religious discrimination.
- Democratic Owner Control. One Owner, One Vote.
- Owner Economic Participation.
- Autonomy and Independence.
- Education, Training and Information.
- Cooperation Among Cooperatives.
- Concern for the Community.
CO-OPERATIVES RAISE THE BAR
Co-operatives promote equal (yet very diverse) representation within the community and equality among the membership. Most individuals have limited to no knowledge or experience with co-operatives and those who do, often have a murky understanding of its purpose or the values it holds high. Don’t be fooled, this is at no fault to you, but is often because co-operative models are rarely taught or even discussed in grade-school or university textbooks. Investor-owned models dominate the scene and are pushed on us from every angle.
Early co-operative pioneers were among societies that reserved education for the privileged and they recognized the impact education had on social and economic development within their communities. Because of this, they opted to allocate portions of the co-op’s surplus into education.
Not only does a co-op work hard to educate their staff and representatives about the social and economic impact a co-operative can have within a community, but focus is also placed on outward education as well. Co-operatives strive to continuously elevate the public’s understanding of the organization's structure, values and benefits.
By placing heavy emphasis on developing the skills of members and staff, a co-operative can ensure the organization will be run effectively with sound business practices, while maintaining democratic control by its member-owners.
Because staff members are not required to become member-owners of the co-operative, it is especially important they are properly trained on co-operative values, functions, and fully understand the role the organization plays within the community.
Providing information to the general public about co-operative enterprises is another important value of co-operatives, especially in the case of young people and opinion leaders. Focus is placed on providing factual information and education to the public about the co-operative’s values and principles and ensuring they too understand the organizational structure and function of the enterprise and the economic impact made on future generations.
A portion of a co-operative’s surplus is often reserved for informational resources and programs to host classes and workshops bringing meaningful education to members of the community with a frequent weight placed on youth and adolescent children. Why a focus on youth, you ask? The answer there is simple. Set the bar, high and be an inspiration. As Principle 2 pointed out, a democratic member-controlled organization can only remain successful and vibrant if the next generation of its membership is responsible, well-educated and fully understands the social, economic and positive environmental impacts a sustainable co-operative enterprise provides a community.
As a responsible community partner, Grassroots has plans to include a public educational component to include lectures, classes, clinics, and demonstrations on fresh foods, farming, harvest, cooking and the co-operative model to youth, adolescents, adults and the elderly.
THE ROLE OF THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS
As we learned in Principle 2, co-operative members vote to elect a Board of Directors to represent the common interest of the organization. A successful co-operative is proactive in ensuring all directors are well-trained and educated on co-op values and practices and have the capacity to fulfil the role. These Directors hire the General Manager and then ensure the values and Ends of the co-op are reflected in store policies and operations. We will review The Ends, along the The Means, and Policy Governance, in a later post, but in general the Ends are the outcomes that the co-op is there to achieve.
While we work to finalize our official Ends Policy, we can say without a doubt, that our main goal is to provide members of the Lynchburg Community and surrounding area access to healthy, fresh, local, food and grocery items while supporting a sustainable and thriving downtown community.
EDUCATION AND FAIR TRADE AT GRASSROOTS
This series of blog posts is an example of community and member education. We are also hosting a Members Only event to educate our members on fair trade practices and how Grassroots plans to utilize fair trade products. Grassroots member-owners check your email for event details.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON GRASSROOTS LOCAL MARKET, BECOME A MEMBER OR SIGN-UP FOR EMAIL UPDATES, VISIT GRASSROOTSLOCALMARKET.COM.