Posted by Laura Hagen, HWFC Member-Owner
COMMUNICATION? HEY, WHAT’S GOING ON?
I’ve received a number of emails from HWFC member-owners wondering, “What’s going on?” “We’ve heard nothing from the co-op since our big Special Membership Meeting election results.” “I heard we have a new executive committee. Who?” “What’s up with communication?” “Why haven’t we heard anything from the board?” “Where’s the Board’s Inside Scoop?”
“Can you tell me what’s going on?”
First off: it’s the holidays. I think everybody is taking some time to be with family and friends, celebrate and rest. Things will hopefully pick up after the 1st.
As to the questions, I share your interest, your eagerness, your frustration, and your puzzlement! Why not only an Inside Scoop from the board on December 2nd, announcing the election results of November 30th, but also why not a Special Edition of the Coop Scoop with photos and member interviews, with reporting and discussion of the historic membership meeting which more that 700 of us attended on November 30th? What happened at the board meeting on December 15th? Why hasn’t the newly configured board and its new executive committee written us something, anything?
Why does it seem like there is a news black-out, that only a few people really know what’s going on …and the rest of us are left in the dark?
Well, let’s reflect. Our co-op is in a moment of great re-organization. 700+ member-owners, shareholders and their families attended our largest membership meeting ever on November 30th. The voters spoke. We voted out one board member and gained three new. The three new board members won on a platform of strong support for a member-owner run co-op and with a pledge of transparency.
This new platform is in direct opposition to what were the long-entrenched trends at our co-op: veils of secrecy and an accelerated movement towards dissolution of member-owner power and control in the co-operative corporation.
A majority of us attending the emergency Special Membership Meeting voted for change.
Therefore huge shifts have occurred. And it’s only been 30 days!
Only two weeks later, on December 15th, a board meeting was held and at that meeting a brand new executive committee was voted in; four board members assumed brand new leadership roles and three of those board members were newly-elected.
The board members who were in positions of power, lost that power, while still remaining seated on the board.
Conflict is a reality.
There is, therefore, both massive re-organization and massive resistance taking place at the same time behind the scenes of our co-op, rest assured!
Many of us want in on this change, to participate, to be useful & helpful, to choose where to plug in, or to at least be in the know.
This eagerness to want to know is a testament to our commitment and our engagement as member-owners and shareholders in our co-op. We want in!
Let me honor that commitment and engagement by talking about it today and inviting you to, as well.
Here are my thoughts at the moment. Our co-op is in a period of transition. Things are not what they were. Therefore, don’t wait for someone to do something. Take the reins. Call people up or email them and ask what is going on!
Take the initiative! Join with others. Decide that this co-operative – my co-operative! – is important to me and my family and, therefore, I am going to figure out how I can add in my energy, support the new board members I elected, and help get this co-operative steering in the right direction.
If you want to know more about what is going on be a part of that solution. Go to the next Board Meeting on Tuesday, January 5, 2016 at 5:45pm at FUUSA’s Emerson Community Hall (First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany), 405 Washington Avenue, Albany, NY (between Robin & Lake). Here is the agenda.
And notice a small but significant change: at the bottom of the board meeting agenda is a listing of all the upcoming co-op committee meeting dates, times and places.
If communication (or lack of it) is your beef, get involved in the Communications Committee. Go to the next Communications Committee meeting on January 11, 2016 at 5:30pm at HWFC. Ask to join the committee. Co-chairs (as of 12/14) are Chaz Martel and Nickleson Cook. Contact info on the HWFC website is listed as the board liaison, Roman Kuchera, here.
I have been unofficially told that an HWFC member has to wait to be invited onto an HWFC committee. I do not know if this is true and I will ask for clarification at the board meeting on January 5th.
If one needs a “gold-plated invitation” to join a co-op committee then there is indeed a big problem here at HWFC which needs to be fixed. Keeping committee membership down to a selected handful of “anointed few” is the type of behavior that got this co-operative into big, big trouble. Secrecy. Special, inner circle behavior. “We few decide who comes into the club; keep out those who aren’t hand-picked.” The collective rules: it, and its inner circle controls who gets in …and who doesn’t.
This type of committee behavior is not at all democratic …and it is certainly not co-operative.
If HWFC committee membership is this rigidly controlled and enforced then policies do need to be changed.
But, first-off, let’s find out if this is, indeed, the case, at the January 5th board meeting.
If it is, become a part of changing it.
And, after all, nothing says you can’t begin going to committee meetings right away, initially, as a non-member, until a more democratic and co-operative committee membership system gets put into place …again. (I have a long memory, it used to be that anyone and everyone was welcome to join and participate in an HWFC committee …we need to go back to the good old days. So please, let’s!)
The way to improve communication at HWFC is to offer your time and talents, pick an area which interests you and you’ll commit to …and to work with the structure that we already have in place: the Communications Committee (as well as regular attendance at Board meetings, IMHO).
That’s one way to either get your feet wet on a committee or to contribute your communications’ expertise, if that’s what you have to offer.
Personally, I think we have urgent need of a member to step forward who has expertise in Strategic PR, whose talents can be put to good use supporting and helping member-owner initiatives …and who can immediately help the newly-configured board. Lots of changes here at HWFC, which need to be managed both internally in communications as well as in the media. Public & Media Relations used for member-owners’ benefit would, indeed, be a welcome turn of events!
Through the Communications Committee maybe you can affect change to the Coop Scoop. How about an electronic Coop Scoop, just like the electronic Inside Scoop the board has? How about going back to members having regular columns? (Remember your favorite columns you used to look forward to?) How about a Coop Scoop more often? How about a return to Letters to the Editor, one of my favorites! Remember the member-owner who diligently & thoroughly wrote about board meetings after each and every board meeting? How about topics of vital interest to HWFC member-owners like, oh, say …Big Food takeovers of natural & organic US food supplies, or the latest in GMO issues we better know about, or organic food and the wonderful increase in organic farmers here in the Northeast, or articles about the Weston A. Price Foundation and its local chapters (one of the top-notch advocacy and information groups out there when it comes to truly organic, whole, local, unprocessed food supply in the US).
The sky is the limit and we ALL have an interest in high-quality food, organics, small family farming, herbals, medicinals, kids who farm, heirloom vegetables, health, well-being, local, state and national organic food political issues, and so on…
What about the HWFC Online Forum? Concerned that posts are edited or deleted? Heard that it is censored and don’t want to waste your time? Concerned that the topics aren’t relevant? Maybe there is a way you can start to change that. Maybe your energy – along with some policy changes – can start to draw member-owners to that electronic, interactive conversation. And maybe there is now a board in place who wants to help you do just that.
What about our new written petitioning policy? Yes, we finally have one, first time ever! Does it allow you to set up a table and speak to other members about topics of interest? December 2015 information about Who Owns Organic among Big Food corporations in the US? A December 2015 report about US organic egg production? December 2015 change to the country-of-origin-law labeling of meats sold in the US, the hiding of GMOs in foods?
Yikes, you have to read, study & stay current to keep your family’s food safe! We could certainly help each other to do that! Maybe a regular Coop Scoop column, petitioning, and quarterly guest speakers is the answer to this urgent communication need.
Did this new petitioning policy (petitioning: the heart of communications, face-to-face, realtime, and vitally important to grassroots work) work in October and November for member-owners who wished to speak to other member-owners about an emergency Special membership Meeting taking place?
Or did that new policy actually impede communication? Does it still need some work? (Yes, it does need work: management’s interpretation of the board’s new policy rendered it ineffective, at least initially, and I communicated that to the GRC at its December 10th meeting and asked for their help in changing it.)
And social media! I’m an older member-owner and social media is not a habit for me, yet. For younger co-op members it is. We need to tap into this means of communication in a big way.
So, if you are not happy with communications coming out of our co-operative, or the communication lines between members, or between members and staff, or members and board, or member-owners and shareholders, jump in and become part of the process of change. Your energy, time and talents are needed, in a very real way.
We have not yet had an Inside Scoop from the board announcing the election of its new executive committee members. The last Inside Scoop was dated December 3rd and was a memorandum entitled HWFC Meeting with the New York State Department of Labor. Not a pleasant communication or memory and a process and issue still unresolved and still shrouded in secrecy.
Yes, it’s a long time since December 3rd. However, I remain patient, awaiting the first Inside Scoop from the newly reconfigured board and its new executive committee. Because I will know that when it is issued, it means that positive change has begun, and that it has begun to be implemented, to have life, to gain traction. This will only be the beginning of benefit to all member-owners, shareholders, and member-owner staff of HWFC, and if it takes a little more time to be realized, well then I can wait just a little bit longer for a new Inside Scoop.
So, as a member of a co-operative, recognize that your energy is valuable and important and needed. If communication, or the lack of it, is irking you, figure out what you like to do, where your skills are and then get involved. Plug in and be an active part of communication at this, your food co-operative, the Honest Weight Food Co-op.
And please feel free to communicate here: post below, raise issues, ask questions, ask to be heard. Dialogue. If you encounter problems plugging into communications at HWFC post here and I, and others, will do our best to offer ideas and support you. Members of the HWFC Communications Committee do read this blog and have posted, they may join in the conversation, as well.
We can figure out here, together, how to sow positive communication changes within the fabric of our co-op …or at a minimum to identify where problems are and to generate ideas on how to tackle them and fix them.
I consider communication one of the most essential things we can do to help each other to connect …and to re-connect during this process of change at our co-op. Right here, right now on this blog … is a two way street. Use it. More avenues will open up in the days, weeks and months ahead and until they do, two-way street right here.
More than anything, I think we want & seek connection and a sense of belonging and a sense of shared purpose …to our local, wonderful, vibrant, “changing and getting stronger” food co-op community here on the banks of the historic Hudson River in Albany, near the foothills of the majestic Adirondack Mountains of New York.
We do have a row to hoe ahead of us, but the hoeing has already begun and it ain’t gonna stop, especially if we all pitch in!
Next year we, HWFC, will be 40 years old. A banner year for celebration in the HWFC community! So hang on, stay positive, offer help, and by all means pick an area you’re good at and get involved. Participatory democracy demands your participation!
Be self-reliant, while you also co-operate with others. Support you and your own family while, at the same time, you join others in helping them and their own. This is a win-win way for communities to thrive, including our food co-operative community.
And please go to board meetings i n 2016! This is where lots happens you’ll want to know about! Our newly configured board needs a lot of support, help and talent in the coming months. They cannot do this job without us.
So, see you on Tuesday, January 5, 2016 at 5:45pm at the Unitarian Church at our next HWFC co-op board meeting!
And calendar in these dates for 2016 Membership Meetings:
- Sunday, January 24, 2016 at 6 pm
- Sunday, April 17, 2016 at 6 pm
- Monday, June 27, 2016 at 6 pm
- Sunday, September 25, 2016 at 6 pm
Happy New Year’s Eve preparations to all! Please go to Saratoga First Night if you’ve never been. We got to hear the fabulous, incredible Lee Shaw Trio there last year and now Lee Shaw is gone from us. It was a blessing my family and I shall never forget – her improvs were unbelievable – and her music will continue to live on and bless us all.
How lucky we all are here in the Capital region, aren’t we? The arts & music abound! Happy New Year! Happy fireworks, food, merriment, family & friends (and please designate a driver, too, if out and about)!
Thanks to each and every person this fall and winter who has either sent me private emails, called, shared food, drink, “tabling” & petitioning at HWFC, or who has posted here at HWFCInfohub about our co-op. Your thoughts are very, very important and valued – truly, more than you can ever know. Thank you.
And many thanks and Happy New Year to our HWFCInfohub Team! Thanks for your vision and hard work!
And please post your thoughts about communication at HWFC, below. Ideas, thoughts questions? Fire away!
Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
Grassroots Action: One HWFC member-owner individual, family, and employee at a time …we can reach every HWFC member-owner if we ALL work it.
Build Capacity: If everybody does their little bit (or a bigger bit if they can), we build our capacity day-by-day.
Have faith: It simply works!
You are the PR: Be factual, be calm, don’t attack anyone personally, and please do be impassioned about saving our member-owned, locally-owned & controlled co-operative!
This is co-operative, in action!