Exhilarated by This Workshop Cohort

It’s hard to describe how exhilarated I feel right now.

The cohort for this Shared Ownership workshop is bringing together some of the most powerful & influential people I’ve met this past decade.
The workshop format integrates insights from some of the most influential experiences and learning spaces I’ve ever been a part of.
The deadline for applications to join us is tomorrow, July 21.
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The cohort includes:
  • leading shared ownership practitioners (i.e. Molly & Sarah co-founders of The Industrial Commons)
  • top influential US cooperative movement leaders (i.e. Doug O’Brien, Paul Hazen, Nathan Schneider)
  • investors that are re-shaping the way we think about risk & return as well as impact, legacy & a livable future (i.e. Marco Vangelisti, Essential Knowledge 4 Transition)
  • cutting edge community development & community ownership leaders (i.e. Jennifer Bryant, Alison Powers, )
We’re also drawing in:
  • young entrepreneurs taking the tools of private equity and applying it tackling the racial wealth gap through employee ownership (i.e. Phil & Todd from Apis & Heritage Capital Partners)
  • movement leaders from Zebras Unite, who are countering existing startup and venture capital culture by creating alternatives.
  • wise leaders from spiritual & religious traditions who are thinking on time horizons and scale of impact — that most of us are just starting to dream of (Myra Jackson, Sr. Corinne Floreck; Ryan Strode, Fr. Seamus Finn, Elizabeth Garlow)

The workshop brings together frameworks from movement organizing, cooperative economics, finance, leadership science & change-making & what’s at stake in this moment.

 

The Workshop Format

 
The format for this Shared Ownership workshop creates space to advance your own project and get feedback from generous peers reflecting back to you what they see.
We introduce frameworks for leadership & movements for change; but flip the traditional format. The vast majority of your time is interacting with peers and/or doing your most important work.
If you’re hungry to know how shared ownership companies work, legal structures, investment vehicles…. We will have prompts and reading lists that will point you towards those resources. However, the focus will be on creating an environment where you can interact with peers — who are some of the top leaders in their respective fields.  In other words, the workshop isn’t about what technical knowledge you’ll obtain, but a deeper self-awareness of how the culture changes and what you need to learn next. It’s about how ideas spread and how change happens. We focus on how you can develop what you have to offer for even more transformative impact — because of the relationships & community we’re bringing together in this cohort.
Applications are due, tomorrow, July 21 by midnight.
Workshop runs August 1 through 29, 2020
Details here and here. Q&A video here or here.
Detailed invitation document

My invitation to you

Friends, as we face pandemics and economic crises, we also face an opportunity to do the work that could shape this decade and this century.
I believe you are the kind of leader we need at the center of this work.
Do you believe in yourself enough to take the leap and commit to your most important work?
We’re here for you when you’re ready.

List of Confirmed Workshop Participants

  1. Doug O’Brien, CEO, National Cooperative Business Association
  2. Paul Hazen, Executive Director, US Overseas Cooperative Development Council, former CEO, NCBA CLUSA
  3. Sarah Clark McBroom, Equity Officer at Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation
  4. Sr. Corinne Floreck, former Portfolio Director, Religious Sisters Impact Fund
  5. Myra Jackson, United Nations Representative, Biosphere consultant
  6. Ryan Strode, Franciscan Sisters of Mary, formerly Arabella Advisors
  7. Marco Vangelisti, Impact Investor, Slow Money, EK4T
  8. Molly Hemstreet, Co-Executive Director, Opportunity Threads, Carolina Textile District
  9. Kevin Jones, Co-founder SOCAP, Co-founder, Faith+Finance
  10. Eli Andrews, Accelerate Change 
  11. Fr. Seamus Finn, President, Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility
  12. Elias Crim, Solidary Hall, & US Economy of Francesco
  13. Kyle Johnson, Business Services Collective
  14. Alison Power, Capital Impact Partners
  15. Sara Chester, Co-Executive Director, The Industrial Commons
  16. Dr. Tina Facca-Miess, Inspired Foresight 
  17. Jennifer Bryant, Washington Area Community Investment Fund
  18. Elizabeth Garlow, Deputy Director, New America’s New Practice Lab
  19. Phil Reeves, Partner, A&H Capital Partners, Board Member, DC Black Chamber of Commerce
  20. Todd Leverette, Democracy At Work Institute, Partner, A&H Capital Partners

 “As a result of the authenticity and skill of the facilitation, I and every group member were surprised by how quickly we were able to drop into high-trust sharing and collaboration. The amount that we got “figured out” in a short amount of time was remarkable, life changing for many of us, and potentially world transforming.”

~ Sam Hummel, former CEO, Sustainable Purchasing Leadership Council (Participant in April 2020 Workshop)

Have you been thinking about masks?

If you’ve been thinking about how to buy masks, disinfectant supplies, PPE…
Perhaps our co-op effort to find suppliers that can deliver may be of help…

 

  1. Curious how others are thinking through re-opening and estimating PPE supply needs?
  2. Curious what co-op pricing looks like for masks?   Or “no contact” thermometers? (coop price: $50… vs $85)
  3. Worried about making sure you get what you need on time?
  4. Interested in buying from a worker-owned coop?     A local NC person-of-color-owned manufacturer?
If one of these 4 questions resonates with you, read on…
 
Our Process 
  1. Complete this interest form  (takes 2 minutes — simply estimate what you think you might need)
  2. Review initial Pricing, Terms, potential Suppliers — Q&A on May 26 at 9am ET & Update Call on June 2 at 10am
  3. Make your order with pre-negotiated terms, pricing & more — June 3-10
Deadline to Submit 2-min Interest Form: Sunday, May 24, 2020 

 

What do folks say about working with CPA? 
 
“The process was exceptionally transparent and well-run. Thank you for the hard work and dedication to providing an optimum result for everyone.”
Bill Casson, Building & Grounds Team Chair, St. Luke’s Episcopal Church-Bethesda
 
“Pricing for some items was 30-40% lower with CPA.”
~DC School Administrator who purchased $50,000 of masks and thermometers with CPA last week
Want to stay in the loop? 
Just fill out the 2-min interest form (ideally before Sunday) and we’ll keep you posted.
Feel free to share this with others & spread the word far and wide: https://bit.ly/coop4ppe
We’ll be in touch with more soon.
How do I estimate how much I might need? 
Here is a profile of a school we worked with & how they thought about estimating their needs.

Who are our suppliers? 

  • We’ve been in conversations with 23 suppliers over the past 8 weeks and my colleague Juan Francisco Hidalgo is in the process of pre-qualifying more. We plan to release an RFP and so we expect to have a wide range of options.
  • We’ve executed a few transactions with 5 primary companies that we’ve found to be very reliable and so we’ll likely have a variety of options to suit different needs.
  • One of our favorite suppliers is Carolina Textile District PPE — Take 10 seconds to check out their website right now.  – “In response to COVID-19, a consortium of 60 American manufacturers, The Carolina Textile District has come together to help produce medical supplies in response to a request from local healthcare providers.”
  • Read this story about how the group of US manufacturers (including worker-owned co-op — Opportunity Threads) came together in response to the pandemic: https://nonprofitquarterly.org/masks-mutual-aid-and-our-broken-supply-chains-a-north-carolina-story/

Who is CPA?

Community Purchasing Alliance (CPA) is a social-purpose cooperative that leverages the buying power of community institutions to help lower operating costs, while also making investments in sustainability, worker equity, and community organizing. As a cooperative, CPA is wholly owned by its members, creating a business that serves their needs first. Through aggregation and group procurement of services, CPA helps its members save money and get better service, while also holding vendors to high standards in terms of environmental and worker practices.

In 2019 CPA worked with over 120 organizations across 10 product/services areas to facilitate $17 million in purchasing. CPA offers expertise and competitive group procurement for services including energy (electricity and gas supply), waste pick-up, HVAC maintenance, solar development, janitorial, security, copier, and landscaping.

Check out CPA’s latest videos, including this member testimonial.

Fishing with Francis: 142 and …

As I listened to the gospel of Matthew 4:19 this weekend inviting us to be “fishers of men” — I heard not only Jesus’ voice, but also Pope Francis’s invitation:

“I ask you to be protagonists of this transformation… I ask you to build the future, to work for a better world.” ~ Pope Francis

I’d like to invite you to join me in developing our response to Pope Francis’s 2019 letter and invitation to people of good will everywhere.

Where We’re At

  • Screen Shot 2019-12-12 at 9.09.52 AM2,500+ young economists and entrepreneurs responded to Pope Francis’s invitation to meet with him in Assisi, Italy March 26-28, 2020 — here’s the event website.
  • 250 friends responded with interest to an invitation to gather that Elizabeth Garlow, Elias Crimm, and I sent out in November & December 2019
  • 155 people gathered virtually on December 16, 2019 – see video here. Speakers included:
    • Amy Uelman – “Pope Francis’ Inspiration for a New Economy: the Economy of Communion as a Case Study”
    • Nathan Schneider – “Cooperatives as Alternative Economic Praxis”
    • Melissa Hoover, Democracy at Work Institute – “The Emergence of Alternative Praxis”
    • Brian McLaren: “The Signs of our Times: Finding roots for a more just Economy.”
    • More than 50 of the attendees stayed on for an additional 30 minutes because they wanted to get more involvedScreen Shot 2019-12-16 at 1.24.19 PM
  • 142 people have joined the collaborative Slack workspace – you can join here as well. Thinkers, practitioners, observers — all are invited.
    • Conversations about Laudato Si, “Parishes-as-nodes”, “Mapping What’s working”, “Churches and Co-op Link Asset Mapping”, impact investing, changing the narrative, neighborhood projects, reading circles, are well underway — and looking for new voices and contributors.

What I’ve learned

I’ve spent the last 8 years organizing faith communities and schools to work together on their economic life. Mostly I’ve focused on where they spend their money (www.CPA.coop) and how they can make better decisions by coming together with peers wrestling with similar questions.

I’m excited to bring this learning to the broader movement-building space that Pope Francis has invited us to convene.

One Lesson Learned: The more we can hone in on exactly what problems we are wrestling with and specifically what difficult decisions we are facing, the more we can empathize, learn from, and join together with peers to make more powerful vehicles for change.

(For example, our CPA purchasing co-op has helped 121 participants come together on $17.3 million in contract spend and shift 58% of that to local small businesses — see our 2019 Impact Report here)

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What I enjoy the most

I want to help unleash people’s big project ideas, especially in this world of new economic praxis.

  • For example, I’ve loved accompanying Greg Brodsky as he launches, shepherds and brings on a co-director for Start.coop.
  • I love helping organizers and entrepreneurs get the resources they need to make their big ideas come to life.
  • I met Hays Witt in 2014. He advised me on a few things and we stayed in touch regularly. In 2018 he told me he wanted to go to business school. I tried to dissuade him and instead encouraged him on his passion project. He was about to incorporate as an LLC in late 2018, but I told him I’d help him find money if he did a co-op. He got into the first cohort at the Start.coop accelerator, which gave him $15,000 and the business frameworks he was seeking.
    • In 2019, Drivers Seat — a driver-owned cooperative committed to data democracy — came to life.
    • “We empower gig workers and local governments to make informed decisions with insights from their rideshare data.”

Virtual Workshops can Unleash New Projects

I created a CPA Incubator Workshop in October 2019, and from that have launched a new CPA Co-op in Boston and supported entrepreneurs in Miami, Cleveland, Detroit, Denver, Los Angeles, Lancaster, and Chicago in discerning whether this model might be for them. Screen Shot 2019-12-10 at 2.36.26 PM(You can meet the amazing cohort (see some of their faces above) by reading their work here.)

Right now, I’m looking for leaders in Boston and Chicago to help us with a multi-regional effort to aggregate our electricity consumption to build a powerful vehicle for change in our energy sector. Screen Shot 2020-01-25 at 4.09.20 PMWe’re calling all churches, schools, and any community-oriented property owner to submit their electricity bills to join us.

Here’s a 1-page flyer: “Power in Group Purchasing” – for folks in the Chicagoland region.

Movement Ecology: Where do you want to be?

I’ve learned that it’s helpful to consider the broader Movement Ecology. Where do you most want to contribute your gifts? I’ve learned that where I like to play the most is with people that want to create real alternatives.

I’ve begun to see and feel what leadership development really looks like. I’ve begun to learn what good facilitation tools feel like in practice — from Seth Godin’s Akimbo workshops to Technology of Participation (ToP) Methods for group Action Planning to deeper reflective spaces with Peter Block’s 6 Questions.

I’ve begun to try to take a more “Emergent Strategy” approach to my work — thanks to the wonderful wisdom adrienne maree brown shared in her book: Emergent Strategy.

What’s Next?

Here are some ways you can get involved:

  • We gather again on February 19, 2020 at 7:00pm ET (virtually via video / Zoom) – RSVP here so we can keep you informed — even if you aren’t able to make it: http://bit.ly/FrancescoEconomyUSFeb19
  • March 2020 – I will be headed to Assisi with a few others and will be sharing some videos / quick 1-2 minute interviews with others I meet — likely via LinkedIn — feel free to connect with me there, if we aren’t already connected.
  • April 2020 – We’ll likely have another virtual video call in April.
  • May 2020 – Several of us may be at this Faith+Finance gathering in San Antonio: https://faithfinance.net/
  • June 2020: I hope to launch a workshop for leaders and investors hungry to actualize their most important work. (Email me if you’re interested – felipe@cpa.coop)
  • October 6, 2020 – We’ll be gathering in Washington DC. Please Save the Date. The National Coop Business Association has their Co-op Impact conference on October 7-8, 2020.

So, where does that leave us?

My sense is that people are looking for others with an idea, a plan, and a deep desire to make something worth talking about.

We’re soliciting your ideas to lead a small group session on February 19th — share your pitch here.

I hope you’ll join us on February 19 or join our Slack Workspace.

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I look forward to seeing you there.

A Few Essential Ingredients for a Purchasing Cooperative

Composting & Buying “Compostable” Paper Goods in Durham, NC

A local environmental leader, Crystal Dreisbach, Founder and Executive Director of Don’t Waste Durham, invited me to join her and two local restaurant and food truck owners to imagine how we could help them purchase biodegradable plates, cups, and carry-out containers as a co-op.

The basic problem? 

Tim Morris, owner and operator of Caffe Bellezza, started the meeting: “The compostable cups I buy cost 200% or more of what their paper counterparts cost.” He continued, “If it was just a matter of 15-25% more, it would be much more palatable.”  Joe Choi, owner of Namu, said, “I have to pay 45 cents per bowl. The compostables cost so much more, I have to increase prices. Fortunately, my customers are willing to pay more for the compostables, but it’s a lot.”

The frustration was clear.

While many of Joe’s customers are willing to pay a premium, he did feel like he had lost some sales over the increased prices. Tim, whose coffee shop is much smaller, is paying 30 cents per 12 oz coffee cup with a Java Jacket and lid. Whereas Crystal shared that a larger coffee shop, three-location Cocoa Cinnamon, is paying 15 cents since they buy 12,000 per month.  Buying at a much higher volume can make a difference for price.

 

Compost pick-up was another major pain point.

Joe shared this experience: “The service for compost hauling used to cost me $600 per month. They increased it to $900/month when I had to increase the service level. And then just a couple weeks ago, after Compost Now bought the smaller company I was using, they increased the price to $1,800 per month.”

 

Volume and Basic Feasibility Economics

We talked about how, between the 3 of them, they could easily come up with 100 restaurant owners and food trucks that they knew personally. We estimated an average spend of $4,000 on products that they might switch to compostables, if the price and quality was reasonably good. So we estimated $400,000 per year of purchases and a 2.5% rebate of $10,000 to coordinate & organize the effort.

For the compost hauling, we estimated that the average trash and recycling pick-up cost was $350 per month and the average compost hauling was $300 per month or about $7500 per year combined. Multiplied by about 30 restaurants we thought we could easily engage $225,000 per year with a 10% rebate of $22,500 to organize the co-op.

We quickly sketched a path to how this co-op for compostables and composting could begin to generate meaningful revenue to pay for the organizer entrepreneuer.

This vision relies on a few key assumptions:

  1. The facts are in our favor. With 100 buyers of compostables and 30 buyers for composting & waste pick-up and a cumulative participation of $600,000+ per year, this co-op could:
    1. Negotiate meaningfully better pricing and terms, so the value to the customers would be sufficient for them to join
    2. Find suppliers and vendors who would agree to our terms. They would offer relatively small order minimums, an easy path to affiliation with the co-op, reasonable delivery terms, payment terms, return policy, and they would agree to pay the rebate required to fund the co-op in an on-going way
    3. Tap into sufficient market competition. There are enough providers that want our collective business that we could use competitive negotiating to get what we’re looking for — or at least a minimum viable level to make it workable. Assessing the minimum viable level is one of the hardest parts of this calculation, but is essential to the early stages of a purchasing cooperative.
  2. The buyers trust that the opportunity is real and worth their time. The art of organizing this process relies on:
    1. Making sure we’re in close relationship with critical “early adopter” and “influencer” restaurant and food truck owners. Since the stakes are highest for them, they need to be at the table each step of the way to hear pushback from the suppliers and develop their own, more nuanced understanding of the market, so that they can make a compelling argument to their peers about why they need to organize.
    2. Having enough data from a variety of buyers, from small food trucks to large restaurants, to extrapolate total potential purchase volumes with reasonable accuracy, while still being conservative enough to earn credibility with suppliers when more than we said actually show up to make the first few group purchases.
  3. The suppliers believe us and are eager to serve us. When negotiating and talking with suppliers, providers, or distributors, they must feel that the opportunity with this group of buyers is viable. This occurs through sharing large projections of total spend that gets their attention, as well as specific anecdotes of real buyer needs and challenges that we’re solving through this process. We must present as established and prepared so the seller will believe that we’re going to be successful.
  4. Relationships are key. The art of this negotiation also relies on an iterative process of getting to know suppliers and what they can and won’t do for us at certain levels of market power, leverage, and percent of their total revenue. We have to make sure that we’re relating to a person who’s up high enough in the company that they can make decisions with their own discretion and values and be impacted by a human argument.

 

Next Steps: Organizing More Buyers

Recruiting buyers actually starts with talking to providers to get a sense for their constraints, openness, and interest. What volumes would make up a meaningful chunk of their business? What value could the co-op add to their lives to make their job easier?

After that, let’s say the critical numbers are around $300,000 and we think we can do that through 12 of the larger & more influential buyers. Can we get 12 buyers to believe this might be possible, such that they show up to a meeting and follow up by sharing their spend data, what would make it worth it to them to switch, and what would hold them back.Once the organizer builds a successful network of 12, then the growth of the co-op becomes a matter of scale. Do the same thing, just do it bigger!

Because ultimately, the person who is in the middle of coordinating all of this is the essential ingredient. Even if purchasers and suppliers are aligned, without the right broker, the opportunity could fail. This person needs to be an intermediary that can deliver trustworthy, believable, and disciplined follow-through, negotiate well with all parties, and balance relational instinct with ruthless savvy when it comes to the numbers.

None of these skills rely on natural talent. CPA Co-op is here to train and support “Organizer Entrepreneurs” who have the passion to make a difference and change our local economy.

How to Build Awesome Leadership Teams

Too often, I find myself unclear on what makes great leaders. And how I can help great leaders work well as a team.

This is a big problem for me, especially with the appetite I have to make change. If you’re building an organization, a movement, or care about making change in your school, community, or company, this framework and basics might help clarify your thinking.

Screen Shot 2019-08-22 at 10.25.35 AMThis post is based on my notes from a training I went to at the Ayni Institute last week.

What are the three key steps to building great leadership teams?

  1. Recognize Good Leadership
  2. Find & Enroll Good People
  3. Create Good Team Dynamics

1. How to Recognize Good Leadership

First of all, let’s start with a definition I recently picked up from Ayni Institute, building off of work from Marshall Ganz and the work of Metro IAF.

Leadership = accepting responsibility to create conditions that enable others to achieve purpose in the face of uncertainty.

We’ll come back to this, but I think the elements of (1) accepting responsibility, (2) creating conditions to enable others, and then (3) the focus on achieving purpose in the face of uncertainty are vital starting points.

In some contexts, we are hiring leaders, in other contexts, we’re recruiting and building teams of volunteer leaders.

For both contexts, I think there are 5 key things we should look for:

  1. Deep Motivation.  Do they know why they’re doing what they do? Why this work?  Why do they have this deep, intrinsic motivation? Can they articulate this?
  2. Vision. A sense of what they want / what they believe is possible.  Vision isn’t necessarily the ability to communicate this, but that they have a sense of the way things could be.
  3. Anger / Grief. Do they have a deep emotional connection to the work. The point being it’s not just in their head, but that they feel it in their heart. For example, I have grief about the state of school lunches, because of the daily struggles I face with helping my daughter make healthy eating choices.
  4. Patience and Sense of Humor. While anger / grief are a key component to why somebody is motivated to do the work, it’s also equally important that the person also has patience and a sense of humor, because things take time. There will be a lot of loss for most campaigns that are trying to make meaningful change. We want leaders who will be in it for the long-term.
  5. Accountability. Do they do what they say? One of the most important things you simply cannot train for. Recognizing when people are accountable to what they say is essential. Screen Shot 2019-08-22 at 10.25.54 AM

Since going to this training at Ayni last week, I’ve been seeing these five elements in leaders everywhere — from folks I work with to people I’m trying to recruit. It’s amazing how simple and helpful just having a clear sense of what makes a strong leader. How would you evolve and/or add to this list for your context?

2. Finding and Enrolling Good People

“Who you’re working with precedes what your working on.”

This jarred me when I heard it last week, but the more I think about it, the more it resonates.

It basically asks the simple, but essential question: Who are your people?

  1. Know Your Turf. What’s the geography? Who are the institutions? What’s the landscape you’re working in? Where might you find the kinds of people you’re most looking to work with Do you have a mental picture of the kind of person you’d like to recruit? I’d want the person to be just like so-and-so… because she is X, Y and Z.
  2. Play the Field. Don’t invite everybody to the team. Too often we’re tempted to do this. Set a high bar for who you invite. Do they do real work? Do they accept responsibility? You can try people out by setting low bar commitments. Who can you invite to come to this gathering? What kind of people do they bring? Who do they know? Can they think of a list of people they have good relationships with and how do they describe the work they’ve done together? Really take your time and do your assessment before you invite people to join the team.
  3. Look Behind People. Where do they fit into other things / departments / organizations / communities? You have to ask other people that know them or have worked with them? Try to make real assessments based on results in other contexts. Sometimes it won’t be obvious where to look or who to ask, but take the time to check around & see where they fit.
  4. Proposition Them. You have to ask them to lead with you. This can be the hardest and most important step. You need to make a real, intentional invitation. For this to go well, I’ve found you need to affirm and name what you’ve seen in them. Take the time to write down and share with them what you recognize about their leadership, their motivation, grief, patience, vision, and reputation of being accountable. Simply naming these things for them will be a kind of affirmation and also help them gain perspective on who they are and what you see in them. Then invite them to join you to be part of making this team. Tell them how you want it to be different and while it may be hard, why you believe in it. Also name what might be in it for them. “I want to invite you to this team, because I think this team can support you in this and that way and help you actualize more of your full potential.”

There’s an element of leadership that’s about spiritual awakening — allowing people and inviting people to reflect more deeply on why they’re here — their deeper purpose and mission — and inviting them to live into that more fully.

The idea in a good team is that it allows you to fulfill your full potential.

3. Create Good Team Dynamics

  1. Culture. Early and intentionally setting your culture might be one of the most important things you can do. What does this mean?
    1. Decision-making. How do the decisions get made? Do you use the advice process?  Or what is your process? Even if it’s simple, naming it together is better than not talking about this. Otherwise, the person with the most informal power will set the tone of the culture around decision-making for you.
    2. Rituals and Shared Practice. For us at CPA, we’ve gotten into the habit of quarterly retreats as a staff and making sure we do some improv exercises / games at each retreat as a way to be silly, have fun, and use more creative sides of our brains together. (And because we have a great team member who loves leading improv games.) Another practice is making intentional time to evaluate after each meeting we have. Even if it’s just 5 minutes, we try to make it a practice that we share one feeling word on how we felt the meeting went. We try to draw a few takeaways, lessons, things that could have been improved and ask ourselves: “Did we get the reaction we wanted?” An organizing mentor used to say: “If it’s not worth evaluating, then it’s not worth doing.” In other words, we’re creating a culture of continuous learning.  What are the shared practices that make up your ideal team culture?
    3. Screen Shot 2019-08-22 at 11.30.46 AM

      Find ways to Relationship Build. This is the bedrock of our team culture. Making intentional time to deepen our relationships with one another, and also taking time in our interactions with clients, investors, everybody — to build relationships. So often our culture focuses on the transactional, the tasks that need to get done, the project management to do list, the goals we have to achieve our bigger purpose. However, if we don’t take time for the relational, we miss the opportunity to form a deeper emotional connection that might be essential for the unexpected down the road.

  2. Accountability. What are the processes for holding each other accountable? How do you create space for mutual accountability? Is it team check-ins? Shared reflection on goals? A periodic write-up on the meetings/conversations we had and where our latest thinking is as a result of those? Did we do what we said we’d do on the timeline? If not, what happened? Why?
  3. Training. Doing a training together can be an interesting way to set a standard for the work and in a way be another form of accountability. It offers a great way to combat awkward power dynamics or experience differentials in a group. If everybody goes to the same training, agrees to the new, common set of expectations, then there is a new baseline.
  4. Meetings with Purpose. Ensure your meetings have purpose in a broader arc of what you’re trying to accomplish. Make sure folks know why they’re coming to your meeting, what the purpose is, the intended reaction(s), decisions to be made are ,and that they have all the necessary information / reports in advance so that the time in the meeting isn’t sharing information or something that could have been shared in advance. For example, the IAF “campaign cycle” goes through five stages. Your meetings might have more purpose if you fit them within your broader campaign roadmap:
    1. Relationship Building
    2. Research, Cut the Issue
    3. Strategy
    4. Action
    5. Evaluation

Here’s another example of a Campaign Cycle from Marshall Ganz at Harvard University.

Screen Shot 2019-08-22 at 11.31.08 AM

If you found this helpful, I recommend:

1. Checking out your local community organizing affiliate – with Metro IAF or otherwise

2. Learning more about Marshall Ganz and his online courses / trainings: https://online-learning.harvard.edu/course/leadership-organizing-and-action-leading-change

3. Checking out the offerings of the Ayni Institute and their research on social movements https://ayni.institute/training/

4. From a more business angel, the work of Seth Godin,  his blog, podcast and his Akimbo Workshops. For example here’s a post about how things can be different for your organization & how it starts not at the bottom, but at the foundation.

Or think about joining us at the Community Purchasing Alliance: CPA.coop!

 

Trust and Co-ops

Five years ago, I started the Community Purchasing Alliance Cooperative with a Steering Team of church leaders, a community organizer, and a few generous lawyers.

Today, we are 75 member-owner community institutions. We collaborate on $15,000,000+ in contracts each year. Yet the most important thing we’ve created doesn’t show up in the numbers.

It’s trust.

We’ve built an incredible amount of trust with our members. What’s surprising to me about this is that most of the trust-building has happened not because of anything the staff did, but because of the conversations we facilitated between members. When decision-makers are talking to peer decision-makers about a similar challenge, the value they create and insight they’re able to offer builds something special

Nathan Schneider talks about this same phenomenon in his most recent article for the Coop Biz Journal - Winter_2018_Journal_CoverNational Cooperative Business Association. Nathan starts:

“I’ve noticed some patterns that may become more common in the co-ops to come.”

He’s reflecting on his experience as a reporter:

“They will create value not just with the services they offer to members, but with the connections they enable among members—and the efficiencies members discover together.

This rings true for my experience. For example, at the founding meeting of our co-op in 2014, I remember sitting next to Troy Watson and her telling the room of 50 founding and prospective members and others gathered, “While the savings are helpful, it’s the connections I value most.”

I think this continues to be the experience many of our members have. While we help them manage risk and reduce cost in some of their contracts, it’s the personal connections we’re able to help them make with peers that they value most.

Nathan continues:

“Their specialty will be in fostering trust on trustless networks…”

As I think about where we grow next — whether through building out an online platform for users to co-create value and connection building on something like MARVL.org or whether through developing a new co-op using a similar model in another region — Nathan reminds me that the focus of our work must be in fostering trust.

That’s the specialty of what a co-op can offer and offer with great integrity.