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Linking to Members presented by Bentley Lein. Consumer Cooperative Management Association June 11-13, 2009. Workshop Objectives. Build a Theoretical Framework for Member Linkage Describe two Complementary Models of Member Communication/Linkage

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linking to members presented by bentley lein

Linking to Members presented byBentley Lein

Consumer Cooperative Management Association

June 11-13, 2009

workshop objectives
Workshop Objectives
  • Build a Theoretical Framework for Member Linkage
  • Describe two Complementary Models of Member Communication/Linkage
  • Connect Existing co-op Systems for Member Linkage/Communication Planning to the Theory and Models
  • Provide Ideas about Using Tools Effectively
in the beginning
In the Beginning…..

OK, not that far back…..

in the beginning1
In the Beginning…

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world” MM

in the beginning2
In the Beginning…

The Rochdale Pioneers,

founders of the modern cooperative movement.

in the beginning3
In the Beginning…
  • In 1844, inspired by the ideas of Robert Owen, the Rochdale Pioneers opened a shop at 31 Toad Lane, formulating Principles on which their version of cooperation was founded.
  • Those Principles have been adapted by successive generations of cooperative leaders.
  • Leaders help our cooperatives move into the future by…
acting like leaders1
Acting Like Leaders
  • A small group of committed citizens…
  • Thinking and learning together about something relevant and compelling
  • Making decisions (and monitoring, evaluating and revising)
  • Asking others to join – Listening!
  • Working to learn new information and gain deeper wisdom
change happens
Change Happens!

From the beginning, our co-ops have changed – evolving or dying.

Can we direct future changes?

Either it’s fate, or directors will choose to lead us.

boards take the leadership position
Remember our heritage.

Boards are the direct descendants of the original founders.

Boards should act like leaders.

Boards: Take the Leadership Position!
what is the leadership position
What is the Leadership Position?



Will you join us?

Watch! Listen Deeply!

New Knowledge

Revised Idea


how are members engaged with their co op2
How are members engaged with their co-op?

Marilyn Scholl: “Appreciating the Diversity of Member Needs and Motivations.” Cooperative Grocer, Jan - Feb 2009

when leaders connect with members
When leaders connect with members…

Honor and connect with people at the level of involvement they have chosen

Plan communication, activities and opportunities for people at all levels

Incorporate perspectives of people at various levels into the conversation about decisions and actions

when leaders connect with members1
When Leaders connect with members…
  • Meet people where they are!
    • Thank them for shopping and/or for participating in meetings, elections and events – don’t judge or guilt-trip them for not participating more.
  • Deepen the boards understanding of members needs and motivations.
  • Observe and listen to members deeply
three strategic concepts
Three Strategic Concepts

Economic Linkage



Brett Fairbairn. “Three Strategic Concepts for the Guidance of Co-operatives.” Available at

economic linkage
Economic Linkage
  • The primary way most members connect to their co-op.
  • Do members use (shop at) the business? Does the co-op meet their needs?
  • Does the board use patronage dividend as a responsible way to return profits to the owners?
  • Members see that the co-op is acting in their interest, and the interest of others.
  • Are members well-informed about your co-op’s business? About financial results?
  • Do members understand the grocery/natural foods industry? The relevant social and economic trends that impact your co-op?
  • Do members understand the different interests and stakeholders within your co-op?
  • The glue that keeps the co-op and its members together when both are changing.
  • Does your co-op have a clear and widely understood identity (based on Ends or mission)?
  • Are the co-op’s leaders (board and manager) actively and regularly learning about your members and the world in which the co-op operates?
  • Do the leaders focus attention on Ends (mission) and the actual outcomes of the co-op’s activities? Do you communicate those outcomes to members?
  • Are we creating and telling a compelling and relevant story?
scholl fairbairn
Scholl + Fairbairn =
  • Engage members where they are
  • Provide avenues for them to increase their level of involvement by:
    • Attending to and enhancing economic linkage
    • Educating with an eye to helping members see how the co-op benefits themselves and others
    • Telling a compelling and relevant story
work the systems we have
Work the systems we have!
  • Democracy
  • Information about what members do
  • Existing communication tools
  • Interactive events
democratic elections
Democratic Elections
  • The board can be in the leadership position by ensuring that there are plenty of qualified candidates.
  • Elections are contested
  • Owners choose their Leaders


what do members want
What do Members Want?
  • Members speak with their actions as much as or more than with their words.
  • Surveys are often more interesting than useful!
  • The answer to “Will you join us?” may not be found by listening to what people say. Pay more attention to what they do.
    • Membership trends
    • Sales trends
    • Buying patterns
    • Election participation
    • Member loan campaigns
    • Meeting participation
existing communication tools
Existing communication tools
  • Newsletter articles (web sites, blogs), Annual Report, Patronage Refund distributions
  • Maintain the Leadership Position:
    • Don’t begin with “What do you think (or want or believe)?”
    • Tell a compelling and relevant story: “These are our common values.”
    • Describe the benefits the co-op is providing
    • Connect to the past and the future
    • Be strategic
    • Then ask for input and response
      • – Are you with us?
interactive events
Interactive events
  • Member meetings
  • Special meetings about specific topics
    • “The board is considering (or learning about)…. What do you think?”
  • Co-op Social Events
  • Remember: many members may not want or need to participate at this level.
    • Don’t create events just to drum up participation
    • What have members found at a “lower” level that might lead them to know there is more?
is the board in the leadership position
Is the board in the Leadership Position?
  • Are we studying and/or learning about strategic Trends, Topics or Values?
  • Are we using our communication tools effectively to tell a compelling and relevant story?
  • Are we watching and listening

deeply to our member owners?

Or are we bound…..???

  • Most co-ops are doing more then they give themselves credit for!
  • Work the systems you have.
what topics and trends should our board s be learning about
What topics and trends should our Board(s) be learning about?
  • Pick ONE topic or trend boards should be leaning about.
  • Write it on a card
  • At the bell mingle and pass the card
  • Repeat
  • Pair up (2 people, 2 cards);
  • Prioritize topics/Trends (Distribute 15 pts between the two cards – write the points on the cards)
  • Mingle, pass cards, prioritize/score
take aways
  • Relax!
  • “Chain” of Being
  • Pay Attention
    • What we say/do
    • What our members-owners say/do
  • Build Knowledge and Wisdom
  • Work the systems you have (or change them)