Everyone on the BEST agrees - co-ops that have the most meaningful and positive impact in their communities are those where the board is contributing in positive ways to the co-op's success. We discussed just how with a variety of co-op leaders and they all kept coming back to the same thesis: the power and value of a member-elected board, of having the checks and balances of a board and management with distinct roles, of having a group whose purpose is to ask the hard, broad, future-oriented questions. It makes a huge difference!
This issue we look at why leadership is important to co-ops, businesses committed to democracy. We also get the perspective of co-op general managers on the ways that boards contribute on a day-in, day-out basis. Finally, we offer a number of guidelines to boards to help make sure that your board is making a difference.
Commitment to Democracy Matters – Martha Whitman
“Building leadership skills is one way cooperatives can keep democratic principles alive. Yes, cooperatives need directors attending to the duties at hand, but we can also build a culture that nurtures leadership that spills out into the larger world. Viewed in that spirit, our work as board members continues to be a revolutionary act.”
Why Boards Matter: Managers Weigh In – Lucinda Berdon
“Boards are accountable to members, especially when they focus on strategic and visionary components. They also provide important support to the GM - both in terms of decisions that need to be made and in working together to shape the co-op's future.”
Making Sure the Board Matters – Cindy Owings
Boards matter by contributing in meaningful ways to the sustainable future of the co-op. On a daily basis, they do this in the way they conduct their business - by managing for an inclusive, transparent, accountable process; by making space for hard questions; by looking beyond the day-to-day; by being creative; and by focusing on the future.
Making a Difference by Providing Strategic Leadership – Gail Graham
“Directors ask the hard questions, and they require answers. They are willing to bring issues up and have the pros and cons debated.” They challenge me, as a manager, to find the ways to accomplish our goals, even when the answer isn't obvious.
Study Guide – Let's Make a Difference
We offer four questions that can provide a springboard for your board's discussions about how the board operates and what your co-op can do to make sure you board continues to matter.
We welcome your comments, suggestions, and stories. Did you learn something? Were the discussions that came out of this issue useful to your board? How did your board use this issue in improving its handling of issues related to information-sharing and transparency? Send your suggestions, comments, experiences, and/or reactions to firstname.lastname@example.org.