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Outpost's Board of Directors will use this blog to discuss issues the board is exploring as it envisions Outpost's future. Can't make it to a meeting? Check here frequently to read what the Board is up to. Your current Outpost Board of...
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Scaling Up: How Co-op Growth Helps the Community

Board Beet
By Your Board on July 15, 2014

Scaling Up: How Co-op Growth Helps the Community


What does growth have to do with Concern for Community, one of the cooperative principles? Aside from the bare legal structure, what really distinguishes cooperatives is that they operate based on a set of principles – seven of them. Some principles, like Democratic Member Control (involvement), become more of a challenge as the co-op grows. But growth can also facilitate other principles, like the seventh - Concern for Community. And it is this last one that helps me understand how a simple neighborhood business lawyer can be so passionate about one of the largest consumer food cooperatives in the country.


Food is at the center our social lives, whether it’s at the dinner table or festivals. It provides nourishment, but it’s also the glue that binds our communities. It brings us together as a family and with friends, for meals at home and at neighborhood restaurants, and even as we shop. Whether it’s at the farmer’s market, Outpost, or elsewhere, shopping is more than transactional. It’s social. How we do it is defined by the options we have in our neighborhood.


As much as we may yearn for a simpler, smaller, and more local cooperative, we can’t ignore the benefits of scale. If we want to improve our community, and if we agree that food is at the center of that community, then building it the right way matters. If we support the growth of a healthy, local food system, it’s going to take more than patronizing vegetable stands at the farmer’s markets. We need to create the demand required to populate our shelves with a wider and more complete selection of healthy, locally-grown, organic produce.


As Outpost grows, it has been able to create markets for local producers that never existed before. Even as some romanticize the days of a smaller, simpler co-op, there’s no denying that Outpost is now able to capitalize on its size. Not only does this benefit members, but it benefits new entrants into the marketplace that wouldn’t there if it wasn’t for Outpost. With proper leadership, from the ground up, Concern for Community can translate into creating the world as we want it to be. And as we grow, we can build a stronger, more locally based cooperative.


What potential benefits and tradeoffs do you see resulting from Outpost's growth?


By Jan Pierce, Board Director



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