From Your Board: January 2019

January 2019

As we enter a new year, we’d like to provide an update on the visioning work that’s been happening at Common Ground. We’ve slowly been gathering ideas and information over the last two years - thank you to all the owners, staff, and producers who have participated so far! Those ideas have coalesced into five broad directions, which are briefly introduced here and will be the focus of our visioning work this year. Later in January, the Board will be soliciting applications from owners for working groups to investigate each of these directions further, so please keep an eye out for that if you’re interested in deeper engagement in our cooperative. And if you have ideas you just can’t wait to share, you can always reach the Board by email at board@commonground.coop.

Bringing food to people where they are. The grocery industry is changing rapidly, and some owners are telling us they would appreciate having options such as online ordering and delivery. Others are concerned that these types of options will diminish our connections to each other, hurting the community that Common Ground strives to be. We’d like to explore creative ways for us to provide more convenient options while also building community. For example, a mobile grocery truck that had a regular neighborhood schedule, similar to the bookmobiles of the not-so-distant past, could bring neighbors together while also bringing food to people.

Promoting healthy living. One of our Ends is to serve as an educational resource on food issues. The connection between nutrition and health is strong, but it’s not easy to change food habits, especially when you’re in the midst of a health crisis. We’d like to explore how Common Ground could better promote healthy living for everyone. Perhaps partnering with local health care providers to host cooking classes and support groups for particular health concerns could help build community and awareness of food issues. San Francisco General Hospital runs a therapeutic food pantry, where “prescriptions” can be filled on-site, providing patients with foods suitable for their health conditions. How can we best apply our expertise to benefit our owners’ and our community’s health?

Developing a diverse community. Racism, sexism, classism, ageism, heterosexism, ableism … we have a long way to go to be an equitable and just society. We strive to promote diversity at Common Ground, and we will continue to do that. What might it look like, though, if that were our top priority? How might our social justice roots co-exist with, and even strengthen, our current, self-sustaining business model? While I believe that attention to diversity should be part of everything we do, during the visioning we also want to specifically explore programs that could enrich and diversify our community.

Promoting local production. Another of our Ends is to support our local food production system. While we’re proud of what we’ve accomplished in local sales, we’d like to explore what it would look like to take our support of local to the next level. How can we leverage our expertise in grocery to provide more opportunities for local producers? Distribution options, marketing, catering … Supporting a more casual level of engagement, the makerspace movement has a few examples of test kitchens or “Foodie MakerSpaces” – what might that idea look like here?

Empowering owners and workers. Cooperatives provide an economic alternative to corporations, putting local, distributed ownership over distant stockholders. What might it look like if we focused on our Ends of promoting cooperatives and community as our top priority? For example, would a hybrid worker-consumer ownership model serve our staff and owners better than our current, consumer-owned model? What kind of programs or partnerships could engage owners more deeply and spread the cooperative business model further?