by Marissa Stewart
When I am out and about in the community and interacting with people in various social circles, I’m always surprised to find that it is still a common misconception that Common Ground is some sort of exclusive buying club. Many people in the community believe that you have to have a “membership” to shop at the co-op. All of us who are invested enough to be reading this newsletter know, of course, that anyone can shop at the co-op and everyone is always welcome. How do we combat this misconception? I believe it requires all of us getting out into our own sub communities and raving about Common Ground, educating our friends, families, co-workers, and acquaintances about what it means to be a shopper and an owner at the co-op.
So, we all know that being a shopper of the co-op means simply walking in the door and basking in all the wonderful smells, sights, and tastes of Common Ground. What does it mean to be an owner, then? Perhaps some of the more obvious components of ownership are the financial ones. Owners purchase equity in the co-op. Through equity and choosing to purchase goods at Common Ground, you’re keeping your dollars local, helping to provide good jobs and supporting local farmers, producers, vendors, craftspeople, artists, and educators right here in our community. Your choices are also having a positive effect on our environment, supporting sustainability and responsible consumerism.
There are also financial benefits in it for you as an owner. Owners get access to special deals throughout the co-op all year round. Also, a few times a year, there are special days set aside to celebrate owners and provide even deeper discounts and deals. These days are called owner appreciation days and there just so happens to be owner appreciation days coming up this month, September 13th through 16th! If you’re an owner, join us for four days of celebration, discounts, prizes, and events. If you’re not yet an owner, there’s no better time to become one than during owner appreciation days.
Maybe the less obvious parts of co-op ownership are the non-financial components. Democracy is a very important part of all cooperatives. All owners have a say in the direction of the co-op through democratic participation. The co-op is led by a board of directors elected by and from the ownership base. September is a very important time of year for Common Ground because it is election season. Three of the nine seats on our board will be filled in this election. If you’re an owner, please consider participating this voting season. Voting will last from September 15th through 21st.
Another way to participate in setting the direction of the co-op is through visioning work. The board of directors has been working on setting the stage for a large visioning project over the past couple of years. Our visioning committee is now at the point in this work where they are hosting small focus groups with owners, staff, and producers to collaborate and begin to brainstorm ways that Common Ground can stay relevant and sustainable, as well as how the co-op can best continue supporting the C-U community. The next owner visioning session will be in early September; watch your email and look for posters in the store for specific times and dates.
Don’t be shy – spread your love for Common Ground around the community and tell everyone you can about all the things you love about the co-op. In whatever way you support the co-op, it matters and we appreciate you!
Next meeting of the board of directors: Monday, September 10th, 6:15 pm at the Urbana Civic Center. Our study session topic this month is scheduled to be about the annual Meeting of Owners.