Chicago Market's volunteer Board of Directors spent a Saturday together this fall, exploring our co-op's strategic vision. We began a day-long session on the differentiating features and services that will make our physical space special (Knowledgeable and friendly local staff! Kids activities! Programming, shared kitchen, community space! Owner-curated playlists!?) and then moved into conversation about how our values would be embodied in the store.
We were inspired by a TED Talk by Simon Sinek on "your why," which helped us revisit why bringing a food co-op to the north side is so important to so many people.
As we progressed, we realized there are themes we've always recognized as the core of a co-op community, but not been declarative in writing about. For example, from the beginning we've identified ourselves as an honest food community, focused on local and sustainable -- but what about Ownership, the idea that we are all responsible for the success and health of our community business? How do we acknowledge other strategic values, such as relationships, accountability, and even the joy we feel in sharing connection and food experiences with one another?
An Evolved Strategic Foundation and its practical implications
Over and over, we've heard from volunteers and Owners that their personal reasons for joining Chicago Market are grounded in building and connecting with a community first and foremost -- and that having access to local, sustainable food is an important shared idea we advocate and work toward, together. So, we took the opportunity to fine-tune our mission/vision to incorporate our vales and to put a finer, more declarative point on our purpose: We are building a better food community. This is what we're aiming for, what unites us and gives us shape as an organization.
A small team worked to refine and document these ideas into an evolved Mission, Purpose, Vision and Values Statement. The statement was recently presented to the full Board, and adopted. It's an evolution, not a revolution of the Mission and Vision established in our early foundation.
Like our Purchasing Values, this core strategic foundation drives our actions, behavior and practical decision-making as an organization. For instance, it will guide the policy governance we provide to our General Manager; will guide hiring criteria for employees; and will inspire and prioritize store architecture, design and features.
Conclusion: Powered by Our Owners
We believe that Chicago Market is more than just a grocery store. We are a powerful community made up of passionate and diverse members who share a connection with each other, our culture and our food. We are building something special together, and like any business, it's taking hard work to get there but we believe the result and rewards make it worth such a huge effort!
We welcome your thoughts and as importantly, your engagement. We hope you'll join us at future Board meetings, get involved in committees, volunteer on projects or at events, or talk to your own friends and neighbors about joining Chicago Market. This important strategic work has inspired our teams, and we have a lot in store to help us grow in 2017. A co-op's timeline and success are dependent on Ownership growth, site selection and funding coming together in tandem. Your participation will make our better food community a reality: local, sustainable and yours.
Note: Many thanks to Jen Vest (Owner #532), Linn Austin (Owner #633), Lizzy Appleby (Owner # 518) and Mark Ahlheim (Owner #172) for their leadership and contributions, as well as Board President and Owner #3 Grant Kessler for planning the offsite that kicked off this process.