Ever feel like your suggestions for organizations you care about fall on deaf ears, or that they don’t get implemented in a meaningful way? I think we’ve all had that experience at some point in our lives. So, last spring, I came up with my own idea to help pool the collective wisdom of the Co-op Community, so that suggestions you have for the Co-op can be heard and responded to.
With approval from Honest Weight’s Board, I started something I call “Idea Facilitation”. It’s designed to deliver an individual’s concerns and proposed solutions, if any, directly to the person who is in a position to take action on them at the Co-op. Of course there is no guarantee that your idea will be adopted, but at least you’ll know it’s been heard; if you provide your e-mail address, you’ll be kept in the loop about who will hear your idea and how it may be applied. Product suggestions should still be made to Department Managers or to the “Two Cents Board” which is past houseplants as you enter the café. The Co-op also has a Suggestion Box at the Service Desk for your submissions.
How Idea Facilitation Works
The first step in this process is me soliciting your ideas—whether you’re a Shareholder, Member Owner, Shopper, Employee, or anyone who wants to contribute an idea to the Co-op—and succinctly capturing the person’s concerns and suggestions on paper. So far I have done this on several occasions, twice tabling in the store and once at the beginning of a Co-op Membership Meeting. But now you can download a copy of the Idea Facilitation Form and submit it to me either by e-mail or at the Co-op’s Service Desk anytime you like!
The second step is my job: figuring out which staff person or Board member should receive the idea so that I can submit your ideas directly to them, via e-mail. (Janet Sorell, Honest Weight’s Member Services Coordinator, has been indispensable in directing me to the appropriate person!)
I am pleased to report that usually I receive a response within a few days. Sometimes it’s quite informative and it often invites further communication. When I submit an idea via e-mail, I will carbon copy (“cc”) the person who made the suggestion. Ideally, they will then continue the dialogue with the Honest Weight representative and I will cease being the intermediary.
Idea Facilitation, In Action!
The ideas I have collected and followed up on to date are quite diverse. One person urged the Co-op to undertake more waste reduction and recycling efforts. In response, Environmental Services Manager John Daubney outlined the extensive efforts already in place and, within a couple of weeks, made a renewed effort in the café to prevent intermingling of trash and recyclables with better signage and a receptacle to place food scraps for composting.
Suggestions for outreach and employee recruitment were brought to the attention of the respective Co-op Managers. Questions about transparency regarding the Honest Weight Community Initiative got an immediate response. (The philanthropic arm of the Co-op is currently dormant, but is seeking more Board members and trying to resolve a problem from the past.) Red flags were raised about food sampling in the deli hot bar; improvements there are under consideration. One member came up with a method for improving the vegan cheese selection and display, and is now waiting for the new Cheese Manager to settle in and address this idea.
Some ideas are pretty substantial and may need to be fleshed out before the Co-op can consider them. For instance, a member steeped in the practice of restorative justice would like to see this approach to dealing with conflict and wrongdoing implemented at Honest Weight. He agreed to develop a proposal for the Board.
Besides gathering more ideas for improving the Co-op and giving people another means to contribute to the common good, Idea Facilitation offers one other benefit: it enhances Honest Weight’s credibility and creates goodwill at the Co-op by letting people know that their concerns are being taken seriously. And I think that’s worth a lot!