2012 Member Meeting Synopsis
It was a great pleasure meeting so many of you at our Annual Meeting at GCC last weekend. I hope you all found the meeting to be as exciting and informative as I did. This year’s meeting was largely planned and implemented by our dynamic Local Organizing Council leadership with heroic support by the Common Office Staff and Volunteers. I am so thrilled at the prospect of working with some of our new LOC's and newly elected board members.
One of the activities that I found most interesting and informative was the Poster Board Sessions where for the first time I could really see in black and white (and color) the ambitious scope and breadth of Co-op Power and our strategic vision for our little piece of this planet.
It is so exciting to see how our Local Organizing Councils are growing and spreading their wings undertaking a very diverse group of green energy projects. Having the various councils be able to hear and see what is going on with other councils and start thinking about the replicability of projects for their own communities was so inspiring.
Likewise, hearing more about our Biodiesel plant which is almost ready to go online, and our plans to launch our new Community Solar program really paves the way for Co-op Power to remain an integral force in our communities. The changes to our fuel buying group program and the evolution of our Products and Services workgroup (now a sub-committee to the Board of Directors), really sets the stage for Coop Power to broaden its appeal as a consumer co-op. As we continue to grow and evolve we honor our co-op roots and set our sights on a community vision for a just and equitable energy future for New England and for our planet.
Lastly, on behalf of the Board of Directors I would like to specifically thank Dania Flores, Scott Reed and Olive Knight for their herculean efforts and for meeting with me every week for several months to plan and present this event. Not to be forgotten are all of the dynamic speakers and the MC work done by Glynn Lloyd from Metro Boston. And of course nothing happens without literally every person from the common office lending a hand or two to do all of the logistic and last minute work that has to be done (regardless of the hour) in order to pull off a successful event. Of course a shout out of deep appreciation to our many Co-op Power volunteers and partners from Northeast Biodiesel and from Holyoke our partners Energía LLC, Nuestras Raíces, Nueva Esperanza and Re-Energizer.
With great thanks,
Mark M Tajima
Co-op Power / Northeast Biodiesel
We achieved all the goals we set out to accomplish at our 2012 Annual Member Meeting . Around 80 of our 435 member-owners were in attendance at Greenfield Community College. Throughout the day, members participated in shaping the next few years of Co-op Power by electing board members and discussing matters of policy and strategy.
After the introductions, the event began with a synopsis of the Annual Member Survey. The top goals for Co-op Power, in prioritized order are:
1. Buy local, build local, save local, support local community initiatives and build our local economies
2. Decreasing use of fossil
3. Increase sustainable energy resources
4. Education of our community
5. Creating jobs
6. Decrease use of nuclear power
7. Decrease impact on our planet
8. Provide ongoing revenue that will sustain Co-op Power
9. Make Energy more affordable for low and middle income households
Lynn Benander talked about Co-op Power’s report card results from members. Based on the Member Survey and the other ways we receive feedback, we were given 3 A’s and 2 B’s this year. Our main challenge is not (yet) having enough products that members can buy. For example, we have worked for 5+ years to get locally produced biodiesel and we have not delivered yet. Co-op Power products like solar-hot-water or energy efficiency are popular, but once someone has such a project done, Co-op Power offers little to sustain the consumer side of the relationship. For this reason, members consistently ranked Community Solar as their next priority, because it will allow Co-op Power to deliver green electricity to all of our members on a daily basis.
Following the Survey results, the members engaged in an activity that highlighted each of the Local Organizing Councils, businesses in the Co-op Power network and the programs run by the Common Office. Members visited these poster boards set up around the room showing what they do, challenges they face, and accomplishments. The interaction fostered many productive conversations discussing what has been happening in each area and what members would like to see in the future.
During the strategic vision segments of the Annual Meeting, members reflected on our mission statement and whether it was still applicable to our cooperative today. By table, members worked on crafting a new mission statement that would better apply to who we are and what we are doing. Those that were created found common ground among certain terms and phrases, but no consensus was found. A a small group volunteered to synthesize the work and craft a vision statement to be reviewed and adopted by the board.
Next, members brainstormed the things they would like to see Co-op Power doing in the upcoming five years. Each table was asked to collaborate on choosing their top five goals. Here is a list of those goals (those that overlap have the amount of times next to them):
1. Northeast Biodiesel is profitable and successful (x5)
2. Increase membership by 400-1,000 members throughout the Northeast (x4)
3. Become a visible regional organizer of community solar (x5)
4. Reduce energy consumption
5. Products & Services Development: Become a stable and reliable provider of energy products and services (x2)
6. Strengthen, solidify and add at least 5 new LOC’s (x3)
7. Maximizing Energy Efficiency Programs: Prioritize and expand the energy efficiency program. 150 employees (x2)
8. All contracted work should be done by Co-op Power members
9. Support green transportation infrastructure and get consumers green electricity, solar, gas stations/co-op markets
10. Support local economies through Co-op Power’s existing businesses to access capital for fortifying salaries, benefits, infrastructure and scaling up (more jobs) (x3)
11. Become consistently financially vibrant (x2)
12. Expand education and advocacy to support local business development and community-building (x2)
13. Increase collaboration with other progressive co-ops, base-building organizations for greater impact.
As you can see there is a lot of overlap. The board will create a strategic plan based on this member input to focus Co-op Power fo the next 3 years.
After lunch, the Community Solar and Community Biodiesel Membership Drive and Member Loan Program were announced. Starting in mid-October, the goal of this campaign will be to sign on 100 new members and raise $400,000 in new member loans to build the solar array for the Brattleboro Food Co-op and to launch Northeast Biodiesel. Christian Lagier presented the Community Solar program in development at Co-op Power. Paul DeCarlo gave a brief update on Northeast Biodiesel project and fundraising status. Members present agreed to make $30,000 in member loans and others are considering loans. Members also took Member sign up forms to bring to their friends, neighbors, colleagues, and family to encourage them to sign on. If you are interested in learning more contact Elizabeth Moran, (firstname.lastname@example.org).
In the afternoon, our strategic visioning continued to build consensus on 8 structural or operating questions for Co-op Power. Members were asked to join discussions around each table developing suggested answers that were then presented to the full group. Polls were taken to measure member support. Answers were then handed off to the board for further refinement. To see these questions and member suggestions click here.
.Here are the results of the Board elections
Co-op Power Board
• Jane Andresen & Beth Paulson At Large Members
• Alphonse Knight, Co-op Power Boston Metro East Representative
• Diego Angarita, Co-op Power Hampden County Representative
• Lark Thwing, Co-op Power Franklin County Representative
• Tom Simon, Co-op Power Southern Vermont Representative
Northeast Biodiesel Board
• Brian Clark
• Ray Sebold
Bylaw changes circulated ahead of the meeting and at registration were reviewed at the meeting. Members quickly reached consent on all proposed bylaw changes. A single exception, Item 5, Section 13, needed further discussion related to Director Term Limits. Members discussed this subject for a while and multiple amendments or modifications were suggested. After a straw poll, members decided to maintain a two term limit, carving out an exception for founding member’s first three year term not to count in order to encourage continuity (at this time one founder remains on the board). The measure passed with majority approval.
As a last note, GCC offered a warm and comfortable atmosphere that fostered our fruitful discourse. Thanks to the wonderful catering of their staff we enjoyed a great lunch. View pictures from the event here.