Thirty members braved the freezing weather to attend the first Talkin’ Co-op held since our move to Kilmainham.

The event started with a warm welcome from facilitator Dave Dunn, who encouraged those in attendance to introduce themselves to someone they didn’t know. Dave asked who was a new member, with 14 hands raised, with another 15 hands raised when asked who was a regular volunteer at the Co-op.

Management Update

Aoife Hammond, our acting General Manager, started the presentations with a thorough look at the challenges and successes of the last 6 months. She noted the achievement that was the purchase and move to our new premises. But she also outlined the huge financial pressure that the Co-op was under due to the loss of trade after we had to shift to a market format during the last months of 2018.

She outlined how this impacted on our staff – with staff taking a significant wage cut in September, which was maintained as we moved to a more demanding 7 day a week operation.

Huge Work Done

But she noted that a huge amount of work has been done since November 2018, with resources being put into supporting and upskilling staff for this new environment – focusing on improving our operational efficiency, our member service and our communication to potential new members.

This has led to a steady increase in trade since January 2019.

More work to do – but we are building the foundations.

Surge in Membership

She noted that members have stuck with us in the move, and that a whole new generation of members have joined the Co-op – over 500 new members since November 2018. Our current membership is at an all time high of over 2,600.

Finally she noted that volunteers have genuinely become a core part of the Shop Team, with a small number of dedicated members volunteering a number of times a month and serving on the tills. She noted that there is an entirely new community buzz in the shop due to this – with over 200 members volunteering at least once a month as part of the Shop Team.

Governance Update

Sam Toland, CB member and Secretary, gave a brief presentation on the plans ahead for board communication to members, work on the annual report, preparations for the AGM, the proposal for a members’ affairs committee and news of the re-launch of the Fáilte new members induction.

Members were informed about the CBs’ intention to review the current suspended publication of CB minutes, in addition to possible alternative ways of communicating their activities and decisions to members.

Members would be updated at the earliest opportunity.

Annual Report and AGM

He outlined that the Annual Report would be prepared towards the end of April / beginning of May, with the AGM 2019 pencilled in for mid-June 2019.

This would give members plenty of time to review the reports and audited accounts, and send written questions in the advance of the meeting.

It is hoped that this will help ensure that the CB and Management have the best answers possible on the night to any queries from members.

Members Affairs’ Committee

There was a brief update on the Members’ Affairs Committee with a tentative members’ meeting on the 10th April.

This will be confirmed by the next newsletter.

Sam reminded everyone that a survey was being run to determine what kinds of issues members would like to deal with as part of this committee.

The MAC survey will continue for another week – if you want to feed into this discussion, you can find the survey at the end of this blogpost [click here].

Fáilte and Getting Involved

He announced that the Fáilte New Members Induction would be relaunched on a monthly basis, with two 45 min sessions being run back to back on the 23rd March 2019 from at the Lime Tree Café.

Finally, Sam ran through the current CB committees and encouraged members interested in getting more involved in the Co-op to consider putting themselves forward. He noted that they offered a great place to learn more about the culture of the Co-op.

Chairperson Update

Patrick Flynn, CB Member and Chair, started his presentation with the following picture.

Can you guess what this is?

Patrick explained that this Talkin’ Co-op was being held exactly 6 months to the day that the Dublin Food Co-op completed on the purchase of Kilmainham.

This photo was 7.5cm of the new Co-op – which is the amount of the new premises that the Co-op had paid down on the loan in 6 months!

Patrick spoke about the challenges of the last sixth months, and how difficult it was to get the purchase of the premises secured.

But he noted that by members opting for this – they were creating a situation where in 15 years we would own our premises outright. This gives us the opportunity to discuss where to put this money – options like buying a farm, purchasing a bigger premises or reducing prices for members!

Appointing Senior Management

He spoke of the consequences of the becoming a much more complex and large organisation than we were in years past – with over €1 million in trade and over 2,600 members – and that the CB believed that getting the management and administration of the Co-op on a strong, long term footing was a matter of great importance.

He announced that the Co-ordinating Body has decided to put the position of General Manager back on a permanent footing, and to make the position of Co-operative Secretary a paid, part-time role. Both positions would be advertised this week, with a view to having the positions filled by April 2019

Patrick spoke of the great diversity of opinion amongst the membership, but that what united us as members was our acceptance of the reality of climate change and the need to take practical, collective action to address it.

He expressed his gratitude to members for their enduring support for the last year, and noted that for every difficult unit of time given, it gave him three positive units back.

A More Manageable Role

He noted that work of being on the CB has been exceptionally time-consuming over the last year in particular but that one of the intentions of getting a strong senior management team in place is to make CB volunteering more manageable in future.

Patrick also recommended that members consider the possibility of reducing the overall numbers on the CB to help ensure that decision-making remained efficient, and used the committee system to bring more members into decision-making.

He encouraged anyone interested in joining the CB in future to consider it, and if possible join one of the committees first.

A number of members expressed their gratitude to the CB, staff and volunteers of the Co-op for the tremendous work over the last year and for the amazing opportunities that they have opened up for Co-op in the years ahead.

Dave Dunn thanked everyone for attending the event, and expressed that we look forward to our next members’ meeting.