How to avoid typical governance problems

'Founder syndrome'

Understandably, the founder members of any group sometimes find it hard to share responsibility and control as new members join. Conversely, new members often feel shy of getting fully involved. These are often perceptions rather than the reality. To overcome this issue, set up a good induction for new members, which welcomes them, describes the organisation, how it works and encourages participation by all members.

Reliance on a few voluntary committee members

Commonly, food co-ops can become reliant on just a few individual volunteers to help oversee the food co-op. If that individual can no longer continue in the role, for whatever reason (perhaps due to over-work!), the group faces an administrative crisis. To avoid this issue, ensure that people spread the work and responsibilities. Share out the key roles, or make sure there is a back-up person available.

Inefficient meetings

Time is precious. Inefficient and chaotic meetings will lead to members of your food co-op not bothering to attend meetings. Some tips for running efficient meetings are as follows:

  • Elect a good chair - choose someone who can manage the meeting effectively, keep it inclusive, to time and to the agenda
  • Choose a good venue and time - ensure that the venue is accessible, comfortable and held at a convenient time for members.
  • Inform the membership - give members plenty of notice of meetings and supply them with information between meetings - minutes, regular news by email, etc.
  • Write a concise agenda - keep it as short as possible and circulate it prior to the meeting
  • Be clear about decision-making - make sure that you and the chair know how you are going to take decisions. Do you need to all agree? What do you do when you can't achieve consensus? Agree these as ground rules at your meeting, and include them in your governing document
  • Encourage participation - perhaps combine the meeting with a social event or meal

To find more useful food co-op related information visit our homepage

Food Co-ops toolkit: The Food Co-ops Toolkit will give you all the information you need to set up your own food co-op.

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