Metrics from the Field: Co-ops and Collective Impact
First paragraphs:The nonprofit Cooperative Development Services (CDS), a cooperative that offers business consulting services to co-ops, just released an incisive report showing how co-op groceries in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metro area grew over the past 40 years into a US$180-million commercial cluster (Stockinger & Gutknecht, 2014). This is strong growth for an upstart sector amidst established competitors in an often-hostile economic climate. While they still represent only two percent of the region's grocery trade, food co-ops have built a solid membership base. Their stores define the cutting edge of grocery retailing in the Twin Cities (where I live), and have had a profound influence on the ways groceries are sold here.
The growth of this co-op sector offers important insights into collective impact — an approach that advances the notion that even discrete steps taken by a given initiative will have importance across sectors, creating synergy and larger impacts over time — now widely in use by food initiatives across the U.S.
Let’s start with some basic facts from the CDS report. Today there are 15 food co-ops operating 17 stores in the Twin Cities region (with plans underway for adding three new outlets). These co-ops have enlisted 91,000 members and attract an estimated 50,000 additional shoppers annually. Combined, the stores offer food items from more than 300 farmers located within 250 miles (400 km) of the metro region, who earn an estimated US$31 million of farmgate revenue by selling to the co-ops through various channels. About 60 percent of this revenue was earned by selling directly to each co-op store....
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