One of Co-op Atlantic’s challenges was its managers’ contempt for the co-op’s structure. They didn’t trust the co-op model, and Co-op Atlantic didn’t train managers on how co-ops work or outline the model’s advantages. This lack of understanding caused division and conflict — members of the local co-ops felt managers ignored their concerns, and managers often disagreed with their boards.
Local managers also often viewed their boards as something to control and members as little more than shoppers. According to Tom Webb, managers didn’t even understand the concept of a membership share. When new members asked why they needed to pay a fee to shop at the store, managers’ typical response was, “It doesn’t make much sense to me either—you would have to ask the big guys in Moncton.”
The perceived lack of agility in co-ops is often a side effect of leadership not understanding the model, and not a reflection of the model itself. Educating leadership on the advantages of the model and the value in serving the interests of members is critical to the health of a co-operative.