A letter from General Manager Sean Doyle: In June 2014 leadership at the co-op was approached by Bryant Neighborhood Organization (BNO) and Central Area Neighborhood Development Organization (CANDO) to consider a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA). Over the course of the past year we have had a number of conversations about whether a CBA would be appropriate for the co-op.
A CBA is fairly new approach to work with large corporations that typically focuses on holding that corporate entity accountable to the community that it is entering into with a development. These are large-scale developments, such as sports arenas and mass-transit development, in which hundreds of millions of dollars and public subsidies are involved. CBAs are also perceived to be adversarial in tone, often requiring cash payment from the developer to the community if the agreement is not fulfilled. Many of the stipulations included in a CBA could potentially put the co-op in financial jeopardy were we to agree to them.
This tone is not consistent with cooperative principles or values in that a co-op is created to respond to community need. Seward is already owned by the community, with 14,000 households in Minneapolis being owners. Nearly 15% of these households reside within the immediate geography of the Friendship store. Finally, as a community-owned business we are already accountable to the community through our democratically elected board of directors.
Instead of a CBA, we agreed that we would work to create a Mutual Benefits Agreement (MBA). To our knowledge we would be breaking new ground with an MBA — none exist. The ideas behind the MBA is self-help. One of the values of cooperation builds upon the desire of community to determine what is best for the future of the community. Additionally, the value of mutuality and self-help builds upon resiliency and not upon deficits. At its fundamental level, the vision for an MBA would be to articulate a vision of how the co-op and neighborhood groups could work together to benefit the community around the Friendship store. There are many shared concerns about livability that we all have for the 38th Street corridor. These include employment, affordability and overall development in the neighborhood. The idea behind the MBA is to look at the assets that each of our organizations have and to find a way to build on them together to more positively impact the community.
In January BNO and Seward started working to create the framework for an MBA. We invited CANDO to join this conversation. We started the process of having a community conversation about this at BNO’s spring meeting on April 25. The conversation at this meeting ended up being disrupted by a group of individuals — most of whom weren’t residents of Bryant neighborhood, but instead came from all over the city. For more information about the meeting, please read the Daily Planet article:
After this meeting BNO and the co-op decided to postpone the work of creating an MBA until after the Friendship store opens. BNO felt that they need to focus on regrouping as a neighborhood association. The leadership at the co-op decided we need to focus on ramping up operations. This includes getting the building built and equipped and ensuring we have the right product mix in the store. In coming months we have significant hiring and training of staff to do. Next spring we will reconvene to take up this conversation once again.