Daily Dupaco

Monday, July 07, 2014

Local cooperatives embrace cooperation

Dupaco has always lived under the principle that we – individuals, our communities – are stronger when we work together.

In that spirit of cooperation, it was a natural fit when Dupaco forged its relationship with the Dubuque Food Co-op, which officially opened its doors May 29.

Dupaco joins a long list of cooperatives that have stepped up to help the Dubuque area's first member-owned, full-service grocery store open.

"We've been fortunate to have so many cooperatives lend their time and share their best practices," says Sandra Gonzales-Denham, marketing coordinator at the Dubuque Food Co-op. "We now are helping field questions from other co-ops and sharing how we do things. We're trying to better one another so we can then serve our communities better."

This cooperative concept is nothing new for co-ops. Seven Cooperative Principles guide food cooperatives like the Dubuque Food Co-op and credit unions like Dupaco, including the sixth principle:
 
Cooperation among cooperatives: Cooperatives serve their members most effectively and strengthen the cooperative movement by working together through local, regional, national and international structures.
 
"We're living all of these principles right now, as we're coming off of a two-year push to open the co-op, and that has meant really relying on the story behind each of these," says Patrick Brickel, general manager of the Dubuque Food Co-op. "Principles 3 and 6 have been important in helping us get our doors open, as we have relied heavily on member investment to capitalize the organization, and the assistance we’ve received from other co-ops has been priceless."

Brickel says the store has worked with or received assistance from several co-ops at different levels, both before and after opening, including:

The community is getting behind the cooperative mission, too.

The Dubuque Food Co-op is already 1,700-plus members strong and growing. And its first public board election saw 17 candidates run for two open seats, hopefully communicating the excitement the co-op worked to build around its ownership model, Brickel says.

"We like to tell people that we offer a fresh approach to more than just food. The way we operate in the community is different," Gonzales-Denham says. "The greatest benefit of being a member of any co-op is knowing your investment is helping support a community effort to help educate, empower and unite people."

By Emily Kittle

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