On the art of asking questions

I was at the AGM last weekend of a community-based cooperative I’m a member of, one that is steered by a small group of volunteer directors. 2015’s trading results were not, to be blunt, great and as a result the balance sheet looked less perky than it might have done (although more positively we were advised that sales since January have been satisfactorily above forecast).

I thought the chair and directors did a good job in briefing members (there were about fifty of us present) and in answering the questions. I raised a couple of points, one on the current strength of the board and one on staffing costs. Both questions I thought needed to be asked, but I hoped when I raised them that our directors didn’t think that I was criticising their hard (and unpaid) work on our behalf.

Directors have responsibilities to their members.  But in a well-run cooperative members have duties and responsibilities too: among other things, to read the accounts and the directors’ reports carefully and not to be frightened of asking for more information.

Without an actively engaged membership, a coop is already on the path to decay. Members: ask those difficult questions!  Directors: welcome those difficult questions!

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