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Talk the Co-op Talk


Talk the Co-op Talk

By Marguerite D’Angelo

Tenants, occupants, residents, members...There are so many words used interchangeably to describe people who live in the CSI family of co-ops, but in reality only one word is accurate: MEMBERS. We lost something valuable yet intangible when we changed the name from the membership committee to the leasing committee. Now, the only constant reminder of membership in the co-op comes about when people go to meetings. There are no longer signs mentioning the membership committee and there is no longer talk about going to the membership meeting or the joint membership meeting or the membership committee appreciation lunch. As CSI staff, we need to do everything we can to talk the co-op talk so that more members will want to walk the co-op walk.

What are some ideas for accomplishing this? First is the obvious. Banish the words tenants, occupants, residents or any such other euphemisms from your vocabulary. It is difficult to train yourself and we will need to work together to catch one another until the habit is ingrained. When notes, memos and notices go out to our co-ops, make sure the wording is reflective of a cooperative, participative, positive atmosphere. Phrases such as “everyone welcome” or “your input is needed” are good. Instead of “Dear Residents of Any Co-op” we should address letters as “Dear Members of Any Co-op.”

We need to work with officers so that they don’t use phrases such as, “Thank you, The Management” on notices (this has been spotted in more than one co-op). We need to start as soon as elections take place educating new officers about changing how they address members to foster the cooperative spirit and instill co-op pride. At council training or joint meetings, we can introduce some kind of word game to catch members using phrases like tenant or residents. This is a non-threatening way to start to change behavior patterns.

There is a poem called, “Children Learn What They Live.” The idea behind the poem is that people, not just children, base their behaviors on the examples set by role models. Whether any of us have thought consciously about this or not, we, as staff and officers, are leaders and we are the role models for our cooperative. Now consciously, we need to model the behavior and talk the talk so our members will willingly walk the walk.

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