Dare to Trust

by Patrick Dupuis

La Coop network is undergoing a transformation. Much more than a simple reorganisation; our network is experiencing a major revision. In the end, its business model will have been completely transformed. Its components will be more responsive, and its activities will be more efficient and less costly. The new model will bring about greater transparency and better risk-sharing within the network.

However, let’s not fool ourselves: The path will not be uneventful. Every sector will have its own set of demons to deal with. Employees, elected officials and network members are just a sampling of the groups to feel concern when faced with the scope of the work ahead. We can certainly understand the benefits as a whole, but in individual terms, how will it affect each and every person?

Change always brings its share of discomfort, a mixture of fear and suspicion. Normal. Change can be a real threat and compromise our security. So it’s up to us to assess the real risks and decide on follow through. Typically, this is when each person starts to make up their own scenario based on the level of confidence they feel about the group with whom they are experiencing this change. If we believe that “man is a wolf to man”, then we tend to see threats everywhere and turn inward, which is not constructive. However, if we believe that man is fundamentally good and trustworthy, we tend to welcome change more easily.   

Naturally, placing our trust in others involves a certain level of risk, but generally speaking, we need to recognise that most people are driven by good intentions. In fact, making the decision to trust is making the decision not to prejudge and extending one’s hand. It is first and foremost an instinctive gesture based on emotion, but one that is quickly anchored in reason once the other party has proven themselves worthy. And then, from reciprocity to reciprocity, trust builds and expands. That is the beauty of trust: It begins as a small movement of the pendulum that, driven by a continuous show of solidarity towards one another, builds steadily day after day.

This is how, as times goes by, relationships between people who trust each other become more solid, more durable and equal.

For nearly a century now La Coop network has followed that path. When it first started, it was only a handful of farmers who decided to trust each other. Disheartened with the market and of modest means, they chose to rely on their strength as a collective. They believed that, together, they could gain a measure of control over their economic fate and better their situations. An admirable endeavour. The faith these cooperator-farmers had in the future should be a source of inspiration to us all. Unfortunately, the current trend is to give up with the misguided belief that we are powerless.

Thanks to these pioneers who trusted in the ability to change things, La Coop network is now an indispensable player in Canada’s landscape. It’s been able to gather a capital of trust that will serve it well on its journey toward its new business model and allow it to tackle other significant projects, such as maintaining a close relationship with its members. This commercial shift will prompt other changes and associative life will require special attention.

If enough people are confident in the vision proposed by the network’s executives, we will reach a turning point and get to our destination safe and sound, ready to go on for another hundred years. However, zero risk does not exist. It’s no coincidence that sought-after leadership skills now include the ability to manage in a context of uncertainty. It’s true, remaining calm and composed in the face of transformation requires strength of character. And isn’t that the greatest quality of those who dare to innovate?


Patrick Dupuis's picture

Patrick is Deputy Editor at the magazine Coopérateur.Agronomist graduated from McGill University, he also studied sustainable development. He works at the Cooperateur for over twenty years.