The On Co-op Blog

Archive for the ‘Intern Blog Post’ Category

First off, I owe my readership an apology. On Friday I was into some big projects and, in trying to wrap everything up, the end of the day came and went before I’d had a chance to blog. I pride myself on the consistency (and sometimes the inanity) of this blog; today, I am not so proud.

In the near future, though, my contributions to this blog will come to a close; including today’s entry, I will be blogging four more times before my internship ends. That means that (hopefully), a new voice will be joining me here soon, and then continuing the good work of traveloguing the inner workings of On Co-op.

That new voice may potentially come from one of the two new interns in the office–Shoshannah, who will be working with Kerr, and Jeremy, Audrey’s new compatriot in the government-relations mines. It’s exciting to see new people enter the office–fresh ideas seemed to waft in the doorway in their wake–but it also means that we’re packed in here like sardines for the next couple of weeks. You can’t enter the hallway without tripping over one of us interns. I wonder what will come out of this pressure-cooker of co-operation.

(Speaking of sardines, I’m apparently in a metaphorical mood this morning–there are more similes and metaphors in that last paragraph than there are interns in the office.)


The end of the internship is starting to loom. I’ve been aware of it before, but now it’s starting to invade my personal space, peek over my shoulder at my computer screen (“Is answering that email really the best use of your remaining time?”) and breathe down the back of my neck. Altogether rude.

Before it really gets pushy, though, I’ve got a task that has me looking backwards a lot: I’m creating a user’s guide to On Co-op’s website, so that when I go I won’t be leaving them in an online shambles. Since my role here has been so tied into the new website, it feels a bit like writing the very, very long and detailed answer to “So, what exactly do you do here?” At the same time as the future is looming, I’m having to poke around in my memory from the past months, and I’m left with the odd feeling that past and future are both starting to crowd me.

But the task is actually quite a rewarding one for me. I’ve always enjoyed teaching, and this is a chance to share my hard-won knowledge of the website framework: its hidden features, areas where it tends to be stubborn or contrary, the kinds of choices it offers you. It’s a bit like writing an animal husbandry manual, now that I think about it. And it’s a good reminder that these have indeed been packed months, and I’ve learned a great deal.

And yes, End of Internship, I’m almost done blogging so I can return to other tasks. But this is important too.

Today I’m going to indulge in a little promotion. Not self-promotion, mind; that stuff makes my skin crawl.

As other blog posts have mentioned, I have some issues with advertising writing; but in communications, that’s a large part of what I do. Here’s the good side, though. There are some causes, organizations, and topics that I could ramble on about endlessly, vociferously, exuberantly, and never feel like I’m misusing language or people’s attention. (exempli gratia: I mentioned the Co-operating for Fair Trade campaign a while ago, but I wish I could mention it every day)

Today, I’d like to share my current favourite website:

I found out about 1% for the Planet through the last newsletter, where we had a story on MEC‘s involvement, which had them handing out community grants for environmental projects by the bucketload. To get the 1% for the Planet stamp, companies agree to donate 1% of sales to environmental organizations. It’s a completely simple, entirely brilliant idea. And the more I read about them, the more I’m convinced they’re doing it for all the right reasons. (And I quote, “It’s about businesses recognizing that industry and ecology are inherently connected.” Well said, sir and madams.)

Initiatives like this make me want to start up my own business, just so I can join.

Also, they have a Chief Canine Officer.

I’ve decided to start the day with a blog, rather than save it for the end–as I’ve mentioned before, that often ends up with rushed writing.

As of today, there are four weeks left in my internship. This means I’m well into the job-hunting process, trying to make it so that by the end of March the “what” in “What comes next” is a relative pronoun rather than an interrogative. I’m beginning to appreciate the aptness of the hunting metaphor as well; searching for employment in Ontario at the moment is something like scanning a vast unfriendly wilderness, looking for hidden signs of game to pursue. Except in this case, 7.8% of the population is out hunting full-time, which means that by the time you spot a tasty-looking hare, there are usually twelve other hunters trying to wrestle it to the ground.

And now I’m disturbing myself with my own hunting imagery (that poor little hare has a warren of leverets, after all), so I’ll move on.

I’ve been reading articles lately about the increasing length of the work week post-recession (without an increase in paid time, of course). As a new father, the division between work and personal time has become sacrosanct to me. I’m happy to say this hasn’t been a problem for On Co-op; they permitted, even encouraged, me to rush home at the end of the day to spend time with my family. But I’m beginning to understand that not all organizations have the same concept of boundaries that On Co-op does. For the moment, having a sense of life-balance may not help me get a job. (But, of course, it will help me stay sane in the long run.)

Things may be simultaneously bleak and crowded on the hunting grounds, but I’ve got another month and a good team here at On Co-op looking out for me; for now, “What comes next” still ends in a question mark.

This week I got to tackle the On Co-op eNewsletter for the first time. The eNewsletter is more formal than the blog, which meant exploring a different tone than the one I use here. Formal news delivery isn’t new to me, since I often post news stories through the RSS feed on the website, but I found that in the longer newsletter format, dry reporting wouldn’t do.

Coinciding with this work, I’ve had a recent urge to read about the nuts and bolts of writing. I’ve been reading Steering the Craft by Ursula K. Le Guin, a book on writing by an author I respect a great deal, and also rereading my Strunk and White (something I haven’t done in far too long). At first I didn’t connect this urge with my work, but as I worked on the text, I realized that the urge came directly from my work with formal tone, and that it also gave me the answers. There are some very basic things that can be done to make formal text easier to read. In this case, variation in the sentence structure and length was the most important element; it creates rhythm and dimension to the writing that can keep readers engaged.

This focus on style, then, helps to convey the message. Ironically, focus on the writing can make the writing disappear: readers wading through a mire of monotonous text are likely to miss the story and get lost in the rhythm, whereas reading clear and lively text makes the ideas appear more prominently than the words themselves.

This is not to say that the newsletter is a masterpiece–I’m already looking forward to taking another stab at it, because I think I can do some things better. But I’m always pleasantly surprised by how useful writerly knowledge is.

In the wake of Family Day, I find myself reflecting on the relation between co-ops and families.

In the creation of the petition video (mentioned previously), I got to meet people from a variety of co-ops, and talk to them about what makes co-ops tick. There was a lot of great footage that didn’t end up in the video, but is still swimming around in my head, including Steve Cavell’s comment that co-ops are structured and run more like families than shareholder businesses. I’ve certainly seen the truth of that since I started working here, and it lends co-ops a quality I find sorely lacking in other businesses: accessibility.

The structure of co-ops is such that governance is shared–often widely. Here at On Co-op there is one board made up of nine members, but there are also 11 committees, and the occasional task for or sub-committee. In other words, there are lots of people involved in making decisions. What that means, in my experience, is that hierarchy doesn’t become quite as rigid in co-ops. Like a family, leadership is often flexible. (I am, of course, speaking from my own family experience here.) The people in charge can be brilliant, obtuse, stand-offish, kind, brash… They can be anything (or everything), but they are never entirely inaccessible, as the upper management of other corporations can often be.

I’ve worked in retail jobs where a visit from the company president instilled terror into the staff–generally meaning that everyone worked poorly, thus demonstrating falsely to the president that we were all inept and useless. Meanwhile, a visit from the Chair of On Co-op’s board of directors is somehow a pleasant surprise–after all, Barry Hannah is a good guy, and always up for a chat.

I, for one, am a big fan of making this more like families.

I return, humbled, after an extensive battle against the common cold. The cold won, but it was merciful enough to leave me alive.

Regardless, I’ve missed a blog post entirely for the first time. My sincere apologies.

This week felt, in many ways, like a punishment for the weeks that came before. As you may have noticed, I was feeling pretty pleased with wrapping up design and writing for the February mailing, as well as finally unveiling our first video project. This week, the reality hit me: there’s more involved in mass mailings than creative work. And so, aside from attending to the wars inside my bloodstream, I’ve been laboriously updating our contact information, checking postal code accuracy and street-name spellings so that our brochures don’t end up wandering lost across Ontario. And compiling and recompiling spreadsheets for labels…

Not the most glamorous work. Then again, I wasn’t feeling particularly glamorous this week, so it fits.

Nice to be back in Blogland, though. It’s a good place to end a rather harried week.

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June 2019
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