Starting the debate

Have a passion for co-operatives and the future of our movement? Join us: Saturday 28 June in Birmingham

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You can’t help but notice there has been dramatic change within the co-operative movement over the past year. And with big opportunities and challenges ahead, we must now come together to have real, open and honest conversations about the future.

For over 140 years the co-operative movement has come together at Congress to debate today’s critical issues. ‘Co-operation: How?’ this year’s Co-operative Congress, sponsored by Unity Trust Bank, is a must attend event for anyone with a passion for, or involved in the co-operative sector. The event is organised by Co-operatives UK, and the event’s media partner is Co-operative News.

In the run up to Congress, we want to hear what you have to say; we want your ideas on where next for the UK co-operative movement. There are two themes up for discussion in advance.

Pitch us your ideas. They will be debated online and the best proposals will be discussed in main sessions at Congress.

The themes, drawn from the International Co-operative Alliance’s ‘Blueprint for a Co-operative Decade’, are:

  • How do we take participation in co-operatives to the next level?
  • How do we promote the co-operative message and secure our identity?

You can pitch your ideas below. But before you do, you can read Peter Kelly of Unity Trust Bank on the need for co-operatives to demonstrate their impact here.

Pitch your idea

 

Pitches so far

Below are the ideas that have been pitched so far. Please read, vote and comment on the proposals below to determine which should go forward for debate at Co-operation How?

 

Participation pitch: Developing an online finance and governance platform for the co-operative sector

Community Shares Unit In the last five years, the community shares market has grown significantly with over 200 community enterprises raising nearly £40m from over 40,000 members. However as the market grows, communities want to be able to invest and participate online, reflecting the wider influence of digital media. Equally, community enterprises want to be able to engage with their ...

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Participation pitch: Supporting elected members

Vic Parks One of the challenges facing the co-operative movement is supporting elected members to confidently and competently hold their executives to account. Employees have protection from Employment Law, access to trade unions, legal advice and support. Lay representatives do not and are, fundamentally, on their own. About five years ago, I had a high level meeting with Treasury ...

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Participation: The Membership Journey

Peter Couchman, Plunkett Foundation The time has come to stop seeing membership as an on/off switch and to see it as a journey.  It is a journey that begins long before a person becomes a member and is far richer than whether they go on to serve on a Board. The new Plunkett Foundation for guidance on membership in community owned enterprises sees membership as a journey from outside the ...

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Identity pitch: Co-operatives should take the lead on Fair Tax, as we did on Fairtrade

Pete Westall, general manager of corporate social responsibility at Midcounties Co-operative Arguably, the co-operative movement’s greatest social achievement over the last thirty years has been its development of Fairtrade – which is now a £1.8 billion industry in the UK. Co-operatives (big and small) were intimately involved in leading the production, manufacture, distribution, retail ...

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Identity pitch: A review of co-operative identity

Identity: Co-operative Identity Co-operative Business Consultants It is problematic that shareholder owned organisations and brands, such as The Co-operative Bank and Co-operative Travel, are allowed to trade using the co-operative identity. It is also problematic that The Co-operative Bank holds membership of Co-operatives UK. Co-operatives UK should review which organisations should be ...

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Participation pitch: Co-operatives UK to lead by example

Co-operative Business Consultants At a time when governance and member participation is a key issue in the co-operative movement, Co-operatives UK, as a co-operative itself should lead by example. Members should support Co-operatives UK to: · Develop more of a culture and strategy for member engagement · Recruit and retain more than 20% of co-operatives into ...

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Participation pitch: Co-operative spider web

Mark Kesel, Secretary of Sinfonia Musicisti Having started a professional co-operative orchestra with the intention that the shared ownership of an arts organisation should help members work together and have the shared desire to support its financial survival through challenging times and share the artistic goals – creative thinking is such an exciting part of the arts – I have been ...

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Participation pitch: Co-operative data

Jo Bird, Co-operative Business Consultants A key challenge for the movement is the robustness of Co-operatives UK’s databases of co-operatives and community shares societies. Co-operatives UK should increase resources to work with Regional Co-operative Councils and Co-operative Development Bodies to significantly update its databases.

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Identity pitch: Living Wage

Jo Bird, Co-operative Business Consultants Co-operatives UK should adopt a living wage policy and all members of Co-operatives UK should aim to become a living wage employer (currently £7.65 per hour). This would follow the example of some Co-operatives UK members, such as The Phone Co-op.

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Identity pitch: Making the invisible visible, the incoherent coherent

Sion Whellens, Calverts Co-operators remark on the low level of wider awareness and understanding of co-operatives, given that we are one of the largest membership movements. Yet, when we talk about specific measures to change the situation, the discussion can easily get mired in exceptionalism or buried by bureaucracy. The challenge is to make Co-operative Identity a touchstone for ...

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Identity pitch: Patient capital to grow the co-op housing sector

Nathan Brown, Cooperantics The growth of new housing co-operatives is held up a lack of capital rather than poor profitability. Over the life of a mortgage, co-ops tend to become cash rich in the latter half of the term, when they no longer need it. To buy a property using mortgage finance co-ops need sufficient money to put down a deposit. Unless the co-op can snap up a bargain, the ...

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Identity pitch: A national co-operative development body

Proposed by co-operative development bodies We’ve had a single representative body for the movement, Co-operatives UK, since the merger of ICOM and the Co-op Union in December 2001. However, despite the injection of funds and initiatives into the co-operative development movement over the last 4 years by the Group, via the Co-op Enterprise Hub, the development organisations remain small ...

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Participation pitch: Creating a self-financing fund for the movement

Worker co-operative weekend participants There are roughly 500 worker co­-ops in the UK. This is not enough! Worker co-ops - and the movement more broadly - face a dual challenge. Having the required resources to support individual co-ops and the sector to grow Co-ordinating activity between co-ops and getting enough to participate Putting it simply, co-operatives find it difficult to ...

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Identity pitch: Transforming promotion of our co-operatives

Joe Reevy The co-op movement faces the twin challenges of poor financial strength and an 'old-fashioned' image. We make little use of mobile, apps and social media. With 6,000 different co-ops, the movement needs a more coherent and co-ordinated online presence and marketing approach. My proposal is for the movement to work together and develop an online marketing approach and ...

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Identity pitch: Encourage traditional businesses to join together as co-operatives

Malcolm Corbett, INCA Our co-op, Independent Networks Co-operative Association is an association of businesses, community organisations and local authorities active in promoting fibre and wireless broadband networks throughout the UK. In membership we now have big names like Vodafone alongside new entrants like CityFibre, Gigaclear and B4RN (a co-op). By getting them to join together as ...

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Anthony Murray About Anthony Murray

Anthony has been working as a co-operative journalist since 2002. As editor, he ensures the overall style and content is consistently relevant for the movement. He also keeps in touch with the global movement as a member of the International Co-operative Alliance's Communications Committee.