One of the world's biggest displays of co-operation will happen in Manchester during Co-operatives United.
The Co-operative Living exhibition will be a unique and interactive life-size village that shows the flow of co-operation from farming to retailing to education to finance.
We speak to Mark Robinson-Field, the National Co-operative & Membership Manager for the Co-operative Group, who is responsible for Co-operative Living to find out more . . .
Co-operatives United is expecting 10,000 people; and one of the key highlights of the event will be Co-operative Living, can you explain more about the project?
We could not just look at this as the usual conference. This is an exhibition to showcase the amazing contribution co-operatives make to the world. We thought that if it is a showcase of co-operation we needed to show this in a live environment, bringing a range of co-operatives together for participants to explore.
When visitors come to Co-operative Living; what do you want them to learn?
We want to put people into a town or village they would recognise. So when they go to bank, a restaurant or a school they will see the reach that co-operative enterprises have. There will also be lots of fun, engaging and interactive play areas all telling the story of co-operatives and demonstrating the power and scale of the business model. We want co-operators to be proud of co-operatives; and for the public to explore what we mean by saying co-operative enterprises build a better world.
What types of co-operatives will be taking part in Co-operative Living?
We want everything that visitors do and everything they see to be co-operative. For example they could go into a co-operative house that talks about living co-operatively; when picking up the telephone it could tell you about a telecommunications co-operatives. In the garden, the shed would be made sustainably by a co-operative; there would be recycling services managed by a co-operative. There are many more examples like this, which can be applied to all areas of living.
What is the initial response you are receiving from co-operatives?
We have had a great response from co-operatives around the world who want to take part. No matter how big or small, we want co-operatives to come to Manchester to showcase their products. We truly believe that co-operatives can be involved in everything you do and everywhere you move in life. Please talk to us to let us show off your products or props.