For the first time in its 97-year history, the Co-operative College is recruiting members, following a change in its structure.
Formerly a charitable trust, in 2015 the College became an independent, member-led charity, making it accountable to its members.
The Co-operative College was established in 1919 by the Co-operative Union (now Co-operatives UK), with the aim of promoting co-op values, ideas and principles within co-ops, communities and society.
It became a charitable trust in 1943 and the Co-operative Union was named as the sole corporate trustee. From 1994, this was in conjunction with a board of governors, which had an independent chair but did not have the same formal responsibilities.
According to the college, several factors contributed to the recent review of its governance structure, including changes in governance regulation and standards in the charitable sector and the fact that as an unincorporated body, risks to the College would be transferred in full to Co-operatives UK as the sole corporate trustee.
There was also a need for a strong and appropriate governance structure to support the college’s growing leadership and partnership roles across co-operative schools, development and heritage.
The College plans a phased roll-out of membership categories, starting with Supporter and Individual Members before its AGM in April. Partner membership, to be launched this spring, will be tailored for organisations who want to be more involved in its co-op projects in the UK and internationally.
“We’re incredibly proud of our strong heritage and roots and we’re building on that to create our exciting future. We want to continue to innovate, become more sustainable and meet the growing and changing demand for our services, in the UK and across the globe,” said Simon Parkinson, College CEO and principal.
“The Co-operative College of the future will be shaped by members with an equal say on important matters, meaning it’s democratic and inclusive. It will be ultimately accountable to members, ensuring that their interests are always supported.”
He added: “As an organisation led by co-operative values and principles, all support will be reinvested in serving the co-operative community. We’re really excited about our future.”