“The future of the Co-op is digital because the future of society is digital,” delegates at the Co-operative Group’s 2016 AGM were told.
But, warned the Group’s chief digital officer Mike Bracken, this “doesn’t just mean changing the logo and websites and apps, it means fundamentally redesigning the services we deliver”.
Mr Bracken, who joined the Group in August after developing the government’s gov.uk, said he had been motivated throughout his career by “helping align the open and innovative values of the internet with those of pioneering organisations. I can’t think of a better place to continue that work than here”.
He outlined three programmes the Group is undertaking to deliver its digital promise.
Firstly, the digital team will be working with each of the organisation’s businesses to build new services and improve the ones it has.
“We’re starting small, working iteratively and making sure our services are focused relentlessly on the needs of their users and our members,” said Mr Bracken, adding that “radical transparency” will be a feature of his team’s work.
Delegates were shown examples of app prototypes the digital team is working on, which will be presented to the national members’ council, before being made available on digital.blogs.coop.
“Making the Co-op trusted with data” was also a fundamental part of the Group’s plans.
“Right now businesses like Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon control our access to huge amounts of information – the news we read, the products we buy, the ways we communicate,”said Mr Bracken. “This has delivered tremendous convenience – but people are beginning to wonder what companies have access to what data.
“They’re asking how it’s being used.”
The Group is “committing to a data relationship that’s unambiguously clear and transparent,” he said, where members will be in control of their data. “If our members and customers trust us with their data then we can build enormously convenient and compelling services for them, we can use that data for good. But it’s increasingly clear that we have to win that trust, that we can’t take it for granted.”
If we’re really serious about democratic participation we need to find far more ways to make this happen
Thirdly, digital will be playing a crucial role in making membership stronger and more vibrant, delegates heard.
“We’ve talked about the 5% for you and the 1% for your community,” said Mr Bracken. “But the other element of being a member is having a Co-op voice.
“Having a say, as co-owner, in the way the business is run and the decisions it makes. And if we’re really serious about democratic participation we need to find far more ways to make this happen.”
He added: “We want members to give us real time feedback on our products and services. We want members to help shape our ethical strategy not once a year but all through the year. We want to make it easier for members to connect with each other and share the stories coming from their own communities.
“It’s our job to make sure that there’s a digital world out there with Co-op values, not just the values of Silicon Valley and venture capital. Come back next year and you’ll see how we’re making that promise a reality.”
- You can find all the coverage and analysis from the Co-op Group’s AGM 2016, including its rebrand and change to membership, at thenews.coop/coopagm2016