Expert views: What tips would you give to other co-ops looking to invest in communities?

Michelle Smith, Community Lead, The Co-operative Group:  Start with needs of the members, tap into member expectations and listen to their views to make sure whatever you are doing...

Michelle SmithMichelle Smith, Community Lead, The Co-operative Group

Start with needs of the members, tap into member expectations and listen to their views to make sure whatever you are doing meets their needs. From our perspective we developed our work and strategy with a joint working group. We consulted our Members’ Council to make sure that the plans we were developing met the views and needs of local members first.

malcolm brownMalcolm Brown, Head of Corporate Communications, Scotmid

Make sure you are doing it for the right reasons. Make sure it’s going to have a genuine impact and that the community group you are working with deliver on promises. There’s no use giving community groups a big sum of money and it failing. If you’re working with groups, make sure they know what they are doing and offer to work with them without becoming intrusive. Always ask: is it going to make an impact in the community?

Jessica HughesJessica Hughes, Community Investment Manager, The Southern Co-operative:

I think those looking to embark on more strategic community investment should be considering what is important to them as a business (in terms of future impact to their industry), what is important to their members and what is happening within the community surrounding them (both short and long term). Look to seek mutually beneficial partnerships and goals, and make those clear from the beginning of any relationship or project. This way all parties can ensure they are both contributing to and benefiting from the activity in a way that is agreeable to everyone. Change relationships from being purely transactional to fully integrated, seek to understand one another in terms of strategic direction and how you can help one another deliver those aims. This may not always be through financial contributions – just as much value can be derived from time and skill sharing. And finally understand that there are many issues to support, but sometimes it is better to choose a smaller number to focus on, rather than spreading resources too thinly – this way you should be able to see more clearly the difference you are making to that particular cause.

Mike Tuffrey LBGMike Tuffrey, Co-founder, Corporate Citizenship:

Think about why you’re doing it. What results are you looking for, both for your own organisation and for communities you’re seeking to serve? Also think about measuring this investment; while measurement is important, organisations need to be selective about what they actually measure. Never spend time, effort or money in measuring things that aren’t actually useful.

Andy_Melia (1)Andy Melia, Head of Community Investment, Business in the Community

Think about what could make the difference at a branch or store, in the supply chain, to customers or your employee base – and do activities that demonstrate that co-operatives are great responsible places to work and buy from.

Mike-Pickering-RGB-600x360Mike Pickering, Community & Sustainability Manage, The Midcounties Co-operative

1)  Measure the return on your community investment, including the positive impact you are making in the community and the business benefits being achieved as a result of your investment.

2)  Involve your members in identifying local community issues to focus your investment plans what really matters to those who work, live and learn in our local communities.

3)  Involve your members in your local community programmes, ensuring that they are at the heart of your activities, ranging from strategic level involvement to hands-on volunteering.

Involvement is key to developing long term local community partnerships, helping to create positive community legacies.

Following this approach through our Regional Community Programme has enabled us to get 10,000 members involved in identifying local community opportunities; provide enough meals for 450 families in need through foodbank campaigns; engage with over 5,000 young people; and support over 200 community groups through local community grants.

rsz_minnie_moll_for_webMinnie Moll, Joint Chief Executive, East of England Co-operative:

I’d ask the following questions:

  What is it your organisation does that you could leverage for the benefit of your local community?

  What do you have that you could share?

  What are the pressing needs in your communities?

  What could your colleagues do to help deliver positive change?

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