East of England Co-operative has launched a new initiative celebrating the small things that make a big difference to its members, customers and colleagues.
The ‘Small Things, Big Difference’ campaign, which launched at the start of Co-operatives Fortnight, will share stories and achievements to communicate co-operation in “modern, relevant ways”, says Minnie Moll, East of England joint chief executive. The aim is for members to feel proud of being a part of the organisation and have “reassurance that their co-op is doing the right thing”.
“Like many co-ops, we find it surprisingly challenging to explain what’s different and better about co-operatives,” says Ms Moll.
“There’s an old marketing fable about ‘selling the sizzle, not the sausage’ – the notion of looking at the benefits rather than the features. Part of the leap for us was thinking about what we do that makes life better for a person.
“But it’s not just one thing – the way our co-op is different and better is through lots of different things, and some of them are really quite small. But add them all together and you can see the difference.”
East of England has been serving the people and communities of Essex, Suffolk and Norfolk for over 150 years, and operates on the belief that ‘it is possible to balance success and doing well with doing the right thing and giving back’.
In developing the campaign, the society wanted “a big idea” that powerfully engaged colleagues; “To a great extent, it’s our colleagues that deliver the big difference every day,” says Ms Moll.
“The minute we got the ‘Small Things, Big Difference’ line, we moved on to the question: how are we going to tell the stories? The answer? Let’s feature colleagues, make heroes of them, photograph them, tell their stories!”
The stories gathered so far feature a diverse cross section of the region’s communities.
There’s the story of colleagues in one store who used their Christmas celebration money to send a colleague, diagnosed with cancer, to a health spa. There’s another colleague in Travel who helped arrange a couple’s honeymoon to Australia in her own time in the middle of the night, due to the time difference. There’s the fact the society always pays small local producers on time. There’s a customer whose mother with dementia could stay in her own home for longer thanks to the attention and vigilance of staff in her local store. And then there’s the community work done, from installing defibrillators and helping retired police dogs, to supplying local causes with a free regular or one-off supply of Co-operative Fairtrade 99 Tea.
“One of my favourite stories is about Scott Walker in our security team – a tough looking guy who is our anti-social behaviour support officer,” says Ms Moll. “One of our stores was having issues with anti-social behaviour so, off his own back, Scott went into the local school and ran a series of assemblies and enrichment classes, talking directly to students about the severity and consequences of anti-social behaviour in their community. He also ran a competition to design a poster for East of England Co-op stores to deter anti-social behaviour.
“He did some amazing work and without question this reduced anti-social behaviour in the area.”
By telling these stories on the record, the society hopes to demonstrate how they make a difference – and believes the campaign will run and run as there will always be different stories.
“Overall, culturally, the people who work at East of England understand that we’re an organisation for people and communities, not just profit,” adds Ms Moll.
“Of course good people work at other supermarkets – but you can absolutely create an environment where people can bring their whole selves to work and strive to make a difference every day.
“Ultimately this has to be led from the top, and it works powerfully when colleagues are culturally empowered to do the right thing. East of England has always strived to do this, but ‘Small Things, Big Difference’ reinforces that this is our co-operative difference.”