Youth updates… Co-op Young Members Board and Students for Co-operation

Ahead of International Youth Day, we catch up with Lois McClure, chair of the Co-op Young Members Board, and Scott Jennings, Students for Co-operation

Lois McClure, chair of the Co-op Group’s Young members Board

Since 2016, the Young Members’ Board has been looking at using the new Co-op brand and membership proposition to connect with young people. Five members have now served on the National Members’ Council.
Initiatives include:

• A stand at the 2016 AGM to get feedback from young members

• Research with young Food store colleagues to learn their needs to and test the idea of a Young Colleague Network

• Work with the Food team on the partnership with Sorted Food on NowCookIt, an online school teaching basic cookery skills to young people.

As young co-operators, we have tried to take on too much at CYMB instead of using resources at the Co-op. This was a learning curve; we are changing this and will link with the right people in the business who can help us. A few months ago, our chief executive Steve Murrells asked us to look at what the Co-op Group offers young people, and what they need – but also at what young people can bring to the Group. We concluded on five key themes, one of those being around our community proposition.

We want to work closely with the community team to ensure the Group’s activities and projects aren’t simply something we do to young people – but rather something we create together. Imagine a programme developed with young people, for young people, making Co-op and Co-op membership a valued part of young lives and in turn bringing value back to the Co-op.

For any co-op, it’s important to remember that when building propositions, products or services you need to put young people at the heart of this, so they embrace it and want to be involved.

Scott Jennings, member, Students for Co-operation

Students for Cooperation (SFC) began in 2013 with the basic aim of growing the student co-operative movement – from housing, to food, to bikes, to co-ops working in areas we haven’t thought of yet.

In its initial stages, SFC did not have large sums of money and required support from larger co-ops but a £1 per member, per week affiliation fee for our member student housing co-ops has given us a sustainable pot of funds.

You could say our biggest achievement is pulling students together to create a national network that can support itself and its member co-ops from the ground up.

We are now on a stable footing with years of working together democratically under our belts. Next, we’re looking to expand the movement.

The focus of SFC in this last year has also been our biggest challenge: fundraising for a national body of student housing co-ops. This will be the key to unlocking investment for student housing co-ops, which lack the track record needed to secure finance, and provide a rigorous model of sustainable growth.

So far we have created a set of model rules for student housing co-ops which will go to the FCA for approval; held a conference at Birmingham Student Housing Co-operative; and Nathan Bower-Bir and I attended Co-operative Congress for the Reimagining Housing session. We are mindful to engage with the wider sector and take our commitment to principle 6 (co-operation among co-operatives ) very passionately.

Finally, a secondary role of SFC is to see student co-operators move on to create non-student co-ps or work in the wider movement after graduation. This has happened in Birmingham, with the creation of a co-operative bike shop and new housing co-operative, and in Edinburgh with the offshoot of a brewing co-op and other ventures.

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