How do co-ops connect with their communities? Case study, Midcounties

The co-op provides support for charities and local groups through 20 Regional Communities

The scheme

20 Regional Communities have been established by Midcounties Co-op, where its members and colleagues come together to provide support for local charities and community groups. They do this through volunteering, fundraising and distributing grants from its Community Fund and carrier bag monies. The society has recently launched its Sustainable Communities programme, which will complement the ongoing support of its 20 Regional Communities by helping them to become more environmentally sustainable.

How it works

A steering group, which is open to colleagues, members and board members to be part of, is tasked to research and identify the issues most important to each community. 10,000 members were involved in voting for which local opportunities to support across all 20 Regional Communities. Each Regional Community also has a partnership with a local charity. This sees members and colleagues come together to provide impactful and sustainable support for local community groups through volunteering and fundraising initiatives.

The aim

Each Regional Community has pledged to tackle issues that have the greatest impact on the community, and aims to engage all members of the community in supporting these alongside local groups and charities. Sustainable Communities aims to ensure that this support is also geared towards helping to build strong and sustainable communities.

The impact

Members, colleagues and customers have donated over 70,000 products to foodbanks in 2016 (compared to 24,000 in 2015), which has provided meals to over 1,000 families in need.

Colleagues delivered over 36,000 volunteer hours in 2016 to support their local communities (compared to 26,000 in 2015). 234,000 volunteering hours have been provided by colleagues in the community over the last 10 years.

Over £390,000 has been distributed to across 500 local community groups and good causes through grants and carrier bag monies. Colleagues have engaged with over 9,000 young people (an increase from 1,000 in 2015) through a range of initiatives working with over 50 schools and higher education partners across our trading area.

Taking action

The Central Oxford Regional Community Group has chosen The Gatehouse, a drop-in café for homeless people, as its local charity partner. Midcounties has previously helped to raise more than £6,000 for the café and has now made the partnership official, with plans for more fundraising already und rway. Six days a week the café serves hot food and drinks to homeless people over the age of 25.

This partnership is an example of how some simple fundraising activity can be just the beginning of a longstanding, meaningful and supportive relationship – something Midcounties is keen to build wherever possible.

The Gatehouse project director, Katrina Horne, said: “We’ve been lucky enough to work with the Midcounties Co-operative in the past, receiving donations from its carrier bag fund and its colleagues baking cakes, which were greatly appreciated by our guests who miss the comforts of home-cooked food.”

Click here to view the full Community Impact Index for 2017

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