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

The society promotes stakeholder engagement through four regional councils, whose ambassadors build up links with communities

The scheme

Four regional councils are made up of 54 members and employees, known as Membership & Community Ambassadors. Their aim is to build strong connections with communities through out the society’s 421 trading outlets across 16 counties. The Membership & Community Strategy aims to grow membership, increase engagement with members and develop stronger community links.

How it works

Each Membership & Community Council (MCC) acts as a link between the society, its members, colleagues and their communities. To be eligible, Ambassadors must have been a full member of for at least six months and spend a minimum amount per year. There are nine elected positions comprising six member positions and up to three employee positions. The board of directors also appoints members to support each Council. MCCs are given funding to organise activities and events ranging from keep fit and gardening to educational visits and school workshops.

The aim

The Councils operate within the community and provide opportunities for member participation and colleague engagement. The goal is to be highly visible within communities and to ensure supported activities are relevant to the needs of today, enabling the greatest reach and impact. Activities funded through the councils are aligned to the society’s key strategic themes: education, culture and recreation, boosting member participation, health & wellbeing, local environment, food poverty, and youth engagement.

The impact

In 2017, grants totalling £185,000 have been awarded to communities. Through the councils, there is an investment in 61 member groups which are attended by 2,300 members. These involve a wide range of activities to improve people’s lives, covering everything from dance classes through to help using social media. Central England has also identified that Ambassadors are able to react quickly and relevantly to local needs.

Its recent Social Return on Investment Report provided insight that enables them to review activities and ensure investment is used in an impactful way. The society says it will use data to drive future community investment decisions, ensuring it continue to drive for maximum results where it matters most.

Taking action

Derby Co-operative Craft Group launched in 1997 and MCC funding helps the large group learn new skills. Mary Moore, a member of the craft group, said: “Over the years friendships formed, ideas were shared, charities benefited, fingers were kept nimble and brains were kept active.”

Separately, MCCs and colleagues helped build an eco-greenhouse at Annesley School in Kirkby-in-Ashfield, using recycled plastic bottles instead of glass. The MCC donated the cost of the wooden frame and 1,300 bottles were collected at the society’s Skegby Road food store to make the greenhouse, which pupils use to grow vegetables for the school kitchen.

Click here to view the full Community Impact Index for 2017

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