Throughout Co-operatives Fortnight 2018, we’re sharing some of the brilliant stories from UK and international co-ops which show the
#coopdifference in action: how, where and why co-operatives can make a difference to you and your communities.
Co-operatives Fortnight is well under way, with hundreds of co-ops and other organisations working together to promote the movement.
This year the fortnight, which runs from 23 June – 7 July, takes the theme ‘Think Different’. How are UK co-ops getting involved?
To promote the co-op business model, Central England Co-operative is running Co-operative Masterclasses for 17-18-year-olds. Students at the sessions are asked to identify gaps for co-ops in the youth market, and their opinions will be canvased on issues such as Fairtrade, democracy, elections, voting and membership.
Nicci Clarke, brand engagement manager at the society, said: “The theme of this year’s Co-operatives Fortnight is all based around showing how your co-op makes a difference to people’s lives – and we think that our Co-operative Masterclasses are a great example of that.
“The masterclasses are a way in which we showcase co-operatives to youngsters. It is a great opportunity to use the skills they have, and the new skills they have learned, to see what it takes to set up a co-operative.
“We cannot wait to get out and about during Co-operatives Fortnight to talk to youngsters and showcase how the society works to help improve the areas in which we serve, the positive difference working together can have and what being a co-operative is all about.”
Co-operative Masterclasses will take place at several locations during Co-operatives Fortnight including Derby, Nottingham and Leicester.
Meanwhile, Scotmid Co-operative joined an event at the Scottish Parliament, which featured speakers Ed Mayo, secretary general of Co-operatives UK, James Kelly MSP, John Nevin from Greencity Wholefoods and Paul Farrell from West Whitlawburn Housing Co-op.
The society’s president Harry Cairney talked about the role Scotmid plays in its trading areas, “serving local communities and helping to improve people’s everyday lives”.
He said: “For over a century and a half, Scotmid has been at the forefront of co-operation in Scotland and next year we will celebrate our 160th anniversary.
“We actively engage and participate in the wider co-operative movement and we are supporters of Co-operatives UK. Our Community Grant programme continues to grow in importance and popularity – last year over 1,000 local community groups applied and were awarded a grant of up to £500 and these projects range from primary schools’ breakfast clubs to communal garden renovations.
“Every Community Grant makes a positive difference – re-affirming our role as a co-operative operating at the heart of the communities we serve. We’ve also recently introduced a new initiative called Community Connect, which enables our members to vote for good cause groups in their region.
“In addition to supporting our local communities, our members, customers and staff also fundraise for charity. Over the past three years, Scotmid has provided over £1 million to our Charity of the Year partners – Anthony Nolan, Alzheimer Scotland and the NSPCC’s Childline.”
The Southern Co-operative is working with the Wildlife Trust on a beach-cleaning drive, with colleagues and members encouraged to get involved in marine conservation and tackle the problem of plastic pollution.
The society is running five cleaning sessions across its trading area, measuring and recording the type and weight of the litter to show how, by working together co-operatively, people can achieve more. Southern also hopes the initiative will show how joining together to volunteer can boost wellbeing by bringing a sense of achievement and reducing a sense of isolation.
Southern is also promoting Co-operatives Fortnight to approximately 30,000 people via its monthly radio show in partnership with Express FM.
The Co-op Credit Union has released a video for the Fortnight in which its members described how their credit union was making a difference.
In the film, Nick Crofts, president of the Co-op Group’s National Members’ Council, says: “I’m a huge believer in the power and value of credit unions. The Co-op Credit Union is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year, and in those two decades has lent £30m to our colleagues, members and their families.
“It’s an extraordinary accomplishment for this organisation. I’m so proud of it. It’s an organisation owned by its members, it’s a co-op. It’s not answerable to shareholders, it doesn’t pay out a profit to anybody other than its members. It has that co-op difference absolutely in its heart and in its core.”
The Co-op Group’s chief executive, Steve Murrells, joined the Co-op Credit Union in June.
He said: “Sign up to a credit union as it is the best way to saving your money and the most helpful way of borrowing money for your needs and to help you get on with life.”
Midcounties Co-operative is using the fortnight to show how it makes a difference to its members, producers and the wider community. The co-op is running a contest encouraging members to share their thoughts using the hashtag #coopdifference. The winner will receive £200 of Midcounties vouchers. The competition is open until 7 July.
During the fortnight, Midcounties is publishing case studies of how it works with local charities such as Gloucestershire Young Carers, Street Teams in West Midlands, Aspire in Oxford and Shrewsbury Food Hub.
The society is also active in inspiring young people in Staffordshire and Glaucestershire to develop sustainability projects and supporting hundreds of local suppliers and businesses through its Best of Our Counties programme.
Lincolnshire Co-op used the #coopdifference theme to contribute volunteering 1,030 hours to the local community. The society engaged its staff, members and customers in a Big Co-op Clean.
The campaign included a variety of activities, such as looking after the local environment by planting up flower beds for Holbeach in Bloom and supporting the valued services provided by St Barnabas Hospice in Louth and Jerry Green Dog Rescue Centre in Brigg.
A total of 249 volunteers pulled together to make a difference to green spaces and community projects across Lincolnshire Co-op’s area.