The countdown is on for the 150th Co-operative Congress, which this year is being hosted at the Mercure Manchester Piccadilly Hotel on Friday 21 June and Saturday 22 June.
Organised by sector body Co-operatives UK, Congress is the co-operative sector’s annual conference, when members, directors, activists and CEOs from co‑operatives large and small come together. The theme for this year’s event is Building Co-operative Places, focusing on the impact of co-ops on a world stage, from a UK-wide perspective, across regions, towns and cities and local communities.
The two-day programme features international speakers from some of Europe’s leading co-ops, while on Friday 21, Andy Burnham, mayor of Greater Manchester, will give an update on his aim to create “the most co-operative place in the UK”.
Delegates will also hear how a coalition of organisations are campaigning to put communities in charge of post-Brexit economic development funding, and how community owned co-operatives are making a real impact on their local economies and the people who live there.
Other speakers include Claire McCarthy, general secretary of the Co-operative Party; Paul Gerrard, director of campaigns and Helen Carroll, director of brand, at the Co-op Group; Jenny Carlyle from worker co-op Suma and speakers from employee owned businesses Outlandish and Cornerstone Inns.
Delegates will also hear from Tony Armstrong, chief executive of Locality, James Alcock, executive director of Plunkett Foundation, and Keely Lead from the Employee Ownership Association.
Trebor Scholz, associate professor at the New School in New York, will give global perspective on platform co-ops.
And there will be contributions from Steve Gatenby, head of product at Co-op Ventures, Paul Kalinauckas, chair of Responsible Finance, and Robert Kelly, chief executive of Abcul,
Representatives of community anchor organisations in Hartlepool and Plymouth, and community-owned organisations Leeds Community Homes and Projekts MCR, will also speak.
Workshops will discuss whether unions can play a role at the centre of co-ops and look at the Co-operatives Unleashed programme from a grassroots point of view. There will also be a Women in Co-operatives networking event co-hosted by Co-op Press, the Co-operative College AGM and Co-operatives UK AGM.
Other sessions will cover the use of co-operative technology to solve everyday problems and give power back to the workers and users, will present locally based solutions to responsible finance, and look at examples of how co-ops are using the co-operative difference to stand out in a crowded market.
The Co-operative of the Year Awards take place at dinner on the Friday evening, where the winners of the Leading, Inspiring, and Breakthrough
Co-operative categories will be announced.
The award for Co-operative Council of the Year will also be presented, along with two additional awards introduced to celebrate 150 years since the first Congress in 1869. The Co-operator of the Year and Lifetime Achievement Award aim to honour individuals who have contributed to shaping the co-operative movement.
The event follows the 2019 general assembly of Cecop-Cicopa Europe, the International Cooperative Alliance branch that promotes worker co-operatives, social co-operatives and producers’ co-operatives in industry and services, which runs in the same venue from Thursday 20 to Saturday 22 June.
Industrial and service co-operatives from across Europe will gather in Manchester, where the organisation was formed in 1979, to mark its 40th anniversary.
The conference includes visits on the Thursday to local co-ops such Unicorn Grocery, a tour of the Rochdale Pioneers Museum, and an informal dinner at the Eighth Day co-operative.
On Friday 21 June. Cecop will host its general assembly, which will feature an open discussion about the history of CECOP and its future as the federation of co-ops in industry and services. UK delegates will also get to learn about how worker co-ops in other European countries engage with social co-operatives.
On Saturday the main themes explored will include co-operation at a time of crisis. Participants will look at co-op ownership of digital infrastructure, co-ops as part of wider social and solidarity economy and how co-ops in UK and Europe are looking to deepen democratic practice.
- Cecop-Cicopa Europe and Co-operatives UK delegates will be able to attend certain workshops from both events on Saturday 22 June – details tbc.