Olly Young was elected to the board of directors at Chelmsford Star Co-operative in May – and, at the age of 26, he is the youngest person to ever take up such a role at the society. Here, he talks to Co-op News about his previous roles at the society – going back to a part time role at the age of 16; his co-op values, and his work in the third sector.
How did you get involved in the co-op movement?
My initial involvement in the co-operative movement was aged 16, working for Chelmsford Star as a part-time general assistant while I was studying at college. I was then fortunate to be part of the society for a further seven years, working across various business streams in the co-operative.
Very early on I was committed to a greater understanding of the co-op movement, particularly the sense of shared ownership and strong values underpinning the movement. I was one of the founding members of Chelmsford Star’s Youth Council, which allowed younger members of the co-op to have a voice and learn more about the key elements of the movement.
How do co-op values fit in with your other roles?
I am currently a regional manager for Royal Voluntary Service, where I oversee all of the charity’s retail activity across the south of England (from Cornwall to Kent). Within this role I manage a team of staff and volunteers, with the overarching aim to inspire and enable people within communities to give their time and talents to support society’s greatest challenges.
The co-op values almost mirror those of which underpin my role in the third sector. From both an ethical perspective on how we operate, to a sense of a ‘shared purpose’ where we put community and members first in all of our business decisions.
What can the co-op movement and third sectors learn from each other?
There are massive similarities and crossover, particularly from an ethical and community- minded perspective. I believe one of the largest opportunities in society is the need for more individuals of all ages to volunteer their time, talents and life experience to support their local communities.
There are some fantastic examples of this happening within the co-op movement already, with co-ops actively encouraging communities to support litter picks, fundraising for local good causes and supporting vulnerable groups.
What will your role at Chelmsford Star involve and what are you hoping to achieve there?
My role as an elected director involves regular meetings with the board and the society’s management executive team, discussing the business performance as well as representing the members in all strategic decision making.
This also includes serving on a further two sub-committees which include audit and the employees’ superannuation trust fund. As part of my role, I have also been elected to serve as a trustee of a local co-operative school, to provide a valuable link and promote co-operation and values to students.
I am hoping to represent the younger members of the society and support greater involvement and interest with youth in the movement.
How well are co-ops connecting with younger people, and how can they improve this engagement?
I believe co-ops are doing a very good job with connecting and engaging with younger people and I have seen first-hand how this can benefit younger people through their education and careers.
I believe one of the ways co-ops can improve engagement with younger people is to find something they really care for and are passionate about – and bring in the co-operative values and principles behind it to support their mission. I believe the voice of youth currently is very strong, particularly with the power of social media.
There are lots of younger individuals in society who are extremely passionate about key issues and causes. I believe embedding a co-operative way of thinking to support younger people will ensure massive success in society.