Co-op Group gets ready to meet members through Join In Live

'It’s one of the best ways that I know for directors to hear directly from members who, after all, are the ones who own the business'

Co-op Group members and customers are being invited to take part in a national conversation about policy and priorities as mounting challenges face the country. 

For the first time since 2019, Join In Live is hitting the road, and meeting with members and customers in London and Glasgow. 

But although lockdown is over, some of its innovations remain: members still have the chance to contribute to the discussion via two online events on Zoom and make themselves heard as the Group gets to grips with the cost of living crisis. 

Board members, Group leaders and National Members’ Council (NMC) representatives will be present at every event to carefully listen to people’s views on the way ahead in difficult circumstances. 

Democratic projects and services manager, Simon Plunkett, oversees key events such as the recent Co-op AGM in May and liaises all year round with the NMC.

He said: “These are clearly challenging times and one of the main roles of Council is to represent members and meet them face to face so they can give authentic feedback. That’s why events like Join In Live are very important.”

“As usual, we will be keen to share the latest news about our half-yearly performance update, which is published every year in October. However, although we have an agenda it is all member-led, broad brush and not too prescriptive.” 

The online events are continuing because “they were so successful during the pandemic”, says Plunkett, with more than 200 people taking part. 

“It’s also important that people who can’t make it in person have a real say,” he adds. “Whether online or face to face, the Council was very keen that these events had a reporting focus, sharing updates from members of the leadership team about our performance and priorities, and there will also be an opportunity to share ideas about new community partnerships.”

At live Q&A sessions, members and customers can put questions to board members on the Group’s recent performance and plans for the future, and there will be a round-table conversation between NMC members and Member Pioneer co-ordinators to pick up on the latest developments. 

Despite the economic challenges facing the Group, its customers and members, basic principles like tackling inequalities and climate change are still very much high on the agenda.

Plunkett says: “Our 10-point climate plan will be very, very key to discussions. And our members are always interested in Fairtrade and how we can still live sustainably and affordably through the cost of living crisis, so we are keen to get their ideas on how the Co-op can help.”

Join In Live has earned a formidable reputation as a real flagship event for the Co-op National Members Council, which works as the voice of ordinary members, meeting six times a year with various elected committees. 

Lesley Reznicek has been a Council member for over seven years and is currently one of the vice-presidents, for member participation and members’ voice. 

“It’s one of the best ways that I know for directors to hear directly from members who, after all, are the ones who own the business,” she says. “This event will enable us as the NMC to go back and hold the board to account, while at the same time hearing real concerns about issues like the cost of living crisis and the affordability of food.”

She adds: “At sessions like the Q&A we will be feeding back the views of members who want a direct line to the board and to hold them to account for decisions that they feel concerned about or where they may feel they have got it wrong or want them to act differently. 

“As a member-run business, we are there to represent their interests and this is a real opportunity to do that.”

The face-to-face events will be held in Glasgow at 10.30am on Saturday, 15 October, and in London at 10.30am on Saturday, 22 October.

Online events are at 6.30pm on Monday, 17 October and noon on Wednesday, 19 October.  The latter will include live cooking demonstrations with easy, pocket-friendly recipes. New food products will also be available to sample at the live events. 

The Group says fair access to food and working to eliminate food waste as much as possible are  top priorities, and the Join In Live events will feature news about the latest developments. These include a new partnership with Your Local Pantry, which supports communities across the country around access to cheap nutritious food via neighbourhood food clubs and hubs. The initiative is currently offering affordable food to more than 80,000 people in over 70 neighbourhoods across the UK.

Another new initiative announced at the Group’s AGM is Caboodle, a digital platform that will connect supermarkets, cafés and restaurants with community groups and volunteers to redistribute surplus food. It’s still early days but this is expected to be rolled out by the Group later in the year.

 Kate Allum, who was elected as a Member Nominated Director just over a year ago, is particularly looking forward to the Glasgow event, where she hopes to meet as many members as possible.

“As a Member Nominated Director living north of the border,” she says, “I’m keen to hear about those local issues that are important to Scottish members and how Co-op can offer solutions through its products, services and
community offer.”

Join In Live events are all free and open to everybody. Visit co-operative.coop/events for more information

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