Members co-operate to maximise campaigning

The Co-operative’s Group’s dedicated membership has always played a vital role in the promotion and development of Fairtrade but now has a new dynamic and focused approach through...

The Co-operative’s Group’s dedicated membership has always played a vital role in the promotion and development of Fairtrade but now has a new dynamic and focused approach through the Fairtrade Workstream.

Established in 2006 as a membership initiative to help maximise the impact of Fairtrade activity, by co-ordinating events and publicity across the business and across the UK, it quickly proved its worth. The Workstream has a representative from each of the Group’s regional membership teams who are joined by representatives of Food Retail and Social Goals.

South East regional secretary Karen Froggatt, who has led the Workstream during 2007, said: “It has been very effective in establishing a national approach to Fairtrade across the business.”

A practical example of this meant that when the Group’s Social Goals unit wanted to sponsor screenings of the acclaimed film ‘Black Gold’, the Workstream organised regional screenings for members across the UK.

The Workstream also co-ordinated support for the initiative from Food Retail with selected stores selling the Black Gold DVD and purchasers receiving a bonus of a free packet of the Ethiopian coffee featured in the film.

The Workstream has been effective in drawing together events too, such as the 2006 Fairtrade Christmas Wine Tastings. Nationally designed publicity material was supplied and was of a far higher standard and produced more cost-effectively than if each region had organised its own.

Another initiative on the campaigning front was the creation of The Co-operative Fairtrade Resource Guide for Campaigners. At the recent Fairtrade Foundation Campaign Days in London, Birmingham and Newcastle, every delegate went home with one of The Co-operative’s Fairtrade cotton carrier bags and a copy of the new resource guide. It outlines how The Co-operative can support Fairtrade steering groups. 

These groups do amazing work and The Co-operative is proud to support them with funding, resources and human resource -— over the past couple of years it has supported hundreds of events run by these steering groups right across the country. The Fairtrade Event Pack is another resource that has been produced by the Workstream. Recognising that co-operative members are a great community campaigning asset but that not everyone has the time or inclination to come to a meeting though are happy to spread the Co-operative message amongst their friends, family and work colleagues, The Workstream produced 7,000 Fairtrade event packs. 

The pack contains information about the Society, its support for Fairtrade and about the Fairtrade products in its stores. These packs are free to members and contain vouchers, which can be exchanged for Fairtrade products to encourage members to raise money for an Oxfam project. Members have organised events ranging from Fairtrade dinner parties to fashion shows and helped take the Fairtrade message to thousands of new co-operators.

Said Karen: “The Workstream has proved an excellent medium both to foster close working relationships across the membership and across the business, and also to raise the concerns and comments of elected members — real democracy in action and a real force in maintaining The Co-operative’s position at the leading supermarket supporter of Fairtrade.” 

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