Co-operatives United delegates heard about innovative techniques that stimulate costumer engagement and governance at the National Values and Principles Conference last Friday.
The event created a platform for discussion and debate on the latest customer and member engagement techniques.
Steffan Eklund, International Secretary of the Swedish Co-operative Union, was a special guest at the conference. He said it was difficult to explain to customers how the one-member-one vote principle is put into practice.
He added that the co-operative message needs to be spread through active dialogue, making use of various social media channels and weekly newsletters. In the Swedish Co-operative Union, they have 26,000 members taking part in annual meetings and out of them 3,000 are taking part in governing bodies of the co-op, and 350 in boards and societies.
Steffan emphasised it was necessary to stimulate members’ engagement and provide them with different forms of participation. He gave an example of how customers can be given big bonuses as an incentive to spend more. The key, said Mr Eklund, is to create incentives for participation that drive sales.
In Sweden, co-operative members are also encouraged to give feedback and share their opinions. The Swedish Co-operative Union has also developed an ambassador scheme (i.e fair trading ambassadors). This enables members to get actively involved in their co-ops.
Mr Eklund said that when it comes to engagement it is also important to combine elections with different form of advisory referendums. He further added the Swedish Co-operative Union is looking into developing new forms of voting through Internet, post or in-store. They are also trying to come up with new told to analyse members’ preferences.
Present at the conference, Sam Grayston, Regional Co-operative and Membership Manager from the Group’s South and West Region, also said that “we have got limited ways to express what it means to be an owner of a co-operative”.
He added cross-trading products with members can help to express what the Grup is and what it does. Mr Grayston said an important way to stimulate members’ engagement is funding local projects that matter to members.
Mr Grayston also stressed that members sometimes feel quite detached, but they need to be reminded of their contribution to the community. He argued the message that needs to be sent out is “you can make a difference in so many ways”.
The Values and Principles Conference took place on Friday, 2 November and was part of Co-operatives United.