Co-operating with Movements across the UK: Future Co-ops 2013

Future Co-operatives 2013 brought together more than 80 co-operators from across the UK in a two-day conference assessing the future of the British co-operative movement.

Future Co-operatives 2013 brought together more than 80 co-operators from across the UK in a two-day conference assessing the future of the British co-operative movement.

The conference featured Ted Howard from The Democracy Collaborative, as well as representatives from Move Your Money UK, Radical Routes, Transition REconomy and Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development.

Jim Pettipher, Deputy Executive Director of Future Co-operatives said the aim of the conference was to enable co-operation between the Co-operative Movement and other movements that sympathise with co-ops.

“We particularly tried to focus on young people’s movements or movements that could attract young people such as Move Your Money UK or Radical Routes."

Keynote speaker at the event, Mr Howard explained to Future Co-ops delegates how Evergreen Cooperatives became a successful enterprise model in Cleveland, USA.

Ted Howard said getting anchor institutions such as universities, hospitals or the local administration involved in the project was a key element in the success of Evergreen Cooperatives, now known as the Cleveland Model. He emphasised that it is not enough to simply build individual co-op businesses, but that they had a political strategy.

“It took us about a year of negotiations with anchor institutions from the time we started investigating to the time we opened the doors,” added Ted Howard.

The conference’s second day began with presentations from Radical Routes and Transition REconomy.

Riley Coles and Mattie Rose-Eliot, two young Radical Routes members asked delegates to think about how their co-ops could engage with radical social movements that are using social media and have a “make it happen” approach.

They encouraged those attending the presentation to think of ways in which the co-op movement could use these ideas and get more involved on a grass-route level.

Riley Coles said: “For co-ops to make a difference they need to actually want that, otherwise they are just another kind of business”. She added Radical Routes also promotes solidarity outside the network.

She explained how every single Radical Routes member has to sign up and work a proportion of their week helping out with Radical Routes centres and working for positive social change.

Nick Sherwood from Transition REconomy said co-operatives could have a role to play in addressing climate change and the economic crisis, enabling transition to a new kind of local economy.

Mr Sherwood, who is currently working on a project in Hertfordshire said the initiative aims to build a new kind of local, growing leadership and vision, building relationships and starting new enterprises, including co-operatives.

Delegates also got the chance to find out more about how the Move Your Money campaign started in the UK. Dannielle Paffard and Marloes Nichols said the campaign was based on a bottom up approach.

They said the project was established in January 2011, in the wake of Occupy Movement, due to the fact that “there was a public appetite for change to happen”.

Although Move Your Money UK is an independent not-for-profit organisation, the two presenters said they “still feel part of the co-op movement”, adding that “part of the challenge is to teach people what co-ops are”.

More than 500,000 people have moved since the start of the campaign in January 2011.

According to the two presenters, the campaign enjoyed such a great success because “although it might seem like a radical action, it attracts broad spectrum of public; it is an effective use of capital thus capitalists would consider it too.”

Move Your Money UK has also been lobbying of the new legislation, out in September this year. The new law will make it easier for people to move their money to alternative financial providers, including co-op banks and credit unions. The whole process could take less than a week.

The final presentation at Future Co-ops 2013 featured Halina Ward, Director of the Foundation for Democracy and Sustainable Development.

Ms Ward exposed a manifesto for democracy and sustainable development and asked delegates to think of how does the text of the manifesto relate to ICA’s principles.

Following a brainstorming exercise, delegates came up with various ideas regarding what the co-op movement could do to ensure that co-op enterprises are delivering sustainability through democracy. The manifesto is due to be released next month and the foundation is calling for anyone interested to bring their own input to the document.

Delegates at Future Co-operatives also expressed concerns over the way in which co-ops are perceived across the UK.  They tackled topic such as on the new co-operative legislation, the growing youth unemployment or co-operative education.

Future Co-ops 2013 took place on 25  and 26 January in Church Stretton, Shropshire.

Future Co-operatives is a business development consultancy specialising in co-operative and community led business.

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