Peter Couchman: To increase participation, think like a village

Co-operatives of all shapes and sizes can learn from small village co-ops like shops and pubs, according to Peter Couchman, chief executive of the Plunkett Foundation.

Co-operatives of all shapes and sizes can learn from small village co-ops like shops and pubs, according to Peter Couchman, chief executive of the Plunkett Foundation.

Mr Couchman was sharing ways to increase member engagement and participation at the membership and campaigns forum, part of Co-operatives UK’s Practitioners Forum in Manchester on November 7th.

He said: “These small co-operatives are some of the most inspiring I’ve ever worked with. We work with some of the most amazing people in the world.”

When villages were struggling to keep their shops and services, these people chose action over hope or despair, he said. “A co-op becomes a way for them to make their dreams come true.”

Many of the things village shops do well could be adapted to work in larger co-
operatives, according to Mr Couchman. These include the way they consult their communities and involve local people, and the way they innovate and impress.

Stuart Barry, Chairman of The Village Shop at Beech Hill, an Industrial and Provident Society based in a grade II listed church near Reading, said one of the keys was to over communicate. “We’re the most open organisation in our village,” he said.

“In urban areas, people need to find a way to create a village in a town or city,”
Mr Couchman added. “How do you get a city to think like a village? It’s a definite challenge.”

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