The launch is a key time for your new co-operative, as well as the most fun. It’s the culmination of months of planning, an opportunity to raise awareness of your new co-operative, and a chance to have a party.
Planning the launch of the new co-operative is like planning a good campaign.
Your potential users may have some idea that the co-operative is about to start trading, but not necessarily.
Set a launch date and start to raise awareness a month or two in advance.
Set up a simple website, use social media, print some posters or leaflets, talk to your student newspaper, ask the student union to promote it, ask everyone involved to tell their friends – use every possible avenue or channel to get the launch in people’s minds.
Think, too, about why people should use your co-operative: can they save money, get control of their lives, make a difference, or something else? The launch is the time to start talking about why your co-operative is different, why your fellow students should use it?
And think, finally, about what will draw them in to the launch? Offer discounts on the day, make the launch a party with free food and drink, see if you can get a great speaker, musician or film. You will know best what people are interested in.
Aim to come out of the launch with awareness amongst the people you would like to us the co-operative and a good number of users to get it going.
Once the launch day is over, the co-op continues. In a way, this is where the hard work begins.
After the excitement of the start-up phase and the launch, there is the routine of running the co-operative – making sure the food is delivered and picked up, the bikes are repaired and sold, and so on.
This is all about the day-to-day running of the co-operative, but there are a number of essentials to remember at this stage.
- Keep your members engaged, interested and involved – they are the people who keep a co-operative going and you need them to be part it.
- Make sure you’ve got simple and easy processes in place so that most of the day to day work of running the co-operatives is done by following easy procedures.
- If you need users or customers to keep it going, keep on promoting it. A good rule for promotion is that, if you’re fed up hearing about something then that’s the point at which other people are probably beginning to.
- Think about succession. Who will take the lead once the founders are thinking about moving on? As students you’re likely to be involved for two years at the most, probably less. So as the founders of the co-operative you will need to hand over to new members who are willing to put in the effort to keep the co-op going.
Finally, never forget that what you’re doing is not just running an organisation. Co-operatives aren’t just a way to get food, furniture, housing, bikes or anything else.
In setting up a co-operative you’re offering your fellow students a radical alternative, showing that it is possible for students to take control and run things democratically for themselves.