A day in the life of … Jo White

What is your role? I’m the Executive Director of Co-operative Futures, a co-operative development agency. I’d love to be able to give you a really succinct sentence as...

What is your role?

I’m the Executive Director of Co-operative Futures, a co-operative development agency. I’d love to be able to give you a really succinct sentence as to what that means but, as no two days are the same, I’m not sure that I can. It’s our job to get out there promote the co-operative model and help people to start and grow co-operative businesses. This means working with people in large and small co-ops, people in various levels of Government, people who develop policy and even those who  have never heard of co-operatives (yes apparently they do exist).

How do you get started in the morning?

Mornings aren’t my thing so it’s a couple of large strong coffees and a ‘to do’ list. The list gives me the pleasure of being able to cross things off as the day progresses and a sense of achievement at the end of the day.

Jo White, Co-operative Futures
Jo White, Co-operative Futures

What did you used to think of co-operatives, before you started working for one?

I’m not really sure how to answer this. For most of my adult life I’ve been aware of (and shopped at) co-operatives, from greengrocers to cafes to bookshops to credit unions. I guess that makes me very privileged. Even so, I’m not sure that I completely understood what it meant until I became a member.

What do you think of co-operatives now?

I think they are the best thing since sliced bread, why isn’t everyone doing it? We are seeing more and more examples of co-operatives providing innovative ways of delivering goods and services. We still have some way to go to shake off the perceptions that we are all ‘candles and sandals’ or just another supermarket but we are seeing changes as the co-operative model is being used in more sectors that touch people’s every day lives. However, I do think we still have a tendency to spend too much time navel gazing which inhibits our ability to react quickly to opportunities.

What motivates you throughout the day?

A bit more coffee and cake! I love my job (don’t quote me on that on Monday morning) and I want to go home feeling I’ve made a difference somewhere. It’s not always instant gratification as sometimes it takes a long time before the results of what I’ve done appear. As with all businesses there is always the need to balance the books and it would be disingenuous of me not to acknowledge that.

What does the Co-operative Difference mean to you and your team?

At this point I guess I trot out the old platitudes of honesty and integrity, but it’s true. For us the Co-operative Difference is about accountability to members and developing businesses that we are proud of. They still need to be businesses but not at the expense of people and planet. 

What inspires you in your profession?

The people, the passion. On a daily basis I come into contact with people who care passionately about what they are trying to do. They overcome what would seem to be insurmountable odds to make it a reality. When I’m feeling a bit jaded time spent with one of our clients soon turns me around. For me one of the joys of co-operators is that it isn’t something that they’ve got into by mistake but have made an active choice about.

If you could form a never-tried-before co-operative tomorrow, what would it be?

That’s a toughie! I might have to refuse to answer this as whatever I say one of my co-operative development colleagues is bound to tell me that one already exists.

How do you wind down?

During the week it’s a quick nag at the husband and kids and then a long hot bath with good book. At weekends, come rain or shine, it’s a very long walk. You’d be surprised how many co-operators you can bump into on a path in the middle of the countryside!

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