You may have forgotten, but we’re in the final week of Co-operatives Fortnight.
This year’s chance to celebrate co-operation is a subdued episode in a season of hair-raising chapters of the sector’s past year.
Whether it is due to fall-out from the Co-operative Group crisis or that the event itself has lost momentum, there are fewer people celebrating the Fortnight and far fewer talking about it – even though now has never been a better time for it to happen.
One obvious reason why is that there is less money swirling around the sector for promotion.
A cursory glance at a media monitoring service shows mention of the Fortnight is far, far lower than in previous years. It may be that the gossip from the sector over the last 12 months has set the bar high for co-operative stories – so now these special two weeks do not get a look-in on news desks.
While the Co-operative Group is going through a period of reflection and reform, it is time for our sector to think about innovation and modernisation too.
Over the past few months, Co-operative Press (publishers of the News) has been working closely with Co-operatives UK, Co-operative College and the Co-operative Heritage Trust to figure out this very question.
As the sector’s infrastructure organisations, we think there must be a better way to combine our different strengths and resources to serve the movement.
At last weekend’s Congress, the four organisations talked about this new force for co-operation. Over the summer we’ll be working with our boards and members to listen to ideas about how we can all provide better value by working co-operatively.
The new-look one-day Congress encapsulated the movement’s desire to do something different. In two threads of discussion on identity and participation delegates talked about the future of the sector.
A guilty pleasure of many co-operative conferences is that the discussion ends when everyone goes home. Organisers Co-operatives UK says it is determined this year’s event will not be a “talking shop” and that actions will be developed from discussions.
Over the coming months, we will be helping to further develop and discuss ideas both online and in print – so please do write in.
Our first focus will be on identity. Working with the people behind the COOP marque, we will be presenting discussion topics over the next year on what it means to be a co-operative. We will also be producing a practical guide to help old and new co-ops communicate their co-operative difference.
Speaking to a co-operative researcher recently, he noted that the sector has been lax over the past 30 years in true innovation – compared to previous eras from the late 1800s onwards.
A focus on renewal and our core objectives could just be impetus needed to foster innovation and to make sure co-operatives are hitting the headlines for all the right reasons during next year’s annual co-operative event.
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