Milnsbridge Co-operative, also known as the Red and Green Club, welcomed co-operators from Yorkshire for its first Co-ops Fair on 4 October.
The theme was food and sustainability, and stalls included food co-ops Wooldale Co-operative and the Green Valley Grocer, producer Golcar Food Growers Co-op and wholesaler Suma.
Also present were the Co-operative Party, Co-operatives Yorkshire and Humber, Co-operatives UK, Valley Wind energy co-op, Sheffield Community Media and Principle Five, Sheffield’s co-op resource centre.
The afternoon featured a debate led by Jon Walker, co-author of A Complexity Approach to Sustainability: Theory and Application, which explains how to co-build partnerships among co-ops, small businesses and local authorities.
Mr Walker, a board member at the Green Valley Grocer (GVG) and a member of fellow co-op Marsden and Slaithwaite Transition Towns (MASTT), said successful collaborative economies were less about bureauracy and more about democracy.
“Compare that to the Co-operative Group,” he added. “When you talk to people at Mondragon in Spain, the two words that keep coming up are autonomy and synergy.”
He added that Japan’s Seikatsu Co-op, which has 300,000 members, 90% of them women, was active in local politics with 140 municipal council representatives.
Co-ops in the Colne Valley were working together and with the community, he said.
Susan Thomas, also a board member at the GVG and a member of MASTT, said events like Totally Locally street markets had brought small businesses into the equation. “If you go out on a limb and be collaborative in a friendly way, people respond to that,” she said.
Richard Murgatroyd, of Golcar Food Growers Co-operative, said people of all ages and backgrounds had joined the organisation, which supplies the GVG. “Some people have more time and energy than others, but everyone gives what they can,” he said. “We share the produce out and sell the surplus. It’s very simple.
“I think co-operation is based on concern for others, a sense of fairness and our sense of shared interst in the community. If we’re going to overcome the great challenges of our time, this is the future.”
He called for a regional conference of co-ops and other relevant groups. “The word federal is coming up over and over again in this discussion,” he said. “We need to try and find some kind of synergy.”
Cheryl Barrott and Steve Thompson of Co-operatives Yorkshire and Humber urged those present to use its regular networking meetings and newsletter. Mr Thompson added co-ops in the region had scope to pool resources, especially in areas like food and renewables.
In this article
- Cheryl Barrott
- Co-operative Party
- Co-operatives Yorkshire and Humber
- Colne Valley
- food retail co-ops
- Green Valley Grocer
- Jon Walker
- Milnsbridge Co-operative Society
- Red and Green Club
- Sheffield Community Media
- Slaithwaite Transition Towns
- Steve Thompson
- Susan Thomas
- The Co-operative Group
- Marie-Claire Kidd
- United Kingdom
- Top Stories