Co-op Foundation’s new strategy puts young people at the centre

The Foundation’s 2022-27 strategy focuses on ‘Building communities of the future together’

The Co-op Group’s charity, the Co-op Foundation, launched its new strategy at an online event attended by over 300 people.

At the event, the charity laid out plans for the next five years, placing particular emphasis on working with young people to build communities of the future.

The strategy, which was co-created with Co-op Group staff and members, civil society organisations, young people, other funders and partners, is made up of three parts: a vision for fairer communities in 10 years’ time; a new approach to co-operative funding; and a commitment to co-operating with others.

The Foundation’s 10-year vision for fairer communities was co-created by young people including Co-op Group staff and members, as well as other young people from a range of backgrounds.

Asimina Vergou, the Foundation’s head of learning and innovation, explained at the event that they involved almost 100 young people between 11 and 25 years old to build the vision, through a range of participatory processes. The young people involved identified six key areas of focus: Prosperous communities with access to opportunity; Safe communities; Diverse, equitable and inclusive communities; Healthy communities; Sustainable communities; and Communities that prioritise youth activism, shared power and transparent governance.

“We worked with young people to create the vision of a future for our communities. It was important that we share this vision with young people, because they will inherit these communities, but we would like them to be part of shaping them as well,” said Vergou. 

One of the young people involved in building the 10-year vision, Claire Muhlawako Madzura, whose involvement with the Co-op started with studying at a Co-op Academy, also spoke at the event.  “I’ve been working with the Co-op Foundation for quite a while now. And I always come back because of the shared values,” she said.

Madzura also commended the Foundation for compensating the young people involved in its work on the vision, saying “it not only shows young people that you trust them, but that they are respected and that you’re putting your money where your mouth is. Not only are you saying that you want young people as consultants, but you are funding them as consultants as well.”

Louise Snelders, head of funding and partnerships at the Foundation, presented the key elements of the Foundation’s new approach to its funding activity, which includes offering longer-term funding of up to five years, giving groups the option of unrestricted funding and making its grant application processes more accessible. The Foundation is also looking to fund smaller organisations with less than £250,000 annual turnover, as well as those with youth representation on their boards. 

Finally, the Foundation’s strategy aims to work co-operatively with other funders and philanthropists as well as the co-operative movement, and act as an example of how to deliver funding in a more co-operative way.

Speaking at the event, the Foundation’s CEO Nick Crofts said: “Co-operation has been at the heart of this right from the start – it was and is the glue that holds our ways of working together. This remains the golden thread that runs through every word of our strategy today.”

Applications for the first round of funding from the Foundation’s new strategy are set to open early next year, those who wish to stay updated can sign up to the blog here