New international working group for UK co-ops

A sub-group of Co-operatives UK, the body will support the planning of international activity by the UK movement

The co-operative movement is a global one, and one that the UK is very proud to be a part of. The Rochdale Pioneers may have founded their first store in northern England, but today more than 12% of humanity is part of any of the 3 million co-ops in the world.

In the UK, there are co-operative businesses in every sector from food and finance to housing and energy – and to make sure that their voices are part of the global co-operative conversation, a new cross-sectoral International Co-operative Working Group (ICWG) has been set up.

The ICWG is a sub-group of Co-operatives UK’s board and was formed due to the emerging need for a more coordinated approach to the movement’s work internationally, both with the International Cooperative Alliance (ICA) and individual co-operative societies. The overarching scope of the ICWG is to use Principle 6  (co-operation amongst co-operatives) to support the successful alignment and planning of international activity across the UK, on behalf of all members of Co-operatives UK.  

Our prevailing aim is to innovate together in order to build on our reach and influence internationally and to build a more sustainable world. We will be developing networking across the UK movement on issues that arise internationally and ensure we represent the diversity of the UK co-operative movement. 

We will confirm international representation at events and meetings, and advise on resolutions and the use of votes in formal ICA business. The group will also discuss succession planning for international board and committee places and coordinate discussions related to developments in international subscription models that impact the UK.

We have had two meetings so far, and specific early ambitions are around:

  • Exploring a UK-based International Co-operative Relief Fund, based on the strong history of the UK co-operative movement’s international philanthropy, highlighted most vividly with the 2004 Boxing Day Tsunami appeal (which raised £420,000 from UK co-operatives) and the 2020 Australian bushfire appeal (which raised £56,000 (AUS $100,000)).
  • Understanding how the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are being implemented across the UK co-operative movement, and promoting their alignment to our international values and principles
The ICWG is exploring ideas for a UK-based International Co-operative Relief Fund; the 2020 Australian bushfire appeal raised £56,000 (AUS $100,000) from UK co-ops

Who we are

The ICWG is made up of a diverse mix of people representing co-operatives across the UK, who live and breathe Principle 6 within an international context. I had the privilege of becoming chair of the new group at the first meeting in October, bringing with me nearly a decade of experience in international co-operative development at the Co-operative College, and we are also supported by John Atherton, head of membership at Co-operatives UK.

Tatiana Baskakova is a member and co-founder of the Ceramics Studio Co-op in London, sits on Co-operative UK’s Worker Co-operative Council and is understudy to Sion Whellens on the CECOP/CICOPA boards.

Nick Crofts is chief executive of the Co-op Foundation, president of the Co-op Group’s National Members’ Council and Co-operatives Europe Board member.

Russell Gill is head of co-operative relations at the Co-op Group and chair of the Co-operative Identity Working Group at the European Confederation of Consumer Cooperatives (Euro Coop).

Ben Reid has been on the board of the ICA since 2016, chairing their Communications Committee,  and is former CEO of the  Midcounties Co-operative Society.

Bernadette Turner is an executive assistant at the Midcounties Co-operative, formerly international officer at Co-operatives UK and brings many years of international co-operative experience.

Jenny De Villiers is a board member of Co-operatives UK and a vice-president of the Co-operative Group’s National Members’ Council.

Anca Voinea is international editor at Co-op News and a member of the International Cooperative Alliance’s Youth Network.

Pete Westall is chief values officer at Midcounties Co-operative Society, representing the ICA’s  International Cooperative Entrepreneurship Think Tank (ICETT) , heading up their third working group focused on SDG 13 (Climate Action) and the World Co-op Monitor.

Sion Whellens is a member of the worker co-operative Calverts, a graphic design and printing co-op in London, UK. He is a vice-president of CECOP, the European network of co-operatives in industry and services, and also serves on the board of CICOPA, the global federation.

Vivian Woodell is a board member of Co-operatives UK and the Midcounties Co-operative, and chief executive of the Phone Co-op Foundation for Co-operative Innovation.

If you would like to know more about us or have ideas to contribute to our international ambition, then please get in touch: [email protected]