Oxford marks Co-op Fortnight with event looking at ways to build the sector

‘Co-ops put local people first by ploughing money back into local businesses and making better decisions’

Oxford City Council marks Co-op Fortnight with an event on Wednesday, which looks at ways to build the co-op movement in the city.

Cllr Richard Howlett, co-operatives champion on the authority, is hosting the event, at Oxford Town Hall at 6pm on 26 June.

Speakers include Colm Massey, from the Solidarity Economy Association (SEA), who will be sharing for the first time mapping data on Oxford’s solidarity economy, which includes co-ops.

He said: “Our work to map Oxford’s solidarity economy’– all of the organisations, projects and initiatives who are working to create a fairer, socially just, and environmentally sustainable city – has identified a real opportunity for the co-operative movement in the housing, food and education sectors in Oxford.

“We’re looking forward to exploring how we can address some of our city’s most pressing issues through co-operation at this event.”

Jo White, executive director of Co-op Futures, will discuss how co-ops are central to progressive local economic development strategies in Preston and beyond.

There will also be presentations from Oxford-based community hub Flo’s in the Park, parents network the Village, and worker co-op New Internationalist Publishing. Retail co-op Midcounties, whose history in the city dates back to the 1870s, will also contribute.

A community cafe at Flo’s In the Park

As part of Co-ops Fortnight, the Community Action Groups network in Oxfordshire – a network of more than 70 community groups and social enterprises – will announce that it is now a co-operative.

Project officer Rhiannon Colvin said: “What this means in practice is that key strategic decisions about the work our team do and the future of our network are no longer decided by the unrepresentative board of a business, but by people that are democratically elected by the groups in our network.

“We made these changes because we care about local ownership and democracy and as far as we know we are one of the first place based networks in the UK to be run in this way. It’s a joy to become part of the co-operative network.”

The city council is providing a revolving loan facility of £2.3m to Low Carbon Hub that will enable the social enterprise to build more renewable energy projects across the county, including solar panels on school roofs, renewable energy generation and innovation projects.

The authority is also working with social enterprise Transition by Design, alongside Jessop and Cook architects, to transform a property in Floyds Row into a new centre helping to prevent and reduce homelessness.

Cllr Howlett said: “Co-operatives can make a huge difference to our local economy and communities. They put local people first by ploughing money back into local businesses and making better decisions because the people impacted are involved in making them.

“I’m very excited by the opportunity Co-op Fortnight presents, and I want this event to inspire existing and potential co-ops by sharing what’s been achieved here and elsewhere and helping build a network of support.

“I want to see more co-operatives in Oxford as part of our work to grow a more inclusive and sustainable economy.”