Young people’s summit announced at Co-op Congress

The event, hosted by Co-operatives UK, will be held in the autumn and can be attended in person or online

A young people’s summit on co-operation will be held in the autumn to explore ways to better engage young people in co-ops.

The announcement was made at Co-op Congress today (25 June 2021). 

Speaking as part of a panel on youth engagement, Maria Cearns,  managing director, customer and people at the Co-operative Bank, said: “I am delighted to announce today that the Co-operative Bank is going to fund work with Co-operatives UK and the Co-op Foundation to engage young people in co-ops. Together, we will be calling a national Youth Summit on Co-operation.”

The summit will take place in the autumn and will be hosted as a hybrid event, so delegates can attend in person or online. This will ensure as many young people as possible can take part.

Working with the Co-op Foundation, the Co-op College and the Young Co-operators Network, Co-operatives UK will host a day of workshops and panels to explore what the challenges are – and most importantly, where are the opportunities?

Simin Wadiwala from the Young Co-operators Network said: “Young people want a career where they can have a stake in it, where they can have a say in what goes on in the company, and that happens far more often in co-ops than it does in traditional businesses.

“I really want to inspire and support other young people like me, not just with the very basics of how to set up a co-op or the ongoing financial and legal stuff – but also showing that an alternative is possible.”

Co-operatives UK CEO Rose Marley: said: ““It’s essential that we reach and inspire the next generation to ensure a fair and more equitable future for us all. We know that Gen Z have strong ethical views and want to be in control of their careers, which chime with co-op way of doing business, but it’s not a well known business model and there are also challenges in getting involved – and that’s what we are going to explore at the summit.”

Related: Leading figures line up at Congress to champion the co-op movement

“Young people from all backgrounds, whether you are a member of a co-op or not, and groups who work with young people are all welcome. We want to hear from you.”

She added: “It’s been a brilliant way to end Co-op Congress 2021 with a commitment to invest in our young people.”

The announcement was made during a panel discussion which included young people from youth-led travel scheme Our Pass and Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, introduced by Co-op Group CEO Steve Murrells. 

Nick Crofts, Co-op Foundation CEO, said: “Co-op Foundation funding has already helped thousands of young people to develop new skills, build relationships and develop a deeper sense of community. Our new partnership will allow us to go one step further by empowering more young people to benefit from being part of a co-op. By joining a co-op, young people are well placed to make their views heard and influence a more equitable recovery for the UK, during and after Covid.”

Ms Cearns added: “At the Co-operative Bank we are committed to co-operative values and ethics – they are at the heart our strategy and we completely understand the importance of supporting the co-operative sector, not because it’s the right thing to do; because a resilient and thriving co-operative sector contributes to the success of a strong UK economy and benefits wider society. This is why engaging with our young people now – the future co-operators – is so important.”

More details about the Youth Summit will be announced in September, and in the meantime people can sign up to the Co-operatives UK email newsletter to be kept informed about this work with young people.