March 2018

The March edition of Co-op News we look at how technology poses challenges to credit unions, as well as other co-ops. There are also updates from the 6th Ways Forward conference in Manchester, where shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey shared her vision for a co-operative economy, and a Q&A with Co-operative College vice principal Dr Cilla Ross ahead of the 2018 co-op education and research conference.

The March edition of Co-op News we look at how technology poses challenges to credit unions, as well as other co-ops. There are also updates from the 6th Ways Forward conference in Manchester, where shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey shared her vision for a co-operative economy, and a Q&A with Co-operative College vice principal Dr Cilla Ross ahead of the 2018 co-op education and research conference.


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MARCH 2018



Are credit unions

ready to embrace

new technology?

Plus ... Helping

Updates from the 6th Ways

Forward conference ...

Financial inclusion... The

Fairtrade Shopper Report ...

sed Member Pioneers ...

International credit union

updates .

ISSN 0009-9821

9 770009 982010




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Find out more and download our prospectus

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Photography: PEG Ghana




Holyoake House, Hanover Street,

Manchester M60 0AS

(00) 44 161 214 0870




Anthony Murray



Rebecca Harvey



Anca Voinea | anca@thenews.coop

Miles Hadfield | miles@thenews.coop

DESIGN: Keir Mucklestone-Barnett


Elaine Dean (chair), David Paterson

(vice-chair), Richard Bickle,

Sofygil Crew, Gavin Ewing, Tim

Hartley, Beverley Perkins and

Barbara Rainford.

Secretary: Ray Henderson

Established in 1871, Co-operative News

is published by Co-operative Press Ltd,

a registered society under the Cooperative

and Community Benefit Society

Act 2014. It is printed every month by

Buxton Press, Palace Road, Buxton,

Derbyshire SK17 6AE. Membership of

Co-operative Press is open to individual

readers as well as to other co-operatives,

corporate bodies and unincorporated


The Co-operative News mission statement

is to connect, champion and challenge

the global co-operative movement,

through fair and objective journalism and

open and honest comment and debate.

Co-op News is, on occasion, supported by

co-operatives, but final editorial control

remains with Co-operative News unless

specifically labelled ‘advertorial’. The

information and views set out in opinion

articles and letters do not necessarily

reflect the opinion of Co-operative News.




Our view: Are co-operatives and

credit unions ready to embrace

new technology?

Disruption is the buzzword in this issue, which looks at how technology poses

challenges to credit unions, as well as other co-ops.

Whether for member interaction, marketing or automation, credit unions can use

technology to improve services. We have featured various examples of how the

sector is trying to go digital while continuing to promote financial inclusion.

Community banks are not only competing with the big banks, but also against

fintechs and payday lenders. Our Q&A with credit union and tech experts reveals

ways in which organisations can explore the opportunities for partnerships with

fintechs and decide what their strategic goals are.

The key digital trends likely to cause disruption for credit unions and will affect other

sectors as well, particularly retail.

Tech was also on the agenda at the Ways Forward conference in Manchester, where

shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey shared her vision for a co-operative

economy where people working in organisations have a stake in them and an interest

in their long-term future.

We heard at the conference how, two years ago, tech co-ops in the UK joined forces

to launch Co-operative Technologists, a network of web development, web hosting,

and design co-ops.

But while co-ops in the UK are already delivering #techforgood, the concept of

platform co-ops, where users and service providers are multi-stakeholders, has

yet to be put in practice – largely due to a lack of start-up capital to create such


Yet developing simple and easy-to-access channels will be crucial if co-ops and credit

unions want position themselves as ethical alternatives to the big service providers.


Co-operative News is printed using vegetable oil-based

inks on 80% recycled paper (with 60% from post-consumer

waste) with the remaining 20% produced from FSC or PEFC

certified sources. It is made in a totally chlorine free process.

MARCH 2018 | 3

Updates from the 6th Ways

Forward conference ...

Financial inclusion... The

Fairtrade Shopper Report ...

ISSN 0009-9821


9 770009 982010

sed Member Pioneers ...

International credit union

updates .



A new mustard co-op in Norwich as Colman’s

leaves? (p10); Jo Bird talks about her

co-operative experiences (p20-21); The

Co-op Group’s Fairtrade Shopper Report

shows Fairtrade is still relevant (p44-45);

and our credit union special looks at how

technology is changing the sector (p28-41)

4 | MARCH 2018

news Issue #7293 MARCH 2018

Connecting, championing, challenging

MARCH 2018



Are credit unions

ready to embrace

new technology?

Plus ... Helping



COVER: This month we speak

to experts and leaders from

within and outside credit

unions, looking at how

technology is helping – and

hindering – the sector

Read more: p28-41

20-21 MEET... JO BIRD

The co-operative activist and local council

candidate on her co-op experiences and

the future of the movement


Bob Cannell introduces the upcoming

CTRLshift Summit


Updates from the sixth edition of the

conference, which focused on

co-operative solidarity




How are credit unions using the latest

tech to improve services for members


Latest trends from industry experts


Credit union experts and



Tailored advice on the dos and don’ts

of rebranding


From Clevr Money and 6 Towns


Paul Gosling’s analysis of the

challenges posed by new technology


Examples of how credit unions serve

the under-banked


How do co-ops perform as employers

of women? Co-op women share their



The Co-op Group launches its 2018 report

with news that all its bananas, tea and

coffee ingredients will be Fairtrade


The Co-operative College vice-principal

looks ahead to the 2018 Co-operative

education and research conference


5-13 UK updates

14-19: Global updates

21: Letters

48-49: Reviews

50: Diary



Labour announces the formation of Community Wealth Unit

Political support for co-operatives is

continuing as John McDonnell announced

Labour is setting up a Community Wealth

Building Unit to support co-operatives

and mutuals as a means of driving

local economic growth.

Speaking at an event in Preston, the

shadow chancellor said Labour would

work with the Co-operative Party, trade

unions and think tanks to implement

the community wealth building

model nationwide.

Over the last couple of years, Preston City

Council has been pioneering the model

in the UK. Inspired by the Cleveland

Model in the USA, the Labour &

Co-operative City Council of Preston

has worked with local anchor

institutions such as universities

and hospitals, as well as through its

own procurement practices, to ensure

a greater share of the money it spends

stays in the local economy. Overall,

the project has seen more than £200m

returned to the local economy and has

supported 1,600 jobs.

Since 2016, the Co-operative Party

has been working with Preston Council

to explore how this model could be used

by other communities across the UK.

Now Labour’s new Community Wealth

Building Unit will work with councils to

learn the lessons from Preston and provide

support and advice to other councils.

“The next Labour government will

end austerity and properly fund local

authorities, instead of cutting back and

passing the buck like the Conservatives

are doing. But we cannot afford to wait

until we are in power nationally,” said the

shadow chancellor in his speech.

“There are many creative solutions

being used already, like in Preston, and we

need to spread this inspiring work around

other Labour councils now, so we can

bring services back in house, stimulate the

economy and provide decent jobs, extend

ownership and control, and strengthen

local democracy.

“By working together to share these

principles where Labour is already in

power locally, we can sow the seeds of

a country that works for the many, not

the few.”

p John McDonnell, shadow chancellor, said Labour would work with the Co-op Party

At a second event, Mr McDonnell

said that building on his 2016 pledge

to double the size of the co-operative

economy, the next Labour government

aimed to transform the economy and

would work with the Co-operative Party

to form an implementation group to

test ideas and receive feedback from the

co-operative movement.

Speaking at the Labour Alternative

Forms of Ownership Conference, he

also announced that the Co-operative

Party has commissioned an independent

report from the New Economics

Foundation on how to expand the

co-operative sector

Responding to Mr McDonnell’s

speech, Co-operative Party general

secretary, Claire McCarthy, said: “We

warmly welcome Labour’s commitment

to significantly expand the co-operative

sector, and the central role co-operatives

will play in an economy where wealth and

power are more widely shared.”

She added: “The Co-operative Party has

commissioned an independent report to

explore what action a future government

could take to help double the size of the

co-operative movement.

“Separately, we will work closely

with the Labour Party to convene an

implementation group, which will ensure

the voice of the co-operative movement is

heard at the highest levels of the Labour

Party as it plans for government.

“These two initiatives, together

with [the] announcement on local

government, and the Co-operative Party’s

own forthcoming report on democratic

public ownership, demonstrate the

significant opportunities for the

co-op movement in the years ahead.

“The Co-operative Party looks forward

to working with partners in the wider

labour and co-operative movements

to make co-operation the template

for the kind of country that together

we will build.”

MARCH 2018 | 5


Co-op trade union

Naco votes to transfer

into Usdaw

A ballot of Naco (National Association

of Co-operative Officials) members has

resulted in 82% voting for a transfer

of engagements into Usdaw, the shop

workers’ trade union.

Naco began looking at a potential

transfer into Sata, the management arm

of Usdaw (Union of Shop, Distributive and

Allied Workers) in 2017, its centenary year.

The co-op trade union has represented

managers at the Co-op Group, Central

England, Channel Islands, Chelmsford

Star, East of England, Heart of

England, Lincolnshire, Midcounties,

Scotmid and Southern. It has also

worked with other co-ops including the

Phone Co-op, Co-operatives UK, the

Co-operative College and Well Pharmacy,

but had seen membership fall.

This year’s ballot, which had a 24%

turnout, means the transfer to Usdaw

will go ahead. The trade union is hopeful

that the transfer will be effective from

Tuesday, 1 May 2018.

“While this is a sad day for Naco, having

celebrated our centenary last year, the

p Naco, the co-op trade union, represented workers from the Co-op Group, Scotmid and

Chelmsford Star among others

transfer into the Sata section of Usdaw

is a necessary and positive move,” said

Bob Lister, Naco interim general secretary.

“It means Naco members will continue

to be protected by a strong and respected

voice within the co-op movement, where

both our unions have represented staff for

many years. The Naco membership have

given us a clear mandate to do what they

believe is in the best interests of all. It has

been a challenging few months to get

to this position, but we’re now looking

forward to a very positive future.”

Usdaw is the UK’s fifth biggest trade

union, with over 430,000 members.

It is also the fastest growing, with

membership increasing by more than 28%

over the last decade.

“We are delighted that Naco has opted

to transfer into Usdaw and we welcome

their members to our union,” said John

Hannett, Usdaw general secretary.

“This decision ensures Naco members

have the backing of an experienced and

knowledgeable trade union. Usdaw has

had a long relationship with the Co-op,

we understand the business and already

represent tens of thousands of their staff.

That means we can hit the ground running

when Naco members join us in May.”


New stores planned at

Central England


Chelmsford Star takes Co-op

Marque for funeral division

Central England Co-operative plans to

open 10 new stores and funeral homes

and revamp dozens more as part of an

investment plan for 2018.

The project will create hundreds of jobs

across its trading estate of 16 counties. The

society will open new stores and funeral

homes in Birmingham, Peterborough,

Yorkshire, Derby, Leicestershire,

Northamptonshire, Suffolk, and

Nottingham. Also, 10 stores and 20 funeral

homes will be given a makeover.

CEO Martyn Cheatle said:

“We are really proud of

the success of our food business ... in what

is a highly competitive and increasingly

uncertain trading environment. We want

to continue with that success and this is

why we are committed to an ambitious

growth and investment strategy.”

p Chelmsford

Star’s take on the


Chelmsford Star Society has rebranded its funerals division as

Co-op Funeral Directors – and each of its eight branches has

been named after the community it serves.

The new branding is based on the Coop Marque, replacing its

previous dark blue with purple.

The project saw a “considerable” investment but was “deemed

necessary and appropriate by our members”, said Kevin Bennett,

head of membership and marketing. He said the old Chelmsford

Star name had caused confusion for branches elsewhere in the

trading area and made them heard to find online. “Now, each

of the branches is named after the area it is based in, similar to

our food stores, and so can be promoted online easier. It also

highlights our local, community-based approach.”

With regard to the Co-op Marque, Mr Bennett said: “This

is an existing, recognisable Marque we already believed

in. We didn’t take the ‘clover-leaf’ approach because there is

significant confusion surrounding co-operatives across the UK,

and we felt using it would add to that. The Marque is renowned

across the globe for its values, and we wanted to reflect our belief

in that movement.”

6 | MARCH 2018


Growth strategy sparks fierce debate at Phone Co-op AGM

The Phone Co-op’s four-year growth

strategy proved controversial at its AGM in

Sheffield on 3 February, with one member

attacking the plans as “reckless”.

But the co-op’s chair Jane Watts told the

News the changes were essential, adding:

“This is not only a strategy for growth, it is

a strategy for survival.”

The strategy involves major investments

in a bid to grow sales by 250% by 2021,

with a focus on values-led customers such

as housing, the third sector, co-ops and

local government.

Interim CEO Peter Murley told the AGM

the society was badly under-invested

in IT infrastructure, premises and staff

development and reward. The co-op

was over-exposed to low-margin and

competitive residential and personal

markets, he added, without the capacity

to offer compelling services to highermargin

business customers.

In order to move from a 70/30 split

of consumer/business customers to a

40/60 split in five years’ time, significant

investment was needed – implying three

years of trading losses, said Mr Murley.

A member asked what level the reserves

were at today and Per Simonsen, the

outgoing chief financial officer, confirmed

that in the first quarter of the new financial

year they had reduced from the £1m

reported in the accounts to approximately

£750,000. They would be reduced to zero

by the end of August.

The projected losses/profits in the

business plan were as follows: Year 1:

£1.12m loss; Year 2: £0.91m loss; Year 3:

£.26m loss; Year 4: £0.97m profit; Year 5:

£2.76m profit.

One member asked if a transfer of

engagements was being pursued. Mr

Murley responded that these options were

being explored all the time. Former Phone

Co-op director, Justin Anderson, asked if he

knew what a transfer of engagements was

in a co-op context (a takeover by another

society). Mr Murley said he did and that

he was exploring both receiving transfers

and pursuing a transfer of the Phone

Co-op to another society.

Members asked how this would be

funded once 20 years of reserve funds had

been lost. The response given was that

members’ capital would be spent.

One former director, Peter Turnbull,

described the Board’s plans as “reckless”,

while other members expressed the

opinion that pursuing growth for its own

sake was not in line with the society’s

ethos or necessary.

But Mr Murley said he didn’t believe

that standing still was an option given

the sub-scale nature of the society in the

markets where it operated.

Simon Blackley, former chair of the Phone

Co-op, presented a motion welcoming the

information shared but criticising the lack

of consultation with the members.

He reminded the meeting that the

society was preparing to spend its whole

accumulated reserves followed by a

significant proportion of the £7.5m of share

capital. Referring to the Co-operatives UK’s

Code of Best Practice on withdrawable

share capital, he reminded the board that if

25% or more than £1m of share capital was

at risk of being lost, the society was obliged

to suspend withdrawals.

When asked, the board did not indicate

whether share capital withdrawals were

likely to be suspended.

The motion was passed 79 to 12. At the end

of the meeting, Simon Blackley circulated a

requisition for a special meeting to vote on

a motion of no confidence in the board.

The meeting also saw Nick Thompson

announced as chief executive; he was due

to take up the post on 19 February. The

following day, at the organisation’s board

meeting, Jane Watts was appointed chair.

Replying to Co-op News’s online report

of the meeting, Ms Watts said: “We have to

refocus our business to allow us to compete

in less price-sensitive market sectors,

which will provide us with the profits we

need to survive and go forward.

“We will never compromise our

co-operative values. As a co-op, our

business is owned by our members, and

their investment in The Phone Co-op,

both financial and practical, is key to our

success. However, the time has come for us

to face the issues that, if ignored, will very

likely lead to the failure of the business.

“Our five-year strategy therefore

addresses the need for investment

in systems, people, premises and

infrastructure. It also reflects the fact that

our customer demographic is changing

and that we have to refocus our plans to be

‘where our customers are’.”

She added: “This is not only a strategy

for growth, it is a strategy for survival. We

have reached a position where business

turnaround is the only option. We are

competing in a consumer market which is

increasingly price sensitive and in which,

with under 30,000 customers, we can only

ever be a niche player.

“We have a real opportunity to position

the Phone Co-op as the provider of choice

for socially responsible businesses, co-ops

and small corporates and our plan is

formulated to target these potential

customers. To succeed, we need to

take more risk, but the board and the

management team firmly believes it is a risk

that will pay off within five years.”

She said a special general meeting

had been called for Saturday, 28 April in

Sheffield, with all members invited, to

ensure adequate debate about the strategy.

“Talking, listening and debating are the

essence of a co-operative business and we

are keen to tell members more about our

plans and, equally important, hear their

feedback, listen to their concerns and

address them,” she added.

MARCH 2018 | 7


Co-op Energy leads the way

on scrapping standard

variable tariffs

Co-op Energy has become the first big

energy supplier to scrap standard variable

tariffs (SVTs) for customers on a fixed deal.

This means the supplier, owned by

Midcounties Co-op, will no longer switch

customers to its Green Pioneer SVT once

their fixed-price tariff ends. They will

instead be shifted to a new fixed tariff,

which will run until May 2019, with no

exit fees. The new tariff is around £100 a

year cheaper than Co-op Energy’s SVT and

“guarantees 100% clean energy”.

The adjustment applies to customers

whose fixed deals have ended since 31

December 2017. While fixed tariffs have a

set price for a certain period such as one

or two years, SVT costs are variable, so

the rate paid by customers varies as well

– making them more expensive.

The change follows the government’s

pledge to cap SVTs. A 2017 report into

the energy market by the Competition

and Markets Authority estimated the

detriment from excessive prices to the

domestic customers of the Big Six energy

firms to be about £1.4bn a year between

2012 and 2015.

A Co-op Energy spokesman said: “From

31 December last year, all customers who

do not switch to an alternative tariff when

their fixed tariff ends are automatically

moved onto our new Co-op Fixed Green

Energy May 19 v2 fixed-price default tariff.

“This ensures customers who have

chosen a fixed tariff in the past get the

peace of mind that the price on their new

tariff will currently be fixed until May 2019.”

Meanwhile, Hull & East Yorkshire Credit

Union (HEYCU) has partnered with Co-op

Energy to reduce energy bills.

HEYCU, established by volunteers in

1999, has 12,500 adult and 1,500 junior

members with combined savings of £10m.

Under Co-op Energy’s Co-operative

Energy Saving Initiative, it has installed

22 solar panels, LED lighting and internal

insulation. This could generate nearly

5,000kWh, worth up to £800, a year.

The initiative is designed to combat

climate change by helping individuals,

community groups and small businesses

reduce their energy consumption and

bills. It offers advice and smart technology,

supports community energy generation

and works with government funding

schemes such as ECO subsidies and

the Feed-in Tariff. It has also launched

an online shop where customers can

purchase energy-efficient LED bulbs.

“Our project with HEYCU shows

what can be achieved when we work

collaboratively to help shape the future

of energy generation,” said Martin Cook,

affiliates manager at Co-op Energy.

John Smith, CEO of HEYCU, said: “The

scheme is a fantastic initiative and made

us realise that, even as a relatively small

organisation, we can play an important

part in tackling climate change.”


Mark Lyonette is leaving ABCUL

Mark Lyonette is to leave the role of chief

executive at the Association of British

Credit Unions (Abcul) in May.

Mr Lyonette, who has been with Abcul

for more than 20 years, will move to the

National Pharmacy Association as chief

executive in June.

During his time at the trade body,

membership has almost quadrupled and

assets have grown nearly 900%. He helped

secure legislative reform for credit unions

and maintain proportionate regulation

following the 2008 financial crisis.

Mr Lyonette was also chief executive of

Abcul’s subsidiary, Cornerstone Mutual

Services, which is delivering the Credit

Union Expansion Project on its behalf. The

government-funded project was designed

to provide a core new banking system

and mobile app for credit unions. So far,

only three credit unions of the 35 which

signed up for the platform have gone live.

“It has been a great pleasure to have

been part of the growth of the credit

union movement for so many years,”

said Mr Lyonette. “We have achieved a

huge amount working together with our

members. It has been a privilege and an

honour to have had the opportunity to

serve our members, their credit unions

and the sector as a whole.

“I will be sad to leave the sector and

many friends after so many years but I

leave behind me a strong management

team which is dedicated to providing an

excellent service to members, day in and

day out. I have every confidence that the

association and the movement will go

from strength to strength.”

Abcul president Robert Kelly said:

“I would like to pay tribute to Mark’s

huge contribution to the development

of the credit union sector in Britain. He

has dedicated such significant time and

p Mark Lyonette spent 13 years as chief

executive of the trade body

energy to developing our organisation

and wider sector ... His strategic vision,

leadership and desire for collaboration

will be missed and we wish him every

success in his future endeavours.”

He added: “The Abcul board is firmly

focused on ensuring the transitional

period is delivered in the most effective

way possible as we continue to meet

member needs.”

8 | MARCH 2018


The Co-op Group’s Local Community Fund is open for applicants...

Could your cause apply?

Local causes that want to bring people and

communities together are being invited to

apply for funding from the Co-op Group.

The Co-op’s Local Community Fund has

helped raise £22m for over 8,000 causes

since launching in September 2016.

This month, the Fund is opening for its

fourth round – and this time is encouraging

more causes than ever to apply.

While previously only registered charities

could apply for the funding, the Group

is now opening up applications to other

small, locally focused organisations –

including other co-ops.

The Fund takes the 1% raised by

members buying Co-op own branded

products and services and adds in the

money raised from the 5p carrier bag

levy. This money is distributed to causes

in 1500 local communities, grouped

geographically around Co-op Food stores

and Funeral Homes.

Applications are reviewed by the Group

and the Charities Aid Foundation, and

three are chosen for each community.

Members located in that community

can choose which one their 1% goes

to, with any unallocated money

split between the three causes at the end

of the cycle.

The fourth cycle opens on 5 March,

and the Group is looking for projects

that bring people together, meeting

co-operative values. As well as charities,

this could be social enterprises,

not-for-profit organisations, co-operatives

and other small, locally focussed

organisations (with a turnover of

under £1m).

• Causes can apply between 5 March

and 7 April 2017. For more details, visit


What else is happening at the Group?

NEW-LOOK NAPPIES: The Co-op Group is relaunching its baby care range for a new

generation of parents – starting with nappies. Working with design agency Robot

Food and children’s book illustrator, Jim Field, the Group aims to spark an emotional

connection with mums and dads, built on the real experience of parenthood.

TRAVEL INSURANCE SHAKE-UP: Co-op Insurance has entered the travel insurance market

in a bid to “disrupt the sector by offering a new product shaped by its members”. Its

new product includes cashless medical expenses for all ages and medical conditions,

meaning customers will not have to pay out themselves for any medical treatment –

“a first for the general insurance market”.

MODERN SLAVERY: The Group is urging support for a bill to help victims of modern slavery. Introduced by Lord McColl, the private

member’s bill calls for increasing the period of time during which victims receive support from 45 days to a year. The retailer will also

be offering a victim of modern slavery a job at one of its shops in Scotland. Fifteen survivors have already secured a job with the Co-op

in England as part of its Bright Future employment programme.

ENERGY DRINKS: A voluntary ban on the sale of energy drinks to under-16s has been imposed by the Co-op amid health concerns.

The age restriction, which will apply to 39 products containing more than 150mg of caffeine per litre, will come into force in March


FOOD FOR THOUGHT: A £50m investment to cut the cost of everyday food has been announced by the retailer, with some products

have been reduced in price by more than 40%. In another initiative, it is trialling a delivery service in Manchester in partnership with

Deliveroo. The initial trial will focus on beers, wines and spirits as well as snacks and confectionary.

BED MARKET: The Co-op Group has launched on online beds shop in an attempt to take a share of

a market worth £1.6bn – and which is growing at 3% a year. The retailer first sold beds in 1904, and

it has re-entered the market by forming a strategic partnership with British bed brand Silentnight.

Its website, beds.coop.co.uk, offers beds, headboards and mattresses with free delivery, a 14-day

cancellation policy and a five-year guarantee.

FAIRTRADE ROSES: The Group has become the first retailer to only use 100% Fairtrade roses in all of

its flower bouquets, when sourced from Africa. It has also pledged a £30K donation, generated by the

overall sales of Co-op’s Fairtrade roses in February and March, to help graduate nurses and deliver

improvement to the maternity services at the hospital serving the flower-growing community hospital

of Naivasha, Kenya.

MARCH 2018 | 9


New co-op could take the place of Colman’s Mustard in Norwich

After the shock announcement in January

that Unilever plans to close Colman’s

Mustard factory in Norwich in 2019, steps

are being taken to set up a communityowned


The condiment is an iconic brand for

the town, where it has been produced for

more than 200 years. Colman’s of Norwich

was founded by Jeremiah Colman in 1814,

after he created a tangy recipe mixing

white and brown mustard at a water mill

near the town.

Operations moved to the current

Colman’s site in the 1860s, not long after

the brand developed its classic yellow

packaging and bull’s head logo. It also

wove itself into the life of the town, with

philanthropic efforts including a school

for workers’ children and a nurse for

staff who fell ill.

In 1995 the brand was taken over

by Unilever, which helped mustard

growers to form the English Mustard

p Robert Ashton checks out local coverage

of the mustard co-op

Growers Co-operative in 2009 as a grower

supply group.

But in December, Unilever announced

plans to move operations to Burton on

Trent and Germany, and said the Norwich

factory would close in 2019.

The news was met with dismay – and

also sparked a conversation between

Cllr Steve Morphew, leader of the Labour

group on Norfolk County Council, and

local social entrepreneur, Robert Ashton,

about the possibility of a new communityowned

mustard brand.

This video posted on LinkedIn attracted

5,000 views in four days. An online survey

was completed by more than 100 people

and, after reports in the local press,

public support began to build for the

idea of Norwich Mustard as a community

-owned co-operative.

Mr Ashton said: “This would put

ownership of the new brand firmly

with the people of Norwich. This would

prevent it ever leaving the city, as all the

shareholders will be local, or at least

people passionate about Norwich and of

course, its mustard tradition.

“The early success of this campaign

shows that the appetite for communityled

co-operatives is strong.”

A crowdfunding campaign which hopes

to raise £6,000 to fund the set up of the

co-operative, and the development of a

deliverable business plan, raised 20% of

the total in the first 24 hours.

Power to Change, a Lottery-backed body

which supports community business,

has agreed to match fund the campaign

with a grant.

Once the share issue has been

completed in the spring, the two founders

intend to hand control to a board of

directors elected by the shareholders.

Mr Ashton added: “I’ve long been a

fan of community-owned co-operatives.

It’s a fair, open and enterprising way

that people who feel strongly about

something can stop sounding off and do

something positive. The story of Colman’s

Mustard leaving Norwich is just such

an opportunity.

“I believe that with the right people

in the team, we can create a new local

mustard brand that keeps the history

alive, in a contemporary, sustainable way.

“I don’t see Norwich Mustard competing

with Colman’s, but as a 21st century

opportunity to create a new brand that

excites, delights and can return modest

dividends to those who buy shares.”

Mr Ashton is now looking for a farmer

to grow mustard seed so a product can be

made to test demand, and for a premises

to manufacture the condiment.

10 | MARCH 2018

Dairy co-op Arla announces massive UK investment


Focus on local produce

sees Midcounties

store named best

supermarket in England

A store opened in the Cotswolds last

October by Midcounties Co-op has

been named the best in England, and

one of Europe’s finest, by industry

experts IGD.

The Bourton-on-the-Water store, the

result of a £4.9m investment by the society,

is the only supermarket in England to

make it into the grocery researcher’s ‘Top

14 Stores to See in Europe’ report.

The eco-friendly store was selected

for its focus on sourcing local produce,

which the report highlighted as one way

to create “a compelling point of difference

for smaller retailers needing to stand out

from larger competitors”.

The report also praised in-store cooking

demonstrations that celebrate seasonal

dishes and local ingredients, and

described the unique products available

on the delicatessen counter as a “major

draw for customers”.

Experts highlighted the TV showing

local supplier stories as a stand-out

feature and said the store’s premium

feel, created by the high-quality fit out,

made for an “inspiring environment

for shoppers”.

Phil Ponsonby, chief executive (trading)

at Midcounties, said: “This is a fantastic

achievement for our Bourton Food store,

especially considering we only opened

last year. The Best of Our Counties range

is all about celebrating the food and

drink available in our communities and

supporting the talented local suppliers

behind the products. It’s great to hear

that organisations like IGD appreciate this

initiative and value local produce as much

as we do.”

Farmer-owned dairy co-op Arla has

announced a £72m investment plan for

its UK operation this year. The move will

see 10 sites across the country upgraded,

with new technology and expanded and

improved production capacity. This is the

latest announcement in the company’s

Strategy 2020 growth plans.

SAOS conference examines the future of co-operation

Over 120 farmers and agriculture

practitioners met in Dunblane on 25

January for the annual conference of the

Scottish Agricultural Organisation Society

(SAOS). As well as discussing the role of

co-operation in agriculture, they looked at

the future of the sector in Scotland.

2018 Co-op Education Conference to look at co-op skills

The 2018 Co-operative Education and

Research Conference takes place on 1-2

May at Federation in Manchester. The

conference will have two main strands:

The Co-operative University; and Learning

for New Co-operative Times. Over the two

days there will be panels discussions,

workshops and the presentation of

papers. u Read more on p46.

Three energy co-ops acquire Mear Moor Farm in Cumbria

Three renewable energy co-operatives

have brought Mean Moor wind farm in

Cumbria. A total of £2.8m was raised to

refinance the wind farm, which is the

first in the country to be transferred to

community ownership from a commercial

developer. Over 400 individuals

invested in the scheme, with a minimum

investment of £500 and a maximum

investment capped at £50,000.

Scotmid raises £120K to fund 24,000 Samaritans calls

Scotmid Co-operative has raised £121,000

for Samaritans, its charity partner of

the year. The money raised will fund an

additional 24,200 calls to the suicide

prevention charity from Scots who may

be struggling to cope. Over the next six

months the partnership hopes to raise

a further £180,000, to ensure the 19

Samaritans branches in Scotland can

keep their doors open.

MARCH 2018 | 11


Maximising Dignity through the Social and Solidarity Economy

p The SUSY Group in Brussels

In February 2015, 26 partners from 23

European countries – including the UK’s

Co-operative College – developed an EUfunded

project to promote the SUstainable

and Solidarity economY (SUSY). Since

then, the project has been mapping and

connecting initiatives working in the

Social and Solidarity Economy (SSE),

hosting training and awareness activities,

and promoting alternative methods of

production and distribution.

On 23 January 2018, as the project

ended, the SUSY consortium presented a

policy paper at the European Parliament

in Brussels that looked at ‘Maximizing

Dignity through the Social and

Solidarity Economy’.

The paper is the result of three years

of exchanges among the SUSY partners,

and sets out a series of demands, covering

regulation of the private sector; putting

people and the environment at the

centre of decision making; human rights;

biodiversity and ecosystems; financial

transparency and accountability; and the

creation of sustainable prosperity for all.

“It’s inspirational to discover how

SSE initiatives are responding to current

global issues and to see how many have

arisen in Europe and in the world in

the last few decades,” says Dr Amanda

Benson, SUSY lead at the Co-operative

College. “In Europe, it’s estimated there

are approximately two million SSE

organisations. Roughly speaking that’s

about 10% of all companies, employing

over 11 million people (the equivalent

of 6% of the working population of the

European Union).

“Over the course of the project it has

become clear that in order to effectively

fight the root causes of global poverty

and inequality, the entire system

needs to change.”

The project’s closing event in Brussels

was hosted by the Italian MEP Elly

Schlein (Progressive Alliance of Socialist

& Democrats) – with the participation

of Giorgio Menchini (COSPE), Marina

Sarli (Fair Trade Hellas), Kasia Hanula-

Bobbitt (CONCORD Europe) and

Jason Nardi (RIPESS). The discussion

focused on the SSE and its role in the

implementation of the 2030 Agenda. In

particular, it dealt with how the SSE can

represent a model for the private sector

in the transition towards a sustainable

economy, drawing from SUSY’s concrete

experiences in the field.

Many of these experiences have been

collated online. The SUSY website has

published international research on SSE

significant practices (‘Transformative

economy: opportunities and challenges

of the Social and Solidarity Economy

in 55 territories in Europe and in the

world’), a map showing more than 1,500

SSE initiatives, and 60 films on SSE

significant practices.

“As part of the project, the

Co-operative College developed three

best-practice films, which can be found

on the project’s YouTube channel,” said

Dr Benson. “These focused on CASA,

Shared Interest and Ellon Hinengo Ltd

(looking at best practice in Car Nicobar

coconut co-operatives).

“We also delivered training, events

and workshops on different aspects of

the Social and Solidarity Economy, and

last year hosted the speaker tour, which

saw speakers from Palestine and India

share their SSE experiences at events over

Fairtrade Fortnight.”

In addition, the college hosted

two film festivals, in Manchester and

Hebden Bridge, which combined the

SUSY documentaries with other films

to complement different themes, such

as the success of community currencies

strengthening local economies in the UK,

Switzerland and Brazil, a celebration of

people living on the Turkish Black Sea,

and the ‘Untouchable’ mayor of a village

council in India.

u For more information on the project,

and to download the full policy

paper presented in Brussels, visit


12 | MARCH 2018


Nationwide Foundation

gives £1m to help grow

community housing

The Nationwide Foundation is awarding

over £1m to six organisations to support

the growth of UK community-led housing.

This will fund support and advice to

community-led housing groups, enabling

them to deliver more decent, affordable

homes for people in need. While the

community-led housing sector is growing,

the Foundation says there is a “desperate

lack of support” which can bring projects

to a stand still.

“We envisage a future where communityled

housing is thriving and where many

more people, especially those in housing

need, are living in homes that have

been created by the community,” said

Nationwide Foundation’s chief executive,

Leigh Pearce. “The availability of help can

make or break whether a much-needed

scheme can get off the ground. We want to

ensure that community groups can realise

their vision and ultimately enable local

people to establish settled lives.”

The Nationwide Foundation was

established by Nationwide Building

Society in 1997 as a fully independent

corporate foundation. Its vision is for

everyone in the UK to have access to

a decent home that they can afford; it

launched the Decent Affordable Homes

strategy in 2013 and is committed to this

strategy until 2026.

The six recipients of the grant will

offer information, support, advice and

technical expertise. The focus will

be on making sure community groups

can deliver homes that are both decent

and affordable and meet the needs of

their communities.

The National Community Land

Trust Network enable support

for community housing in places

where it is not yet available, and

increasing the quality of advice given.

Alongside this, Action with Communities

in Rural England will train a network

of advisors, raising their awareness

and improving their knowledge of

community-led housing.

Four regional support hubs will use

the grant to strengthen and diversify the

services they offer.

They are:

• Dumfries and Galloway Small

Communities Housing Trust,

working in the south of Scotland

• Highlands Small Communities

Housing Trust, working in the central

belt cities and everywhere north

in Scotland

• Lincolnshire Community Land Trust

CIC, covering East Midlands and south

of the Humber

• Wessex Community Assets, covering

Devon, Dorset and Somerset


William George (Bill) Hall

1931 - 2018

By Peter Dean, friend, former co-op

director and former regional secretary


The co-operative and Labour

communities in Derby are mourning

the death of a very active member, Bill

Hall, on 3 January – three days before

his 87th birthday.

Bill was a main board member of the

former Derby & Burton, East Midlands,

Central Midlands and Midlands

Co-operative Societies, firstly as an

employee and latterly as an elected

lay member. He was a fearless and

tireless campaigner for workers’ rights

and always topped the employee

director poll. After leaving the board

under the former age rule he continued to

ask difficult questions of management at

members’ meetings.

For many years Bill was both the

Derby and regional chair of USDAW

(the Union of Shop, Distributive and

Allied Workers) and attended the

conference every year, making

regular rostrum contributions. He

negotiated wage deals with the

Co-operative Employers Association and

was not known for compromising.

Bill was a great debater and noted for his

wit – and it amused him as a republican

that for many years he was store

manager at Prince Charles Avenue

in Derby.

He was also chair of the Derby

Co-operative Party over several decades

and an executive committee member of

Derby Area TUC.

Bill was a very active director of Derby

Playhouse and loved the theatre and

cinema. He also sat on a benefits appeals

tribunal where he tried to assist needy


Reading was one of Bill’s greatest

passions and he was self-taught on

philosophy, sociology and politics.

He read avidly on politics and was a

great admirer of Tony Benn. Bill was

vehemently opposed to apartheid

and was a leading campaigner for the

co-op movement’s boycott. In the

early 1980s he joined the Labour

Party and became a valued canvasser

and leafleteer in his ward and


As was said at his funeral, “the worst

insult you could make to him was to call

him ‘moderate’”.

His funeral was attended by family,

friends and Labour and trade union

colleagues, the chief executive

and president of Central England

Co-operative, Derby South MP Dame

Margaret Beckett and her husband Leo,

and Derby North MP Chris Williamson.

Tributes were paid by his sister Dorothy

and two friends.

MARCH 2018 | 13



Theme and slogan announced for 2018 International Day of Co-operatives

This year’s International Day of

Co-operatives (IDC) will highlight how

co-operation can lead to

sustainable societies. The slogan

for the day – Sustainable societies

through co-operation – was chosen via

a public vote following a social media

campaign on Twitter.

The theme was chosen to complement

that of the 2018 High-level Political Forum

p Image: Catarina Santos/ICA

for Sustainable Development (HLPF):

"Transformation towards sustainable

and resilient societies".

The day, celebrated annually since

1995 to raise awareness of co-operatives,

is held on the first Saturday of July,

which falls on 7 July 2018.

“We believe that co-operatives are an

important and efficient instrument to

fight poverty,” said Ariel Guarco,

president of the Alliance, who

attended the IDC launch meeting at the

UN headquarters in New York.

He added: “Co-operatives bring

people together in a democratic

and equal way. They allow

people to take control of their

economic future and, because they

are not owned by shareholders, the

economic and social benefits of their

activity stay in the communities where they

are established.

“These are two very important

characteristics of co-operatives especially

when it comes to fighting poverty.”

The launch event was organised

by the Committee for the Promotion

and Advancement of Cooperatives

(COPAC), in the framework of

the 56th session of the Commission for

Social Development. COPAC is made

up of the International Co-operative

Alliance, the International Labour

Organization, the Food and Agricultural

Organisation, the United Nations

Department of Economic and Social

Affairs (UNDESA), and the World

Farmers’ Organisation (WFO).

Mr Guarco also presented some of

the latest results of the online platform

Coops for 2030, which features

pledges that co-operatives from

around the world make regarding the

Sustainable Development

Goals (SDGs). So far around

100 co-operatives from 40 countries

have made 300 pledges using

the platform.

The Phone Co-op

is looking for a

Society Secretary

Vacancy: Society Secretary

Location: Oxfordshire, Manchester or flexible

by negotiation

Salary: £38,000 - £40,000

(pro rata)

This is a strategic role at the heart of the Phone Co-op’s

governance, providing an important link between the

members, Board of Directors, Chief Executive and

senior management team.

To find out more about this exciting role,

please visit: s.coop/phonecoopsecretary

To apply, please email your CV and covering letter to:

jeni.yeung@thephone.coop by 9 March 2018


Diana Dovgan appointed CECOP –


secretary general

The boards of CECOP – CICOPA Europe (the European

Confederation of worker, social and producers’ cooperatives

active in industry and services) and CICOPA (the international

organisation of industrial and service co-operatives) have

appointed Diana Dovgan as secretary general.

She has spent a decade as senior policy officer at the

organisation, and will assume her new position on 1 March. She

takes over the role from Bruno Roelants, who joined the

International Co-operative Alliance as director general

in January.

“After 10 years as policy officer in both organisations, I have

developed a sound and sincere belief in the co-operative model,”

Ms Dovgan said. “I am happy and honoured to pursue my

career in advocating the causes CECOP – CICOPA Europe and

CICOPA are standing by, such as worker-ownership and

social justice.”

In a joint statement, CECOP – CICOPA Europe’s president,

Giuseppe Guerini and CICOPA’s president, Manuel Mariscal

said. “We believe Diana Dovgan is the right person to build

upon Bruno’s achievements and at the same time bring new

ideas and vision to our co-operative movement.”

14 | MARCH 2018


US senator stirs debate over tax exemption for federal credit unions

Credit unions in the USA are defending

their right to federal tax exemption,

following questions raised by Senate

Finance Committee chair, Orrin Hatch.

Federal credit unions across the

country are currently exempt from federal

corporate income tax on the grounds that

they operate on a not for profit basis,

are organised without capital stock, and

operate for mutual purposes.

However, state credit unions pay

unrelated business income tax on income

from activities not related to their taxexempt

purpose. The tax exemption is

valued at $2.9bn a year, according to the

Joint Committee on Taxation.

On 31 January, Mr Hatch sent a letter to

the National Credit Union Administration

(NCUA), in which he expressed concerns

that many credit unions are taken

further from their original tax-exempt

purpose. He added that recent actions

taken by the National Credit Union

Administration have relaxed the field

of membership constraints and lifted

limits on activities such as business

lending, which, argued the senator,

has traditionally been less associated with

the mission of tax-exempt credit unions.

He claimed that other activities carried

out by some credit unions are “beyond the

scope of their original mission”, such

as offering insurance products, real

estate brokering and wealth management.

p Republican senator Orrin Hatch

p The Capitol building, home of the United States Congress

The letter also asked the NCUA to

explain various aspects related to its role

in overseeing credit unions.

Responding to Mr Hatch, the National

Association of Federally-Insured Credit

Unions (NAFCU) executive vice president

of government affairs and general counsel,

Carrie Hunt, sent a letter that advocated

for preserving the exemption.

“The credit union tax exemption has

long provided tremendous value to credit

union members and the overall economy

of the United States”, wrote Ms Hunt.

“An independent study of the benefits of

the exemption found that it provides a

$16bn per year benefit to the US economy.

Removing the tax exemption would prove

detrimental to the economy over the next

10 years through: $38bn in lost income tax

revenue; $142bn in reduced GDP; and the

elimination of nearly 900,000 jobs.”

The letter makes the case for credit

unions to continue to be supervised by

an independent NCUA and clarified that

the NCUA’s regulations are in accordance

with the Federal Credit Unions Act.

NAFCU argues that without the tax

exemption, credit unions could lose

their identity and may need to adjust

their savings and borrowings rates as

well as their ability to raise capital and

attract volunteers.

Another response to the senator’s letter

came from Jim Nussle, president and chief

executive of the Credit Union National

Association (CUNA).

Writing to Mr Hatch, he said: “In the

aftermath of the financial crisis, more

Americans are choosing credit unions as

their best financial partner. In fact, more

than 12 million Americans have joined

credit unions since 2008. Some may have

joined because their bank failed, moved

or was acquired by another institution;

and others may have joined because they

grew frustrated with the policies and fees

of the for-profit sector.

“What is important is that when they

needed an alternative, a healthy credit

union system with the capacity to grow

was ready to serve them, and as credit

union members, they benefit from

conducting their financial services with

an institution that they own. The credit

union tax status is crucial to encourage

and support the continued existence of

this alternative, co-operative component

of the financial system and we thank the

Committee for preserving the existing

credit union federal income tax status.”

However, Senator Hatch’s letter

was welcomed by the Independent

Community Bankers of America (ICBA),

which represents smaller banks.

“Large, multi-bond and geographicbased

credit unions have exceeded their

statutory mission and use their taxexempt,

government-subsidised status

to gain competitive advantage over

taxpaying community banks,” said ICBA

president, Camden Fine, in a statement.

“Senator Hatch’s comments echo the

ICBA’s belief that the credit union model

has become outdated and that its charter,

purpose and tax-exempt status should be

reviewed by Congress."

MARCH 2018 | 15

p Rabobank head quarters in Utrecht


Rabobank National Association pays $360m to settle laundering case

A subsidiary of Dutch financial

co-operative Rabobank has pleaded

guilty to trying to obstruct the regulator’s

examination of its operations throughout

California. Rabobank National

Association (RNA) will also pay a $360m

fine for having processed funds from

likely illicit activities.

The case concerned transactions

processed between 2009 and 2012. In

pleading guilty, Rabobank admitted that

its deficit anti money laundering (AML)

programme led to hundreds of millions of

dollars in untraceable cash, sourced from

Mexico and elsewhere, to be deposited

into its rural bank branches in Imperial

County and transferred without proper

notification to federal regulators, as

required by law.

According to a statement published

by the Department of Justice, when

the bank’s regulator, the Office of the

Comptroller of the Currency, examined its

Bank Secrecy Act (BSA) and anti-money

laundering compliance programme in

2012, Rabobank executives “sought to

hide and minimise the deficiencies”.

“When Rabobank learned that

substantial numbers of its customers’

transactions were indicative of

international narcotics trafficking,

organised crime and money laundering

activities, it chose to look the other way

and to cover up deficiencies in its antimoney

laundering programme,” said

Acting Assistant Attorney General Cronan.

Worse still, Rabobank took steps to

obstruct an examination by its regulator

into those same deficiencies. The integrity

of our financial system depends on prompt

reporting by banks and other financial

institutions of suspicious, potentially

criminal transactions, and on these

entities’ truthfulness and transparency

with their regulators. Rabobank’s

guilty plea today and forfeiture of more

than $360m is a warning to financial

institutions that there are significant

consequences for banks that engage in

obstructive conduct in an effort to hide

their anti-money laundering programme

failures from their regulators.

“Rabobank had an obligation to shine

light on suspected drug traffickers, money

launderers and organised crime,” said

US Attorney Braverman. “Instead, this

bank deliberately allowed hundreds of

millions of dollars of suspicious cash

transactions and wire transfers to flow

through its branches and took measures

to hide this activity from regulators. We

will vigorously protect the integrity of the

banking system, and we will not allow the

financial institutions in our communities

to play any role in facilitating international

money laundering or financing

transnational criminal organisations.”

The BSA requires financial institutions

to implement and maintain an AML

compliance programme that detects

suspicious activity indicative of money

laundering and other crimes and

assures and monitors compliance with

the BSA’s record-keeping and reporting

requirements, including reporting to

the US Department of the Treasury any

suspicious transactions.

Wiebe Draijer, chair of the Rabobank

Managing Board, said in a statement:

“The findings at our subsidiary RNA

relate to events that took place before

2014. The violations that took place are

serious, regrettable and unacceptable.

Rabobank is fully committed to

conducting business with the highest

levels of integrity, which includes strict

compliance with all applicable laws,

regulations and standards in each

of the markets and jurisdictions in

which it operates. Rabobank and RNA

co-operated fully with all authorities,

who specifically acknowledged the bank’s

co-operation. RNA, with the full support

and backing of Rabobank, has made

very strong efforts to strengthen its

internal controls and risk management

functions, which is also recognised

by the authorities.”

The settlement comes two months after

the former vice president of Rabobank,

George Martin, entered into a deferred

prosecution agreement in which he

admitted to his role in the bank’s

failure to maintain a proper anti-money

laundering programme.

16 | MARCH 2018


Ethiopia hosts

National Cooperative

Exhibition and hails

growth of sector

Ethiopia hosted its fifth annual National

Cooperative Exhibition, Bazaar &

Symposium earlier this month in capital

city Addis Ababa.

The event was led by the state Federal

Co-operative Agency, which works to

boost co-ops through developing their

market share and improving their legal


“The Agency has helped to build

more than 200 projects in education,

health, water, road and bridge building,”

Omar Surer, executive director of

co-operative unions, told delegates.

“It has benefited more than 225,000

citizens and has created job opportunities

for over 1.4 million citizens, with a special

focus on women and youth.”

The movement is being strengthened

with the development of co-operative

unions and associations. These provide

farmers with agricultural inputs such as

different chemicals and stronger crop

varieties, help to avoid higher payments

through market chain commissions, and

providing timely, cost-effective market

p The event was held in Ethiopia's capital, Addis Ababa

opportunities. They also work to stabilise

markets by controlling the price and

transporting produce directly from farms

– which also gives consumers access to

cheaper, fresher, standardised produce.

The Ethiopian Herald reported that the

number of co-op associations grew from

245 in 2010 to 381 in 2017. The number of

basic co-ops rose from 38,454 in 2010 to

82,089 in 2017. And the number of union

members of co-ops grew from 6,792 in

2010 to 14,135 in 2017.

“These developments of co-operative

associations, basic co-operatives and

unions encompass nearly 18 million

people as members,” the Herald added.

“About 30% of the members are female.”

Abdo Adem, plan, project and

information director at the Federal

Co-operative Agency, told the Herald

that co-op associations were developing

agricultural products and creating

market opportunities for producers and

consumers by expanding investment,

encouraging savings and supplying loans.

He said co-ops have contributed more

than $500m to the country’s export trade

over the past seven years but warned the

movement still faces barriers, including

a lack of awareness of co-operative

associations and a market network that

was not strong enough to meet demand.

There is also a lack of skilled manpower

in the administration of co-operative

structures, and not enough support for

the development of co-operatives, and

assistance for the co-ops over foreign

trade, he said.


Co-op bank promotes inclusion for India’s nomadic tribes

A co-operative bank in Gujarat is offering

accounts to members of nomadic tribes,

who have no permanent address or proof

of income, on the basis of trust.

The Kalupur Co-operative Bank in

Ahmedabad is the only independent bank

in the country to issue loans to members

of the Vimukta Jatis – who have taken

up around 600 of its 4,500 accounts

dedicated to microfinance, reports the

Hindustan Times.

Since 2006, the bank has issued

loans of Rs 50,000 to 100 nomadic

tribals to purchase houses under a

government scheme, and disbursed loans

of a maximum of Rs 25,000 to others

to expand their small businesses at a

10% rate of interest. The bank can issue

loans on trust because it has built up

p A nomadic tribe driving livestock through Gujarat

long-term relationships via the Vicharata

Samuday Samarthan Manch (VSSM),

an Ahmedabad-based organisation that

works with nomadic tribes, many of

whom are turning traditional practices

into businesses.

Bank staff join social workers from

the VSSM on visits to tribe members

to encourage to them to open savings

accounts. Many of them do not know what

a bank is, or fear being arrested if they try

to enter one. Others do not have a strong

concept of months or dates, making it

difficult to pay monthly instalments.

VSSM, founded by activist Mittal Patel

in 2004 to improve the status of India’s

nomadic tribes, sends workers to collect

instalments on loans, while the bank has

a mobile van unit that travels into the

rural areas to collect savings deposits.

MARCH 2018 | 17


Online training course to help the creation of new co-ops in Australia

An online course has been developed to

help people create co-op businesses – the

first initiative of its kind in Australia.

Developed by the government-backed

Farm Co-operative and Collaboration

Program (Farming Together), it features

an animated guide to help groups

understand collaborative business

structures, and compares co-ops with

incorporated associations.

With information on governance,

financing and member engagement, the

course comprises six 10-minute video

lessons with quizzes.

While it is designed for agricultural

groups, it is relevant for other potential

co-ops – such as housing or energy

co-ops – anywhere in Australia.

Participants who complete the course and

pass the tests will receive certification from

Farming Together.

The course, offers two versions: a

simpler ‘how-to’ course preview and the

full certification course, both of which

are free. The video lessons are self-paced,

you can begin and stop them at any

time and each lesson provides access to

support resources.

Farming Together programme director

Lorraine Gordon said: “If you’re thinking

about forming a co-op, becoming

a co-operative director, or if you’re just

curious about co-ops, this course provides

a broad and deep understanding of

what co-operatives

require and what

they deliver.

“Maybe you’ll

discover that a

co-op is not the best

platform for your

group, and that

you’d rather use a

different form of

collaboration. Or

maybe you’ll discover

the community-good

potential of a co-op beyond its immediate


“You could learn about how profits

get shared, how to develop your co-op’s

business plan or why different business

structures suit different collaboration

purposes. There is much to learn from this

information-rich resource.”

A second course, for groups already

registered as co-operatives and wanting to

understand how to operate successfully,

will be launched later this month.

The video course was produced

by Farming Together’s systems and

knowledge portal manager Dr Cathy

Byrne, assisted by Business Council of

Co-operatives and Mutuals consultants

and Australia’s foremost co-operative

law experts, Robyn Donnelly and

Elizabeth Makin.

Farming Together is a two-year, a

$13.8m initiative being delivered by

Southern Cross University on behalf of the

Australian government to help

agricultural groups value, secure

premium pricing, scale-up production,

attract capital investment, earn new

markets or secure lower input costs.

• Find the free course online at:



India’s first

transgender co-ops

announced in Kerala state

Co-operative societies are to be set up for

the transgender community in the Indian

state of Kerala.

The move was announced at the state’s

eighth Co-operative Congress, hosted in

the city of Kannur last weekend.

Kadakampally Surendran, minister

for co-operation in the Kerala state

government, said the decision would

help push forward welfare schemes

to improve the social status of

transgender people, help them find selfemployment

and become independent.

He said financial aid, including grants,

for the transgender community will be

dispensed through co-operative societies

– the first formed anywhere in India

for the transgender community.

The first societies will be created in

districts that would be able to muster the

necessary number of members to meet

the requirements of the Cooperatives

Societies Act.

This is the first time the congress has

been held in Kannur, which is seen as a

hub for co-operative activity in the state,

on India’s south-western Malabar coast.

Co-ops in the city cover a wide range of

areas, from poultry farms to dialysis units

offered to patients at subsidised rates.

Organisers believed this diversity made

it ideal for the this year’s event, which

looked at ways to expand the movement

into new areas of activity.

General convenor C Gireesan said: “The

co-operative sector cannot move ahead

with the credit system alone and hence we

have to diversify into more fields.”

Organisers said there was no co-op

policy for Kerala even though the state

has a strong sector. It was hoped the

3,000 delegates attending the conference

could contribute to a policy which will

eventually serve as a model for the whole

of India.

18 | MARCH 2018


Union Coop

will work with UAE

to maintain elderly

people's homes

Union Coop, the largest co-op in the

United Arab Emirates, has signed

an agreement with the Ministry of

Community Development to finance the

maintenance of elderly people’s homes.

The memorandum of understanding

was signed by Naji Al-Hai, assistant

under-secretary for the social development

sector, and Hareb Mohammed bin

Thani, director of operations at

Union Coop.

The project fits in with efforts by both

parties to recognise the centenary year

of the birth of the late Sheikh Zayed

bin Sultan Al Nahyan, the founding

father of the UAE.

Minister Al Hai said the agreement

“aims to achieve a decent life for

the people of the UAE, ensure the

provision of high-quality social services,

galvanising the community partnership

between the various sectors in the

country and consolidating the role they

play in social responsibility”.

Mohammed Hareb bin Thani said the

Union Coop is working with the ministry

to drive social development by helping

community members through the

maintenance of the houses of the needy.

“This would promote social

solidarity as well as co-operation

between the two sectors to enhance our

society,” he said.

Last year, Union Coop signed an

agreement with the ministry to support

the Hydroponic Agriculture Project,

to help develop skills in the industry.

Kenya Co-operative Bank wins financial sustainability award

The Co-operative Bank of Kenya was

the big winner at the annual Kenya

Bankers Association (KBA) Awards for

the year 2017. This year the awards were

themed around recognising “catalytic

finance” that impacts industry, economy

and society. An independent panel of

judges assessed the entries in the three


French co-ops contribute to debate on enterprise law reform

As the French government is setting out an

action plan for growing and transforming

enterprises, the co-operative movement

has shared its views on enterprise reform.

The national federation for co-ops,

Coop FR, has published a statement

highlighting the specific nature of the

co-op model, which it says focuses on

working together.

Coop Sweden’s profit down in spite of sales increase

Scandinavian retail co-operative Coop

Sweden has witnessed an increase in

sales, making profit for the third year in

a row. However, profits dropped during

2017, following a rebranding of one third

of its branches. Magnus Johansson, chief

executive emphasised the main aim for

2013 would be to increase sales and break

down negative trends.

Crédit Agricole co-op reports strong results in 2017

French co-operative bank Crédit Agricole

has performed well in spite of taxrelated

challenges. The mutual, which

is the largest co-operative in the world

by turnover, has witnessed a 33% jump

in its quarterly profit. The most recent

report published by the co-op shows its

fourth quarter net income has increased

to €387m.

Dairy co-op Fonterra joint venture with Russian distributor

New Zealand dairy co-op Fonterra and

Foodline, one of Russia’s largest food

distributors, have launched a new joint

venture in Russia, called Unifood. Fonterra

says the joint venture formalises a longstanding

partnership which has seen

Foodline operate as the co-operative’s

primary distributor of butter and cheese

within the Russian Federation since 2005.

MARCH 2018 | 19


... Jo Bird, director of Co-operative

Business Consultants

Jo is a director of Co-operative Business Consultants, a co-operative

consortium of individuals and organisations committed to social justice

through solidarity co-ops, which has organised six Ways Forward conferences.

A leader of pro-democracy responses to situations in the co-operative

movement, she is also standing as a Labour & Co-operative candidate

in local elections in Eastham, Wirral on 3 May 2018.



Collective action is normal in my culture. My parents

raised me in the Woodcraft Folk, where we played

co-operative games in Birkenhead Co-op Hall. I

remember a mini-bus co-op taking our group – and

families of striking miners – to summer camps,

peace protests and picket lines.

As young adults and protesters, we were

vulnerable to private sector landlords and

prosecution. Housing co-operatives were the best

way to own and control our homes – as bases for

a better society and world. Setting up housing coops

was relatively easy thanks to advice and finance

from Radical Routes, a secondary co-op. Property

purchase was more affordable 25 years ago.

This co-op experience helped me gain employment

at the Co-operative Group’s Manchester head office

(1999-2003). I promoted co-operative solutions in

every sector – from care co-ops to car clubs – as

head of Co-operative Action, which later became the

Co-operative Enterprise Hub.

A solidarity visit to co-operators in Palestine-

Israel in 2002 inspired me to co-found the Olive

workers co-operative. We promoted responsible

tourism and fair trade through study visits to many

parts of the ‘Holy Land’ and crowd funded to replace

destroyed olive trees. We also worked with Zaytoun

CIC to bring fairly traded Palestinian olive oil and

other products to the UK market.



It’s a privilege to work with the Belfast Cleaning

Society. Members of this co-op come from




p Jo Bird [Photo: Jonathan Nicholson]

across divided and traumatised working class

communities. Since they started in 2012, I’ve seen

women become directors of their own workers

co-op, work together to sustain livelihoods, win

Living Wage awards, gain contracts in competition

with exploitative private sector agencies, and give

surplus to refugees. Belfast Cleaning Society are a

total credit to themselves and the co-op movement.


There’s no such thing as a typical day for me! I am

regularly talking with voters (stomping), meeting

elected politicians, speaking at events, raging about

injustice, and making people laugh in comedy

improvisation workshops.


As a director of Co-operative Business Consultants

(CBC), I loved supporting hundreds of new and

existing co-ops and credit unions in North West

England, Yorkshire and Northern Ireland. However,

most funding for co-op advice programmes has

been cut. All kinds of co-ops are struggling to access

experienced, principled advice on their unique

challenges around start up, decision making and

finance. CBC doesn’t work for the Hive programme

as it is funded by the “Co-operative” Bank.

It seems to me that the co-operative business

sector is like a flotilla of ships travelling on economic

seas. We have flagships, container ships, careful

20 | MARCH 2018


pilots, ferry boats, leisure cruisers, speed boats,

house boats, sail boats, life boats, rafts and ship

wrecks. We sometimes share crew members. Some

boats build and launch new boats. Some boats have

leaks. Brexit makes choppy water and uncertain

seas. Ways Forward conferences, organised by CBC,

are one way of signalling to each other, to offer and

receive solidarity.

The co-op flotilla gets undermined by

incompetent managers, fat cat captains and

organised pirates. My CBC colleague, Bob Cannell

calls them players, parasites and predators. Big

Finance has an insatiable appetite to privatise the

commons – trying to capture all assets held by

public and mutual sectors. Collectively, we need

better legal and political protection. Their policies

must be challenged, contained and replaced.




A lot has changed in the last few months for the

co-operative business sector. The General

Election was almost won by a mainstream party

with the most pro-co-op manifesto in living

memory. Labour’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn, agreed

with Conservative chancellor Philip Hammond,

saying “We are an existential threat to their

economic system.”

Also, the Co-op Bank has become 100% owned

by hedge funds – yet still misleads people by using

the Co-operative name. The crises at the Bank was

the reason CBC started organising Ways Forward

conferences four years ago.

I find the situation very hopeful and exciting

now. This period is our best chance in a

generation to mainstream co-operatives and

solidarity in the economy. Together we can do

this, if we are principled, put in the work and are

kind to each other.

For me, co-op solidarity means equality and

democracy, and working together for the common

good – alongside our sisters and brothers in

trade unions, political parties and other

organisations that share co-op values.

The new president of the International

Co-operative Alliance, Ariel Guarco, sent Ways

Forward 6 conference a video message .

He builds on his experience

with utilities co-ops and factories recovered

during Argentina’s economic crises. He says,

“We are the only economic model that pursues

economic actions based on mutual aid,

responsibility, solidarity, equity, equality and

democracy. We put the people in first place and this

is the reason why we exist.”


It’s good to see that the Co-op

Group is to open no fewer than

100 new food stores in 2018

(Co-op News, February 2018),

thus hopefully increasing the

co-operative presence in many


According to the Group’s

director of portfolio and

development, “we are always

looking for new locations

to get closer to where our

members and customers live

and work....”. In Leicester

and Chesterfield? These are areas where Central England Society and its

predecessors have had a major sustained presence for many many decades.

What does the Co-op Group hope to add to this presence? Are there

really lots of Co-op Group members in those locations clamouring for stores

operated by a different society to the local one?

Or is this really an attempt by the Group to muscle in once again on the

activities of an independent society and to achieve growth by undermining

their own efforts? Is this what co-operation is about?

Chris Godbold, Corby


I’m glad to read about Central England Co-op raising funds for defibrillators

during the last 12 months and installing them in various shops and similar

premises from the 5p levy on carrier bags (Co-op News, February 2018).

I hope they will carry on as it is vital to health and wellbeing. This donation

is value for money and gives people a chance in life.

But what we also need is is training for the people who are liable to use

them, as you can have a defibrillator but you don’t have someone who can

use it. Value for money, but we can do more.

David Treacher, Hull

RESPONSE FROM CENTRAL ENGLAND: After every device was installed,

special familiarisation sessions took place for staff at Society outlets, nearby

business, local residents and community groups to help people find out more

about the device and its ease of use.

Have your say

Add your comments to our stories online at www.thenews.coop, get in

touch via social media, or send us a letter. If sending a letter, please

include your address and contact number. Letters may be edited and

no longer than 350 words.

Co-operative News, Holyoake House, Hanover Street,

Manchester M60 0AS

@coopnews Co-operative News letters@thenews.coop

MARCH 2018 | 21

OPINION: Co-operatives have

a key role to play in the SSE revolution



Bob was a member of

Suma for 30 years and

co-founded Co-operative

Business Consultants in

2002. He was chair of the

former national worker

co-op association (ICOM)

and led the merger to

form Co-operatives UK

in 2001

In recent years, our world seems to have gone

crazy. First Brexit: whatever your opinion of the EU,

the way this decision was taken was a shambles

with unforeseen consequences that we are

only just becoming aware of. And then the

election of Donald Trump as president of the

United States, arguably an even greater

comedy of errors, accidents and naked selfinterest

by cabals and cliques who intend

to get rich at everyone else’s expense,

while the Donald fiddles.

We cannot afford to run our world in this

childish way. We and our children are facing some

of the biggest challenges in our human history –

population pressure, corporate takeover, gross

inequality, climate change, resource depletion,

land degradation, water shortages and more.

You know the story. We don’t need the depressing

litany. But we do need to tackle these challenges

together as co-operating grown ups. The

adolescence of the human species is over. It is time

to be responsible adults.

All over the world people are rising to this

challenge. Usually external to governments, this

means coming together in networks of co-operative

solidarity, linking up community and citizen




groups who are developing the new ways we must

use to live within our global means and preserve

human civilisation.

The name for these initiatives and their global

networks is the Social Solidarity Economy.

Co-operatives have a key role to play in the SSE

revolution because they offer a means of enterprise

that is under community control (in contrast to

rapacious corporate capitalism). But co-operatives

alone are not enough to stop the bully boy

madness of capitalism.

The global SSE network is the Intercontinental

Network for the Promotion of Social Solidarity

Economy (RIPESS). So far we have no RIPESS

representation in the UK. The RIPESS charter says:

“The Social Solidarity Economy is an alternative

to capitalism and other authoritarian economic

systems. In SSE, ordinary people shape all of

the dimensions of human life; economic, social,

cultural, political and environmental. SSE exists in

all sectors of the economy.”

At the end of March, representatives of some

400 organisations who identify with the Social and

Solidarity Economy are coming together in Wigan

at the first UK SSE activists conference at CTRL

Shift: an emergency summit for change.

Our objective is to network all those

organisations, and many more that are currently

striving in isolation, to create a national

movement for Social and Solidarity Economy

and join the European and global networks.

Then we can hope to provide a coherent and

co-operating alternative for normal people,

like you and I.

u Find out more at www.ctrlshiftsummit.org.uk

22 | MARCH 2018

The Ways Forward 6 Conference

The 2018 conference was held in Manchester on 16 February to discuss co-operative solidarity,

with a keynote speech from shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey and sessions on

technology and public service mutuals

Rebecca Long-Bailey: Labour would work with co-ops to change the economy

Shadow business secretary Rebecca Long-Bailey

urged the co-op movement to help shape Labour’s

policy agenda, in a keynote speech at the Ways

Forward 6 Conference in Manchester on 16 February.

She highlighted some of the party’s key plans

around doubling the co-operative economy,

inviting delegates to engage in driving them. The

sector is strong, she told delegates, but more needs

to be done to support it.

Highlighting the UK’s low productivity rate

(18%) and wage stagnation, she said there were

“deep, structural problems” with the economy and

the way it is run. The 1980s brought a shift from

common ownership and the promotion of co-op

models to a culture of short termism in corporate

governance, she added. Without a real, long-term

interest in a company, shareholders are unlikely

to make long-term decisions and investments that

would lead to growth.

Ms Long-Bailey called for a more diverse

business sector and measures to tackle income

wealth and inequality, as well as insecure work and

the growing gig economy.

Co-op policies announced by Labour include

a right to own, offering employees first refusal on

firms which are changing hands.

The party says it will grow the co-op economy

with support from a new National Investment Plan

and regional development banks. It advocates

community wealth building programmes to

promote local co-operatives and businesses.

The Co-op Party is also examining the Preston

model of encouraging anchor institutions to

procure services from local enterprises and


“Some of the hurdles that we identified were

access to finance through conventional institutions,

the ability of workers to buy out their company,

and a lack of protection from potential buyouts by

private companies,” said Ms Long-Bailey.

The Co-op Party has commissioned an

independent report from the New Economics

Foundation (NEF) on the legislative changes

needed to clear these hurdles and allow the co-op

sector to flourish.

“We expect [the report] to be a real consultation

with yourselves so that you can have an input, you

p Rebecca Long-Bailey, Ways Forward 6 Conference [Photo: Jonathan Nicholson]

can tell us what your real-life examples have been,

what your hurdles have been, and what you would

like to see in terms of support for the co-op sector in

the future,” said Ms Long-Bailey.

She said Labour will work with the Co-op Party to

form an expert group of co-operators and activists

to form an implementation group to engage with

the co-operative movement, road test ideas and

provide feedback.

Asked whether the party was looking at other

countries’ legislation, she said examples in Spain

and France were being studied. She also confirmed

that Labour aimed to favour co-ops and local

community organisations in terms of procurement

and increase awareness about the business model.

Regarding public ownership, she said a priority

would be for employees to be protected. But while

some services could be brought back into public

ownership, for bigger infrastructure projects this

would be more difficult, she warned.

“We are relying on big players to deliver

infrastructure projects, but there are people who

are self employed; should we be looking at co-ops

to bring independent contractors together to give

them the opportunity to collaborate? Co-ops can be

major manufacturers, they can be banks, they can

be anything they want to be. It’s about making sure

people working in these organisations have a stake

in them,” she said.

MARCH 2018 | 23

Ways Forward: Can public service mutuals

keep the co-op ethos in a competitive market?

The question of public service mutuals as a response

to austerity came under scrutiny at Ways Forward,

with delegates warned against “the marketisation

of co-ops”. A workshop, Co-ops, Solidarity and

Austerity Cuts, also heard from supporters of the

initiative, looking at examples such as the Preston

model of local procurement.


Debbie Shannon, from Link Psychology

Co-operative, described the “crisis” in public

services in the wake of the 2010 austerity measures.

When her educational psychologists department

was outsourced from the local authority it was

decided the co-op model “ticked all the options” in

terms of delivering social value.

From there she got involved in the Preston model,

with two prongs – targeting procurement to deliver

social value and support the local economy, a move

which kept £200m in the Preston area in 2015/16;

and forcing the growth of co-ops to fill the gaps in

supply chains of anchor institutions.

She said programmes like Preston face three key

tasks: creating infrastructure to support co-ops,

bringing about a culture change, and promoting the

idea of co-ops. “What is a co-op? People don’t know,”

she said.

Other speakers were more cautious about public

service mutuals. Cheryl Barrott, a member of the

national executive committee of the Co-operative

Party and co-director of Change AGEnts, warned:

“We need to make sure that co-operation is not

used to privatise the public sector.”

But, she added, the loss of expertise to the public

sector through job losses since austerity measures

began meant it would be hard to recreate the old

model, and in any case, “there is not the appetite

among the public to have a big, state-y sector”.

Which, she said, begs the question: “How do we

put the public back into the public sphere?”

Paul Bell, a national officer at public services

union Unison, was more sceptical. He said, as a

member of the Co-op Party and Midcounties, that

he was sympathetic to co-ops – but also that his

union was “in favour of in-house services”.

He said privatisation of public services always hit

the terms and conditions of the workers, adding:

“The big problem trade unions have with co-ops is

with public service mutuals.

“Under public procurement rules, after three

years, public service mutuals have to compete with

the likes of Capita and Circa and there’s a race to

the bottom. How does the co-op movement add

value to workers who want terms and conditions,

and social mobility?”

He added: “Mutualising the private sector is

better – we support that for Carillion, for instance.

“But the public sector is already co-operative

because we own it.”


There was more criticism from Les Huckfield, a

former Labour MP who now works with Aizlewood

Group, which was formed to contribute to the

debate around public service mutuals and resist

privatisation within the public sector, specifically

in local government.

He said there had been a previous attempt to build

a public sector based around common ownership,

under the Labour government in 1976, which set up

24 | MARCH 2018


60 local co-op development organisations around

the UK. “It created something like 2,000 co-ops of

various shapes, sorts and sizes in the 1970s, 80s

and early 90s,” he said.

“But today we are not talking about an expansion

of co-ops in the same dimension. We are talking

about an expansion of the co-op sector mainly

by privatising public services. Many of us have a

problem with that.”

Echoing Mr Bell’s warning on the effects of

competitive tendering, he said: “Whether it’s a

co-op, a social enterprise or third sector, they will

have to go through competitive bidding – and the

only way they’ll land that job is by cutting people’s

wages, terms and conditions.”

And he warned that outsourcing threatened the

“redistributive element” of public services as well

as the “democratic control over the delivery of

those services”.

After the speakers had finished, the discussion

was thrown out to conference delegates. John

Boyle, party support and principle six officer at the

Co-op Party, took issue with the criticisms of public

service mutuals.

“I don’t share your lack of enthusiasm about

co-ops being capable of winning contracts,” he

said, citing successful examples such as Shepshed

Carers in Leicestershire, which enjoys “a minimal

turnover of staff”, and a school meals co-op formed

by Plymouth Council.

He argued that co-ops are more democratic than

councils because they are run by members who

have a concern in the services being run rather

than local officials, and takes out the profit motive

needed to support shareholders and highly paid

chief executives and managers.

The 2012 Social Value Act was drafted to ensure

the procurement process took into account

“economic, social and environmental wellbeing.”

Mr Huckfield had pointed out that this was often

ignored during the bidding process but Mr Boyle

said the onus was on the co-op movement “to

challenge procurement officers to ensure the Social

Value Act is held up”.

But Ms Barrott warned that there was “a £2.5m

deficit in care” and if co-ops were forced to carry

out the effects of that deficit, “it could destroy

public faith in co-operation”.

She added: “We have to look at what works

well – such as small, boutique co-operation. Who

can afford this? How does a homeless person

afford co-operative housing? A redistributive effort

is needed.”

She called for a Faircare Marque to maintain care

standards and for the regulation of standards in

co-owned, democratically controlled multistakeholder


Ms Shannon defended the public sector

mutual model, reiterating the fact that Preston’s

procurement methods enabled it to keep £200m in

the local economy.

Pat Conaty from Co-operatives UK said: “The

primary issue is getting those corporations out who

have been starving social care of funds. If we set

minimum standards, unionise the co-op sector, we

could work together.”


But Mr Huckfield countered: “We do not want to

see co-ops in a market setting. Co-ops should be an

alternative to the market.”

Mr Bell said that while it wasn’t his job to criticise

co-ops, “it’s my job to say there’s not enough money

in the system. It doesn’t matter who provides the

service. From a trade union perspective, it’s the

workers who suffer first.”

Ms Shannon agreed: “No, we don’t have enough

money. But in the meantime, we need news ways

of doing things. Co-ops are about social value and

social responsibility.”

MARCH 2018 | 25

Ways Forward:

What’s next for the UK’s tech co-ops?

Two years ago, the UK’s growing tech co-op sector

has formed a network to show how technology

can be an empowering force for good – but

can they drive change into a sector dominated

by the big players?

Those new to the tech and platform

co-ops got to learn more in a workshop at

Ways Forward 6.

Launched in 2016, Co-operative

Technologists (CoTech) aims to create

a better technology sector in the UK

that focuses primarily on worker,

customer and end-user needs rather

than on generating private profit. The

network includes web development,

web hosting, and design co-ops.

Graham Mitchell, founding member of

Digital Life Collective, a co-op researching,


developing and funding technologies

that prioritise autonomies, told delegates at the

workshop that co-ops could be at the forefront of

delivering #techforgood, or technology solutions

that people could trust.

One area of growth is the platform co-op

movement, creating multi-stakeholder co-ops

where users, customers and employees would play

a key role in driving the business. But Mr Mitchell

argued that real platform co-ops have yet to be set

up, even in the USA where the term was coined.

The closest example he could find to the idea

of a platform co-op is Stocksy, a co-operative

of photographers providing stock photography

services. It was formed in 2012 and now represents

artists in 65 different countries and pays out one of

the highest royalty percentages in the industry. The

co-op has over 900 voting member photographers.

But customers cannot join the co-op,

said Mr Mitchell, who thinks a real platform co-op

We need to


the business

world for

the common

good. How

can this

be done?

David Alcock and Cliff Mills from Anthony

Collins Solicitors argue that it’s not enough

to boost the co-op economy – we need a

wholesale transformation of the business

landscape. Along with Ellie Perrin (France)

and Rhona McCord (Ireland), they led a

workshop on co-op legislation at Ways

Forward 6

We welcome Labour’s commitment to

doubling the size of the co-operative

economy. But we want to do it in a way

that doesn’t just develop an alternative

co-operative economy, but helps

transform business more broadly; which

helps people understand how business

can be good for everyone and contribute

to the common good. Business needs to

benefit the many people who are affected

by its activities – as workers, customers,

suppliers and neighbours; not just the few

who are its owners.

In the modern world, businesses have

become more significant than national

governments in terms of impact on the

lives of citizens. It is not just turnover of

the world’s biggest businesses which

increasingly dwarfs national budgets, it

is their ability to influence, change and

potentially control the context in which

individuals buy goods and services

(markets); their power over the creative

and working capacity of individuals

(workers); and their reach, through

digital technology and social media, into

people’s private lives (community).

This ever-growing power of businesses

would not be of particular concern to us

if it was held and used for the benefit of

human beings as a whole. But it isn’t.

Most of the power of businesses is

p Ways Forward discussed key issues affecting the

held by, and is accountable to, private

interests which have no absolute moral or

legal responsibility beyond themselves.

Consequently, the optimisation of

profitability and economic growth for

their own benefit outweighs any broader

concerns about human wellbeing and

happiness, climate change and future


One of humanity’s highest priorities

today is for business to be transformed

from operating for the private benefit of

investors to operating for the common

good of all. Co-operatives can play an

important part in that transformation. For

this to happen, three fundamental things

are needed.

26 | MARCH 2018

should bring together both providers and users.

He believes that one of the main challenges in

developing such projects is the lack of venture

capital and a model to finance tech co-ops, which

have a long-term approach and are not listed on

the stock exchange. Co-operative development

specialists can also play a key role in driving the

tech co-ops movement.

“We can’t wait for the hobbyists – the IT people

in dark rooms – to come up with ideas for vibrant

platform co-ops,” he warned.

Another problem faced when trying to develop

such projects is being geographically isolated.

“We need to think outside a geographical

mindset – such businesses are formed online by

people from across the world,” said Mr Mitchell.

Chris Croome from Webarchitects co-op brought

a discussion of the open source software movement

to the session. This grew out of people’s need to

use software without paying for copyright. The

users are free to copy software and give it to anyone

else but whenever they pass it on they have to give

them these same freedoms. This enables anyone to

p Graham Mitchell discussed open source software

obtain and change the open source code.

“The free software movement is all about sharing,

like co-ops, there should be more interaction

between the two,” he said.

One of the pioneers of free software was US

programmer Richard Stallman, who developed the

concept of copyleft, which uses the principles of

copyright law to preserve the right to use, modify

and distribute free software.

The rapid growth 20 years ago of open software

raised the question of whether platform co-ops are

the next big thing, the session was told.

co-operative economy at Central Hall, Manchester

The role co-operatives can play in

contributing to the common good needs

to be publicly and formally recognised.

This essential recognition, which has

never existed in the UK in spite of the

historical origins of the movement, is

needed to provide a platform to address

the prevailing assumption that investorowned

enterprise is the only viable legal

and economic model for business.

Co-operatives need to be regarded and

treated as part of mainstream business

in the UK. This means bringing co-ops,

and other social businesses, under the

formal responsibility of the Department

for Business, Enterprise and Industrial

Strategy. BEIS should be responsible for

all types of UK business, not just privately

owned enterprise. This will help to provide

a platform to develop a coherent strategy

for enterprise to serve the interests of

all, and to create the appropriate basis

for government to support and promote

the most appropriate form of business

for individual sectors. It will also help

to avoid the risk of sub-optimal policymaking

just because the very structure of

government is in tension with the pursuit

of the common good.

We need a review of the laws of

registration for co-ops and other social

businesses. Such a review happens every

generation in relation to companies,

because such laws are seen as crucial to

the economic success of the country. There

has never been such a review in relation to

co-ops; nor has there ever been a strategic

review of all business forms (including plcs,

private and community interest companies,

mutual societies, social enterprises, and

charitable businesses). It is, therefore, no

surprise that our laws fail to provide the

legal framework necessary to create the

best possible environment for those striving

to carry on business for the common good.

As a first step to reinforce its longterm

commitment to the co-operative

movement, we ask Labour to make a

manifesto commitment to carry out a

review of the law and policy framework

for all enterprise for the common good

with a view to transfer departmental

responsibility for co-ops and community

benefit societies from HM Treasury to

the Business Department, and for BEIS

to assume responsibility for other third

sector businesses currently under the

umbrella of the Office for Civil Society

within DCMS.

We recognise that securing formal and

public recognition of the contribution co-ops

make is a longer process. Some insight into

a mechanism for this, through collaborative

working between government, unions and

employers’ organisations, can be gained

from ILO recommendation 193, which

supports the promotion of co-ops based

on the International Co-operative Alliance

principles, and creating a supportive

environment for co-ops to secure the many

social and economic advantages which

they bring.

Establishing a review of the laws of

registration for co-operatives needs

to follow on from the relocation of

departmental responsibilities, so that

such a review can be launched on a

proper basis where co-operatives are

formally located within the mainstream

of UK business, and recognised for their

contribution to the common good.

MARCH 2018 | 27

What are credit unions

doing digitally?

In the age of digital technology, credit unions are

changing the way they function – making use

of digital channels to provide new services for

their members. One of the biggest challenges for

UK credit unions comes from fintechs, financial

technology companies which are taking shares

from traditional high street banking providers in

areas such as payments and lending.

A report by Ernst and Young estimated that

the UK’s fintech market is worth £20bn in

annual turnover, with 18% of this being taken by

emerging fintech. In contrast, credit unions

had an annual turnover of £113m for the year

ending June 2017.

While the UK has only four out of the top of

100 largest traditional fintechs, it accounts for

half the emerging ones in Europe. According to

the EY report, the highest growth areas are peerto-peer

platforms, online payments and data and

analytics products. The UK also has one of the

highest levels of internet and mobile phone

penetration globally and the highest amount

spent on e-commerce in Europe.

Another important trend is an increase

in consumer demand for mobile banking.






Research conducted by Equinity, a provider of

technology aimed at reducing regulatory burdens,

showed that banking via a mobile phone

or tablet was the most popular method.

Around 48% of respondents said they were

using a mobile banking app. More than half

of all banking transactions in the UK are

now done digitally.

The Way We Bank Now report for 2016, published

by the British Bankers Association in collaboration

with EY, showed that customers were using mobile

apps 11 million times a day in 2015, a 50% increase

from the previous year. Customer bank branch

interactions went down – from 476 million in 2011

to 278 million in 2016.

The second biggest challenge for credit unions

comes from payday lenders. Since the FCA’s

crackdown on payday lenders, the number fell

from 400 to 144 at the end of 2016. The payday

loans industry was worth £220m in 2017, a drastic

drop from £2.5bn in 2013. However, payday lenders

continue to set the benchmark on frictionless

loan applications.

Some credit unions have an aversion towards the

potential risks IT poses – but others have adopted

new technologies either by working together or

by partnering with fintech firms. Rainbow Saver,

based in Lowestoft, UK, is one of the credit unions

teaming up with The Change Account and its

technology partner Payment Cloud Technologies

to deliver a new form of transactional account,

designed to simplify finances.

The collaboration started less than a year ago

after Clyde Bank (the credit union’s initial pre-paid

card partner) exited the market, meaning they

had to look for a new partner to keep providing

the service. With support from the national

28 | MARCH 2018

credit union trade body, Abcul, Rainbow Savers

was able to get in contact with Raphaels Bank, the

issuer of The Change Account card.

The account has no penalty charges for missed

or late payments and no overdraft facility. It

also offers automatic online payment alerts

and a rewards programme. Members pay a set

£2 monthly charge and have access to 24/7

UK-based customer support.

“We ended up with a better product. For us to be

able to offer the pre-paid card at £2 a month is really

good,” says Sally Chicken, chair of Rainbow Saver.

Already 600 members of Rainbow Saver are using

the card, the majority of whom had previously been

financially excluded. The credit union is providing

mobile and online banking too – over 75% of loan

applications are coming from mobile phones. But

the service goes beyond offering a credit card;

support workers help people save or better manage

their finances by setting up budgeting accounts,

taking money and dividing it into agreed pots that

cannot be accidentally spent.

“With really vulnerable persons we can load that

card daily and we have a support worker who does

supermarket shopping with the person. So it is a

tailored service and one the banks don’t want to

provide,” adds Ms Chicken.

Overall, 35 credit unions are offering the Change

account, with 5,000 accounts in total.

“The Change Account product has certain

wallet and budgeting facilities as well as lower

fees for card holders which is why we chose to

partner with them and promote their solution. It

also has some key differentiating factors for user

credit unions such as the lack of a ‘float’, which

minimises risk and operational cost for the credit

unions that use it,” says Matt Bland, head of

policy at Abcul.

The project won the Best Fintech Partnership

at the 2017 Banking Technology Awards.

Another example is the Engage account.

Run by Contis Group, a payments

company, it is offered by over

140 credit unions across the

UK as a single national brand. It

provides banking via online, mobile

and an app, allows users to set direct

debits and standing orders and

withdraw cash from ATMs or transfer

money; just like the Change Account,

the Engage Account does not have an

overdraft facility. Credit unions offer

the account for different monthly rates.

Also positioning itself as an

alternative to payday lenders is My

Community Bank, launched in 2013

as the UK’s first online credit union

based on the cloud-based back

office system supplied by Mambu,

a cloud banking software-as-a

-service provider.

The credit union was initially set up

as Brent Shrine Credit Union in 1979

to serve people living or working in the London

Borough of Brent. It changed its name to My

Community Bank and extended its common bond

nationally to encompass the British South Asian

diaspora. There are three credit unions in the My

Community Bank network: Brent Shrine Credit

Union (trading as My Community Bank); Loans

and Savings Abertawe Credit Union (trading as My

Community Bank Wales); and North Edinburgh and

Castle Credit Union (trading as Castle Community


Recently, My Community Bank teamed up

with Mespo, a fintech enabling users to save

money on their utility bills by switching to other

providers. The partnership – the first of its kind

– was rolled out in November, with members

benefiting from Mespo’s financial management

product in order to improve their credit score

and save more money. Mespo uses psychometric

questionnaires which users complete to reveal their

ability to save or spend when they have no credit

history. The software links to their bank accounts

and tells them how much to spend on certain

products and services.

My Community Bank also uses CULoans.co.uk,

an online, shared marketing platform. Participating

credit unions are charged for completed loan

applications, the charge reflecting the economic

value of the loan. Using a price comparison

website – Moneysupermarket – the CULoans site

can instantly process loan applications. CU Loans

receives over 50,000 loan applications via their

platform every year.

With more and more partnership between

fintechs and credit unions emerging, the trend is

likely to continue.

MARCH 2018 | 29

Q&A with experts:

What’s next for the credit union sector?

EMANUEL ANDJELIC is chair and co-founder of Squirrel, a fintech that has designed an app to help people

create and stick to a budget. He was a keynote speaker at last year’s annual conference of the Association of

British Credit Unions. After graduating from Cambridge University in 2002, Mr Andjelic has been involved

in several IT projects and has taken on the role of investor, entrepreneur and mentor in several startups.



Open banking regulations don’t currently cover

credit union accounts, so the risk is that these

accounts will become less attractive if they can’t

take advantage of the wave of cool new products

and services that regular bank customers will be

able to take advantage of.





Open banking and Payment Service

Directive (PSD2) regulations will be a game

changer for banking technology. Banks are

being forced to open up APIs (Application

Programming Interface) which means that

customers will be able to allow innovative

tech companies access to their data. These

companies are already busy building products and

services that create enhanced customer

experiences in everything from payments

to budgeting.

“RegTech” is fast becoming the latest buzz word in

the financial technology seen, with lots of products

and services springing up that aim to make

everything from Anti Money Laundering (AML) to

Know Your Customer (KYC) checks quicker, cheaper

and more secure.




The beauty of most new Fintech innovations is

that they don’t tend to discriminate against the

size of an organisation. The newest players with

the most innovative technologies are keen to

gain market share and will welcome the smallest

of organisations.

30 | MARCH 2018

BOBBY GOULD is client services director for CMutual. He has worked with the company serving credit

unions in a number of roles since 2001. He is currently studying at University of Ulster & Boston College,

working towards an MSc in executive leadership. He has facilitated strategic planning sessions with a

variety of credit union boards across the UK. CMutual is the pre-eminent insurance specialist for credit

unions, providing protection products and services, as well as sharing knowledge and insight from across

the credit union world.



Mobile, mobile, mobile! By 2025, it’s estimated

that 75% of the workforce will be millennials – that

is, people born after around 1980. They have had

internet access their whole life. For many, their first

mobile phone was a smartphone. The challenge for

credit unions (and businesses in general) is that

keeping up with the competition isn’t good enough;

the real challenge is keeping up with the customer.

Credit union members are no longer comparing

their experience with RBS, Lloyds or Barclays

anymore, they’re comparing it with Amazon, Apple

and Google. Amazon accounted for upwards of 50%

of all online sales in the US, and over 40% of their

sales are made from a mobile device.

Therefore, a key digital challenge for credit

unions is how to serve members in an “always on

and available” mobile-friendly world. Among other

things, this means looking at the automation of

payments, transactions, applications, recruitment.



Many credit unions now have websites and allow

members to check balances online. Electronic

payments and transfers are also the norm for many

credit unions in the UK. Some have implemented

electronic loan and membership applications.

To embrace technology, it can be helpful to think

about its variety of uses, and then prioritise.

Member interaction – using technology to

improve how the member can contact their credit

union, and be contacted 24/7/365.

Marketing – using social media for marketing,

awareness and advocacy.

Educate and excite – using technology to reach

out to members and explain the Credit Union

Difference, provide information and education.

Automate – using technology to reduce or

eradicate manual processes where possible, to

improve convenience and access.

increase transparency and perhaps renovate the

relationship between credit unions and regulators.

Where it is different from using existing tools

(like online reporting) is that it seeks to use new

technologies like cloud computing, APIs and data

analytics to solve regulatory and compliance

requirements more effectively and efficiently.




Scale does matter – implementing a “digital

mindset” requires changes to the systems and

controls that a credit union utilises to deliver

effective governance. Cost, of course, is also

a big factor; however where credit unions can

identify common objectives or requirements then

collaboration can enable smaller credit unions to

benefit from new technologies.




The forthcoming introduction of the General Data

Protection Regulation in May this year places a

new emphasis on how companies protect personal

information. Technology is part of the solution to

security, as well as part of the problem.

Understanding where data is stored, why we

have it, who has access to it, and how we ensure

the security around it is suitable, is increasingly

important. One step that credit unions can take

is to become Cyber-Essentials certified. This

is a government-backed initiative that helps

businesses measure their cyber-resilience and take

steps to improve it.



After FinTech comes RegTech! If Fintech focuses

technology on the member, Regtech is the

application of technology to decrease costs,

MARCH 2018 | 31

TANSLEY STEARNS is chief impact officer at the Filene Research Institute in Madison, USA. With more than

19 years of credit union leadership experience across a variety of functional areas, she works to help an

organisation move ideas forward to drive business results. Tansley was one of the original credit union

professionals chosen to be a participant in Filene’s i3 innovation program. In her three years with i3, she

worked with other credit union executives to create innovative projects including SmartScore, Decision

Point and Debt in Focus.



Ease of use is a major issue in this area. Credit

unions are no longer competing against the bank

down the street or the credit union down the street,

but against the simple and easy experience that

all of us have with places like Amazon. Consumers

expect easy, intuitive and fast. From our report,

Member Effort Benchmarking: Measuring Ease of

Use by Jardine, Darroch & Anderson, we identified

that credit unions still have a long way to go to

make the home–loan experience easier and we

also struggle with handoffs both between people

and between channels.

Artificial intelligence and machine learning

will also have disruptive implications for credit

unions. From our report, Big Data and Credit

Unions: Machine Learning in Member Transactions,

by Kallerhoff, we know that if done well, this

can amplify credit unions’ efforts at product

progression, credit scoring and risk modelling. It

can also help us better assess member needs and

respond to those needs in a more proactive way.




Scale absolutely matters. The great news for credit

unions is that we have the competitive advantage

of existing in a collaborative environment. We

have a host of examples where credit unions have

come together to improve performance, reduce

costs and enhance member experience through

collaboration. In our report, Collaboration in

Practice: 11 Credit Union Case Studies, by Hofheimer

& Rogers, we share several examples of IT efforts

where credit unions came together to advance

stronger outcomes.




It’s all about perspective, in Fintech:

Developments and Strategic Implications for

Credit Unions by Swart & Middleton, there

is a great framework for how credit unions might

consider fintech collaboration as outlined:

• Archenemies. These firms intend to disrupt,

destroy, compete, and capture your revenue.

Their business model is based on competition.

They are not your friends, but you can and should

learn from their marketing and technology.

• Archangels. These firms intend to be a resource

for traditional financial institutions. They see

themselves as a technology or service provider

and are eager to be integrated into your website,

application, or service stack. Their success is your

success - at least this is the narrative.

• Archetypes. These firms exemplify co-opetition.

They are competing against both banks and

credit unions, yet actively seek partnerships.

They have realised that they lead in technology,

you lead in knowledge of your markets, members,

and relationships. By combining forces, the

“smart” banks/credit unions can drive revenue

or improved customer services in partnership

with them. Without them, they believe that those

institutions that partner with fintech firms will

outcompete and eventually destroy the market

share and profitability of “solo” banks and

credit unions.

Each organisation has to assess what their

tolerance for such a partnership is and what their

strategic goals are. We believe that credit unions

have unique gifts as do fintech providers and

coming together can be a way to provide even more

value for consumers.

32 | MARCH 2018

With a background in computer science and design, EUGENE DANILKIS worked on NASA projects as an

engineer before founding and building Mambu: from designing and leading the product development and

to building and scaling the team and global footprint of the business. He graduated from the University of

British Columbia in 2004, which he followed with a degree in human-computer interactions at the Carnegie

Mellon University. Mambu provides banking technology built in and delivered via the cloud.



In 2013 My Community Bank decided to launch a

complete online national credit union in the UK.

Their goal was to offer competitive and flexible

loan and savings products to everyone in the UK.

They decided to automate as many processes

as possible in order to compete with traditional

lenders. Mambu was deployed to manage loan

and deposit products, customer data, internal

processes and reporting and accounting. It

integrates into the website as well as services like

CallCredit, EchoSign, FD Online and Rapidata in

the UK. The successful implementation of Mambu

with the desired products and workflows included

third-party services, 20-second automated loan

decisions, 100% digital paperwork and the launch

of the credit union with zero internal IT staff and

full agility to modify and launch new products as

they grew.



Mambu is not an app: it is the lean alternative

to cumbersome core banking systems, a cloudnative

software, provided as a service, supporting

composable API-enabled ecosystems. We empower

our clients to operate like a tech company rather

than like a bank. We enable banking and lending

providers to utilise best-of-breed technologies

in order to deliver against their product design

brief, offer best in class on-boarding processes,

credit decisioning and pricing that uses multiple

data sets and metrics or aligning products to

specific social groupings or mindsets based on

customer behaviour.


Yes , we have been talking to other credit unions

since the collapse of the government-backed project

and looking at how Mambu and other banking

ecosystem providers could work together to support

credit unions in moving to a new technology to

support more lean, modern and flexible products,

processes and customer experiences.



The growth in niche banking offerings from pure

digital providers is likely to increase competition

within the market in which credit unions operate.

This, together with the geographical limitations

placed on credit unions regarding their operations,

means they cannot scale to meet the technical

capabilities of the new digital banks and lenders, so

they could look very old fashioned in comparison.



The UK banking and lending market is changing

rapidly, and those who do not adapt to the new

digital methods of customer interaction and

servicing will begin to struggle. However, due

to scale, many credit unions have only partially

digitised their offering as the cost implications

have historically not been commercially viable. But,

over the past 12-18 months, the UK has seen a vast

number of new ‘born-digital’ technology providers

enter the market and these are built around a best

-of-breed composable Application Programming

Interface (API)-driven architectures.



Credit unions can learn a lot from overseas credit

unions and also from other micro-finance and

consumer lenders, especially those in developing

areas of the world. We have clients from Africa

to the Philippines that have created profitable

ventures, successfully launching new offerings

providing microloans to the public using a digital

core and smartphone technology, as well as

automating processes.

MARCH 2018 | 33

Top organisations:






@FSCSNews, news from the The

Financial Services Compensation



@CUJournal, Credit Union Journal

(Mostly american stories, but recently

featured an ABCUL member and

article featuring Matt Bland)

@Money_Advice, Money Advice

,‏Trust National charity helping people

get out of debt, to budget and

manage money

@StepChange, provides free,

impartial debt advice and solutions to

anyone struggling with debt problems

Jim Nussle,

@CUNA / @Nussle

President & CEO

Tanya Andreasyan,



Editor, Banking Techno

Mark Lyonette,


Outgoing CEO of ABCUL

Iona Bain,


Young money blogger

Michael Lawson,

‏ @CUbroadcast



Chief Advocacy Officer

John Best,



Founder of Big Fint Techmedia

Michael Sheen,


Actor and activist

Heather Kay,


Credit Union Development Officer at

Engage Renfrewshire, (tackling poverty

via cus)

Liz Barclay


Credit Union Foundation Chair, Financial

journalist and TV/Radio presenter,

Paul Norgrove,


CEO of Police Cu,



Chief Advocacy Officer

Gareth Thomas


MP promoting credit unions in Parliament

Guy Opperman,


MP, Parliamentary Under-Secretary

Lord Kennedy

‏ @LordRoyKennedy

Niamh Goggin

@biglocal_SI ,

Social investment consultant currently working

with Local Trust on Big Local

Jennifer Tankyard,

@JenniferTankard / @resp_finance,

CEO Responsible Finance, @ CEO, Director

34 | MARCH 2018

Tips for successful rebranding

With several credit unions undergoing a major

rebranding in recent years, we spoke to a digital

marketing expert to learn what the process entails

and how credit unions can create a strong brand.

Eva LaMere, president of Austin Williams, a

New York-based digital marketing, advertising and

rebranding firm, shares her insights.



Every brand has a unique and compelling story

to tell. The key is to find it: to uncover your brand

DNA; who you are – and more importantly, how

that connects to what your target audience wants,

and needs, you to be. That brand story is built on a

platform based on extensive research: we uncover

insights into consumer sentiments and motivators,

the credit union’s brand truth, and the competitive

environment in which they operate. A successful

brand connects the consumer to the credit union

in a way that’s relevant, engaging and stands

out from other financial institutions vying for the

same dollar. The brand platform is the foundation

for all messaging and creative content to ensure

we have consistency with that identity and brand

truth. Without that consistency, you will not build

a successful brand.




There is still a lot of work to do educating the public

about what credit unions do – or why they’re a

better financial option. So many credit unions

consider removing the moniker from their brand, or

reducing its emphasis. That’s not necessarily a bad

thing; it depends on what your research tells you

about your target market. But in those cases where

credit union is removed, we must replace it with

something – ‘Financial’ is a common option – and/

or create a tagline as an identifier. This tagline may

include the verb “bank” (no one “credit unions”,

after all) to explain both what the institution does

and to reinforce its mission.



Rebranding is a huge undertaking, so credit union

leadership first needs to understand what they’re

getting into and why. What is the ultimate goal? Is

it a viable and financially beneficial one? Take into

account the many perspectives from which your

rebranding will be viewed: your core constituencies

include not only your members and prospects,

but your employees and board of directors. How

do they feel about your brand now? How will

they view the rebranding and how will it fit with

how they interact with the credit union each day?

Leaving no stone unturned from a tactical and a

financial point of view is important, from those

“big” elements such as changing branch signage,

right down to planning for changes to those “little”

things like your email signatures.




It depends on your competitive situation and your

goals. Any rebranding must start with research to

understand what prospective and current members

want or need and how or if you can deliver them.

If you’re not delivering the services people want

and need, no rebranding or marketing effort is

going to be successful.




p Eva LaMere, President of Austin Williams

At Austin & Williams, we believe every opportunity

to brand is an opportunity to sell and every

opportunity to sell is an opportunity to brand.

Every rebrand should start with key performance

indicators (KPIs) as well as a plan for measuring

them. Results need to be measured against goals:

increased awareness, increased membership, or

higher product sales volumes. If a rebranding isn’t

designed to deliver a solid return on investment

(ROI), don’t do it.

MARCH 2018 | 35

Digital marketing

tips from...

When it comes to rebranding, credit unions have the

challenge of presenting a unique and well-defined

market position.

One of the credit unions to recently go through this

process is Clevr Money - which used the opportunity

to also improve its digital offer for members.

The credit union started in 2009 as Blackpool

Fylde & Wyre Credit Union but quickly grew to

incorporate Preston and other parts of Lancashire.

As it expanded in other postcode areas, the credit

union had to increase its common bond as well. It

initially operated as Guild Money in Preston and

kept its original name for Blackpool.

But having two different websites and social

media accounts was an administrative burden.

“We decided late last summer to take the plunge

and completely rebrand the credit union to bring

it up to date,” explains chief executive Mike Barry.

“The branding was old and it did not fit in with

modern expectations.”

He emphasises that the organisation changed its

name but not its values: “We are still about people,

not profit. We remain committed to providing

fair and affordable loans to those who struggle

to get credit elsewhere, and who often end up

in a spiral of debt with high interest payday and

doorstep lenders.

“But we also want to demonstrate that we’re open

for business to everyone in the area, even those who

might not necessarily think a credit union is for

them. Everybody has the right to access fair credit,

and joining the credit union is a genuinely smart

option for anyone looking to save or borrow money.

“As a not-for-profit lender there are no

shareholders walking away with big pay outs.

The money is reinvested or shared with members,

so we are able to offer some of the fairest interest

rates around. But many people don’t realise

this, or that the money they pay back or save is

used to help other local people needing support.



That’s being clever with money, and it’s what

CLEVR Money is all about.”

The credit union used the rebranding exercise to

diversify its digital offer with a new website where

people can apply for loans online, simplifying the

amount of paperwork needed. Once they submit

their details, the credit union runs a credit check

and gets back to those who are successful with a

loan offer and information about what it means to

be a member of a credit union.

“The new branding gives us leeway about being

clever with money. It’s not about poverty and debt

but doing something clever that you might be doing

already,” says Mr Barry.

The credit union worked with an agency, but a

subcommittee of its board of directors also had an

input in approving the final branding, which was

revealed in November.

Referring to the process, Mr Barry warned against

the temptation to say too much in a logo or brand.

“We nearly put in the words ‘savings and loans’ - but

in the end we chose something simple: ‘clever’ and

the word ‘money’, which includes all budgeting and

advice and encompasses a lot more than ‘saving

and loans’.”

The local branch in Blackpool was refurbished to

match the new logo

So far, the results have been positive. Since

rebranding, the number of new joiners has

almost doubled.

“We are competing in a dynamic and rapidly

growing marketplace,” says Mr Barry.

“In a changing world, where 63% per cent of

people use online banking, we need to keep pace.

This new look and feel, and the new website,

will help us to do that. This is just the start of

a redevelopment of the business which will

see more loan products and savings schemes

offered to help people avoid sky high

interest rates.”

36 | MARCH 2018

6 Towns

Credit Union

A credit union in the West Midlands, which last year

moved the bulk of its marketing to social media to

match consumers’ switch to digital, says a heavy

online presence brings huge benefits, ranging from

greater awareness to improved communication

within the sector.

6Towns Credit Union in West Bromwich

developed its digital marketing campaign in

response to the trend for online loan. Over the past

12-18 months, it has moved almost all its marketing

onto Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram.

This has seen its loan book grow 46% in 12 months.

A 2015 consumer survey for the Competition

Commission found that only 2% of consumers using

payday products in the past 12 months had also

used a credit union, although 15% of consumers

reported that they could have used a credit union

product instead of taking out a payday loan.

6Towns is trying to address the lack of consumer

awareness regarding credit unions by using social

media. For example, they created a YouTube

channel where they upload videos explaining the

benefits of joining a credit union, and giving tips

on how to avoid a payday loan, budget better and

avoid debt.

The organisation doesn’t just communicate with

members on social media – it also speaks with

other credit unions.

“You have to understand your own core

demographic before you start entering into any

marketing strategy,” says Malcolm Keyte, business

development manager at 6Towns.

“You also need to understand what new

demographic you are attracting and where they

are coming from. You have to look at your business

plan – if you want to survive you need more young

people coming in. You need to start attracting

young savers and borrowers.”

Mr Keyte believes his credit union had a younger

market, offering it an easier progression from

traditional printed material to electronic.

6Towns is now working on new videos and

digital materials around the idea of debt.

“One of the issues we need to address as credit

unions is that, yes, we are here to help, but we

would not put people into debt,” says Mr Keyte.

“Credit unions have the responsibility to ensure we

don’t put people into debt so sometimes we have

to say ‘no’ to individuals and there is a backlash to

that. So we’re now working on a video on two key

questions: ‘Why have you rejected my loan?’ and

‘Are credit unions here to help us?’”

Mr Keyte believes the key to developing a

successful marketing campaign is building a

corporate personality across the different social

media channels.

“It may be that you are focusing purely on saving

and loans,” he adds, “so you need to develop an

online personality based on that and it has to be

consistent. If you are using one logo on one social

media platform, it must be the same on any other

social media platform.

“Furthermore, once you start on a social media

campaign it’s not something you can pick up

and put down. It has to become a core part of

your marketing.

“The benefit of that is that you don’t rely as

much on partner agencies to get your message out,

you become far more independent and are able to

contact new and existing members without having

to rely on agencies to promote share, or hand out

leaflets. You are doing it yourself and it is more cost

effective than producing hard literature.”

Social media can also help to promote the

services of other credit unions and agencies,

he says. “These organisations need to be nurtured

and helped along the way – it is a co-operative way

of working. Too many organisations think posting

a picture of a table with leaflets and banners in

a church hall is getting across a message of what

they do as a credit union. It doesn’t actually say

anything, apart from the fact you were there.”

Building up followers can be a slow

process, warns Mr Keyte, but credit unions

should be patient.

“Don’t expect huge followers to like and share

immediately; it’s better to have 100 good followers

than 500 that you have bought,” he says.

He says feedback may also be difficult to obtain ,

although a strong performance for the credit union

can indicate that the marketing strategy is working.

MARCH 2018 | 37

Credit unions go

digital - slowly



Credit unions are struggling to cope with the

challenge of switching to digital functionality,

according to a global report from the Digital Growth

consultancy. While this is also true for banks, it

is clear that small credit unions have particular

difficulty in adapting to the online world because

of cost and often outdated legacy IT systems.

Ireland’s Registrar of Credit Union, Patrick

Casey, told January’s Credit Union Development

Association annual conference: “Consumers

expect choice, ease of access, efficient speedy

decisions and service fulfilment across all delivery

channels. Meeting their expectations requires

business models and operational change, enhanced

capabilities, new processes and investment in

enabling technologies. The scale of investment

and resources required can be significant and is

likely to be beyond the capacity of many

smaller institutions.”

That message is as relevant to UK credit unions

as to their Irish counterparts. “We would agree that

there is under-investment in digital development

and a pressing need to move more quickly,” says

Abcul’s Matt Bland. “In all likelihood that will

mean they will work together to avoid duplicating

investment.” But Abcul accepts that much more

needs to be done.

Abcul points out that there are good-practice

examples of how credit unions are responding

to the challenge. “We have seen investment,” Mr

Bland says. “That is needed for credit unions to

remain relevant.”

It had been hoped that ‘Model Credit Union’,

part of the £38m Credit Union Expansion Project

funded by the Department for Work and Pensions

and delivered by Abcul, would be the basis for this.

But while the project has developed, it has done so

slowly, with just three credit unions – East London,

RetailCURe and Voyager Alliance – engaged in

the project, many fewer than the 35 that had been

expected. The three do now have online banking

facilities, with membership and loan applications

submitted online.

Incuto (formerly Efiniti) is a specialist provider

of IT services to credit unions, which recognises

the difficulties facing many because of often poor

existing systems. One of the attractions of Incuto’s

offer is that it sits on top of a credit union’s existing

IT system, while providing functionality that

includes online transactions and balance viewing,

plus support for a credit union in its risk profiling,

decision-making and financial reporting.

“We enable credit unions to be faster than a payday

lender and with a better service level than a

high street bank,” boasts Incuto’s chief executive

Andrew Rabbitt. Incuto has 10 credit union clients

at present, but has just signed a co-operation

agreement with the Scottish League of Credit

Unions and will be speaking at Abcul’s coming

conference in an attempt to increase its client base.

Derry Credit Union has made substantial progress

in providing digital functionality, following a

member survey three years ago. Members can

download an app that allows them to check their

38 | MARCH 2018

account balance, pay bills and make transfers

to their other credit union accounts and to noncredit

union accounts. The next stage is to develop

an e-contracting function, which will provide

members with the ability to approve contracts

without having to visit the credit union’s office.

Joan Gallagher, general manager of Derry Credit

Union, says that achieving this level of digital

functionality has been important for members,

but represented a real challenge. “None of

the federations has developed an appropriate

e-banking platform,” she argues. “So our credit

union has started from scratch. There was a real

piece of work in terms of risk assessment.”

But, she adds, “these platforms are expensive

for a credit union”. Derry was assisted by its

financial stability and large size – it has more than

35,000 members.

“We have had great support from our IT

suppliers,” continues Ms Gallagher. “The next

person down the line should not have to pay for

all the development. The key for us was for the

IT supplier to have the capacity to deliver the

services.” The system was provided by Progress

Banking in Dublin, which has a number of credit

union clients in the UK as well as Ireland.

Abcul’s Matt Bland warns that the cost of

digital provision means that credit unions will

increasingly have to form partnerships or merge

in order to afford the type of online presence that

members now expect. “The reality is that in 2001

there were some 700 credit unions, but since then

the number has more than halved,” he says.

“Those remaining smaller credit unions

remain independent because they value their

independent identity, but the forces are towards

consolidation. As a trade association we are

agnostic about this. But it’s inevitable really.

“The collaborative approach enables

credit unions to retain independence while

benefiting from these things [such as digital

functionality], which is what you have seen

in the US. We would like to see more of that

in the UK.”

MARCH 2018 | 39

How are credit unions

spreading financial inclusion?

Credit unions in two cities are making a difference to their communities by thinking and working

co-operatively. Here’s what they’ve been doing, and what they think the future will hold ...




In the early 1990s, Beswick was one of the most

socially deprived areas of Manchester. It was here

in 1991 that Manchester Credit Union (MCU) started

life as a community-based organisation; in 2007 it

became Manchester Credit Union and now covers

the entire city, plus surrounding boroughs such as

Trafford, Tameside, Bury, Rochdale and High Peak.

It now has 24,000 members, assets of £1m, £6m

worth of savings and £6m in loans. Like many other

credit unions, it has grown significantly in the past

12 months. Chief executive Christine Moore reports

that since October 2017, nearly 1,000 new members

have been joining a month.

“There has been a 50% growth in lending and

we have doubled our business in the past year,”

she says. “I don’t think there is any one reason,

but welfare benefit changes have had a real impact

and there are now a lot of members in work but

on low incomes and zero hours contracts. To cope

with the increase we have improved our systems

dramatically, and developed our online offer.”

MCU held its first Credit Union Awareness week

in October and is part of the new Sound Pound

consortium of eight Greater Manchester credit

unions. In October 2017 it featured on the BBC’s A

Matter Of Life And Debt programme about the work

of credit unions.

“Credit unions used to have an image as the

‘poor man’s bank’ but that’s not so much the case

now,” says Ms Moore. “The TV programme was

really helpful. We were worried it would reinforce a

stereotype, but it was much better than that.”

In recent years MCU has seen a huge increase in

online applications and that means less face-toface

contact, although that option is still there for

those who prefer it. It has 18 staff and two years ago

moved its main office into the city centre in a bid to

expand its work. There is also outreach in places

such as Rochdale.

“All our branches were in deprived areas and we

wanted to attract a more diverse membership,” says

Ms Moore. “The majority of our members probably

still struggle but a lot of others are joining, too,

because of the ethical way in which we work.”

In the coming period the credit union is aiming to

expand its member base further.

Christine Moore has worked for the credit union

for 17 years and was the first member of staff in the

days when it had only 100 members.

She believes the Sound Pound network –

comprising over 48,000 members and £24m in

assets – will be help to grow the city’s credit unions.

“There were a lot of reasons we got together last

year and a major one was the fact we had a new

Greater Manchester Mayor coming on board who

we knew would be supportive,” she explains.

“We are looking at lots of ways to work together

collectively on issues such as responses to Universal

Credit. The network will also act as one voice with

the combined authority that brings. Because of

the increase in digital, we are looking at ways to

improve our technology, apps and websites.”

40 | MARCH 2018


Sheffield Credit Union covers the Sheffield City

Region across South Yorkshire, offering loans from

£100 to £10,000. It was established in 2004 in an

amalgamation of a number of smaller credit unions

to provide members with safe savings products and

low-cost affordable loans.

In 2015 it won a Chamber of Commerce Business

In The Community award; the following year it

merged with Rothersave Credit Union to offer

services in Sheffield and Rotherham. The credit

union now employs around 16 staff who are

supported by a similar number of volunteers, and

has around 7,000 active members. It has £3.6m in

savings, £2.3m in loans and £5m capital.

Chief executive Jacqueline Hallewell says: “We

have relocated to a much more visible position,

streamlined our systems, built membership and

completely changed the way we do lending.”

A member of the Association of British Credit

Unions (Abcul), SCU has developed a lending tool

created by Experian and incorporated this into its

systems to make decisions. It has developed strong

relationships with the third sector on issues such

as housing advice, and runs joint projects with

the local authority.

Some 75% of the credit union’s business is

now done online, but face-to-face contact is still

valued as the best contact for some members.

“South Yorkshire is in a low wages pocket

generally, where Universal Credit has not been

rolled out fully, and we support organisations

and individuals because there is a lot of anxiety

about it,” says Ms Hallewell. “We continue to help

people with budgeting accounts to help them pay

rents – that is offered in partnership with housing

associations and prevents evictions in many

cases. Although our direct funding has stopped,

we still work with the council on various projects

and offer an employee payroll scheme.”

Although its main current project is supporting

the introduction of Universal Credit and looking

at how its products and services can support the

transition, SCU is also looking at how it can retain

members and respond to their needs.

New data protection legislation, which comes

into force in May, is another challenge but Ms

Hallewell says the overall picture is positive.

“We needed to change to spread the risk and

stop the stigmatisation of credit unions as ‘poor

people’s banks’,” she said. “We have improved

the way we serve our members and diversified,

increasing membership and improving the

standing of credit unions. We are also starting

to introduce more products suitable for people

in work and homeowners, beating the banks

for rates on loans and making sure our savings

products are better. A lot of people want to invest

with us because we are not-for-profit.

“By responding more quickly to what customers

want, providing products which reward loyalty,

and diversifying our work with partners while

making sure our members are more financially

included, we can ensure we do not lose our social

aims while keeping our business growing.”

MARCH 2018 | 41

Do you want

free books?

Join the Co-op News Book Review Club

The fall of the ethical bank is a Greek tragedy. The

Co-operative Bank tale is all about a large group of

decision-makers who believed their own hype—and

got it spectacularly wrong.

Journalist Paul Gosling looks at the contribution

those various decision-makers had in the nearcollapse

of the co-operatively-owned bank and looks

at where it went wrong.

The answer is not straightforward, but this book

looks at where the weaknesses originated, such as

an inconsistent business strategy and being just too

nice to challenge crucial decisions.



Paul Gosling

Do you enjoy reading and discovering

new ideas to promote the co-operative

business model?

If so, we want you to be a part of our reader

-led book club. Our book club features short

or long reviews, or simple comments on

books from our readers. Books reviewed

in Co-op News connect and champion

co-operatives. We look at books with new

ideas and stories that can help co-ops with

their everyday mission.

Do you want to be a part of this?

As a member of the book club, you can:

• Suggest books for review

• Submit your own reviews

• Tell us your interests and we’ll

send you a book to review

• So whether you’re interested in

sustainability, credit unions or education

– we’ll try to find a book to suit you.

Take part today:


42 | JANUARY 2018

How do co-ops perform as employers of women?

To mark International Women’s Day on 8 March, Co-op News asked women co-operators to share their

experiences in the movement. Themed Press For Progress, the day is a call to action for accelerating

gender parity.

The women who took part in the survey sought to highlight some of the issues

faced by female employees and members. Their time in the sector ranged from

two years to over 50. We received answers from shop floor staff, directors, regular members, employees,

managers and advisers. They come from various sectors, including consumer, worker and community coops

and regional organisations.

Fourteen respondents said they felt supported in their roles with two saying they sometimes felt

undermined and four admitting they did not feel supported at all. Over 65% said they believed co-ops

could do more to support gender equality, suggesting better communication around it, improving gender

pay gaps, allocating more resources to this task, making workplaces family-friendly and practising more

gender equality at board level.

When asked what were their positive and negative experiences, women co-operators had different

perspectives. Below are some of the answers we received...

• “Positives are flexibility, working in various

departments and an equal say. Negatives are

lack of HR within our co-op when issues arise.”

• “It was very male dominated back in the

1980s and it was hard to break through (but I did

!). Positive - in 2018 our board is gender equal.”

• “As an employee who worked at the age of 17,

it was very different then. The women worked

the tills and put stock on shelves the highest

you would amount to was head cashier. I

think now we can achieve anything. It did go

backwards when we took over Somerfield and

I personally witnessed their attitude to women

management. I had comments about it being

no job for a woman. It’s nice to see it’s reverting

back to a fair place to work.”

• “Joining a regional organisation as a

female co-operator under 30 is not a fun

experience. You get mansplained by people

who consider themselves to have the most

radical and advanced views in the co-operative

movement. It is hard to establish relationships

of solidarity with other women, as they cease

to hang out in higher lever organisations. I had

my work claimed to be done by men who work

with me, and men assuming work I do is done

by their mates. I didn’t enjoy this outside coop

movement, but it also happens here, and

there is lack of consciousness and

respect. Men hanging out on the board

sometimes dump their problems on me

treating me as their personal secretary,

while there is nothing I can do as another volunteer

who has a business to run. I have learned a lot,

but it was not positive learning. In the end

unequal treatment tires out anyone.”

• “Mostly positive ... A lot of support and

mentorship over the years in the various

capacities that I have had. A very flexible work

environment that has allowed me to have a healthy

work life balance, while also being a single

parent and prioritise the needs of my family”.

MARCH 2018 | 43

t tea and coffee are the

popular categories are important to Co-op Members, but each

with Fairtrade (46%),

have their own set of challenges. By supporting Fairtrade,

) and bananas (41%). The Member average purchases Fairtrade are consumer helping to has drive been improvements.

buying Fairtrade

products for five years, though six and a half per cent say

they Cocoa have only started buying them in the last year while

Consumers are most

eight Demand per cent for cocoa say they continues have been to increase. purchasing

likely to look for a

Fairtrade However, for disease, a decade climate or more. change Just and one ageing


Fairtrade logo on:

consumers cocoa trees say are they reducing never yields. buy Fairtrade, In West though

two Africa thirds Fairtrade say they are buy involved Fairtrade in reforestation

only ‘sometimes’

1. Coffee (46%)

2. Chocolate (45%)

3. Bananas (41%)

4. Tea (37%)

or programmes ‘not often’. But and there’s are working an opportunity with farmers to to

change improve this farm behaviour productivity. as 33 per cent would switch to

Fairtrade if they understood more about the

benefits Tea of making such purchases. This is

followed Low prices along the with world liking market the product are resulting itself in

(34%), low wages believing for farmers. that they Becoming are of good a tea quality farmer

(21%) isn’t seen and getting as an attractive a recommendation occupation (16%). for young people,

meaning the long term sustainability of the industry is under

threat. Fairtrade is working with partners to improve wages

in the tea sector.

Creating a nation

of Fairtrade shoppers

5. Bagged sugar (20%)

6. Wine (11%)

7. Flowers (10%)

8. Cotton (9%)

mer has FAIRTRADE been buying Fairtrade

gh six and a half per cent say


g them in the last year while

been purchasing Fairtrade for

n 10 consumers say they never

irds say they buy Fairtrade

n’. But there’s an opportunity

3 per cent would switch to

more about the benefits of

is followed along with liking

eving that they are of good

commendation (16%).


34 yr olds


hases ‘all


r buying Fairtrade are

d product preference:

1 in 5


goods ‘most of

the time’

ood for communities (51%)

s (29%)

y (24%)

use the

ocks a


44 | MARCH 2018

Last Coffee year the Co-op Group made a pledge: all the need to do what we can to really show





in its








be customers the benefits to communities

Fairtrade. The announcement affected over 200 of them by making the Fairtrade choice,”

unreliable income for cocoa farmers. Farmers

items which used cocoa as an ingredient, from its says Mr Hill.

in Central and South America are already seeing the

chocolate cookies to certain cooking sauces - and “The Co-op difference is about us getting closer



its battered

of climate




which is altering growing to what we care about – and for us, that’s our

The patterns. move meant Fairtrade a five-fold is supporting rise the farmers amount to learn communities, new whether local or overseas, giving

of Fairtrade farming practices cocoa sourced to address by the these retailer challenges. each back to our members and customers and getting

year, from 526 tonnes to 2,848 tonnes, which closer to helping tackle issues that matter to

generated Bananas

additional £400,000 for cocoa our shoppers.”

farming Disease communities. and climate change is impacting

Now banana the Group production is takings globally. things In a step Central further,



an extension


of its


unique ingredients

have badly


to cover all the bananas, tea and coffee used across

impacted yields. Fairtrade is working to support

its entire own-brand product range.

smallholders to overcome these short terms shocks.

It also recently became the first in the world

to adopt the new Fairtrade Sourced Ingredient

programme Sugar on flowers; all the African roses the

Co-op Co-op’s sources position for use across to 100% its entire Fairtrade flower bagged range

will sugar return came a Fairtrade as a result Premium. of changes And to celebrate to European

the move, tariffs, the which Group gave is making preference a donation to EU of and £30k,

generated threatened by the market overall access sales of for Fairtrade sugar producers roses

in February from developing and March areas. 2018, Many to the Caribbean community /







Kenya, which

are very






struggling graduate nurses to find employment

the sugar industry for income.

shopper report

and offer training around increased patient care,

and deliver a much needed improvement in the



maternity service.

The flower industry employs a largely female workforce

FAIRTRADE of poor, ON less THE educated UP and therefore more vulnerable

workers. Fairtrade is working to protect workers’ The Co-op’s recent Fairtrade Shopper Report

In 2017, rights the and Co-op’s ensure Fairtrade decent sales working grew by conditions. almost highlights its top-selling Fairtrade products

14% - more than double that of the market. Brad as bananas, chocolate, teabags, wine, roses,

Hill, Wine Fairtrade strategy manager at the Co-op, sugar and coffee, with consumers most likely

believes Wine this grape is farming a result is of very both labour-intensive,

the retailer’s to look for a Fairtrade logo on coffee, chocolate

commitment to Fairtrade and the way it tells the and bananas. According to research by the

so wine production often leads to poor labour

stories of the people behind the Fairtrade Mark. retailer, the average Fairtrade consumer has been

standards and living conditions for small farmers

“As producers continue to tell us that buying Fairtrade products for five years, though


and hired



the most

on large




In South



say they only started buying them in the

for Fairtrade them in a is mainstream working to tackle market, low and wages is the and provide last year while 8% say they have

only adequate certification housing to empower for workers. those producers been purchasing Fairtrade for 10

and pay a minimum price and Premium, we years of more.


The average Fairtrade consumer has been buying Fairtrade

products for five years, though six and a half per cent say

they have only started buying them in the last year while

eight per cent say they have been purchasing Fairtrade for

a decade or more. Just one in 10 consumers say they never


An unstable global market means an

unreliable income for cocoa farmers. Farmers

in Central and South America are already seeing the

impact of climate change which is altering growing

FAIRTRADE buy Fairtrade, FIRSTS though two thirds say they buy Fairtrade Mondeléz’s Cocoa patterns. Life, Fairtrade and Sainsbury’s is supporting Left: farmers Rose growers to learn in new

only ‘sometimes’ or ‘not often’. But there’s an opportunity

Fairly Traded scheme, farming which practices have to added address to these Kenya challenges.

are benefiting

In the to change UK, the this Co-op behaviour Group as has 33 per achieved cent would a customer switch confusion.

number Fairtrade of Fairtrade if they firsts. understood In 1998 more it was about the first the benefits “We know of the more Bananas fairly traded certifications

from the Co-op’s

commitment to

supermarket making such to start purchases. selling Fairtrade This is followed products along in that with are liking introduced, Disease the more and confusion climate change this is is Fairtrade impacting

every the store. product It also itself led the (34%), way believing in stocking that Fairtrade they are causing of good for consumers. banana And production we know that globally. this is In Below: Central Fortin Bley,

coffee quality 15 years (21%) ago, and and getting the first a recommendation to stock tea 10 (16%). hindering the market America, development recent of hurricanes Fairtrade,” have Secretary badly General at

years ago.

says Brad Hill.

impacted yields. Fairtrade is working

CAAN co-op

to support

in Cote

The Co-op’s report reveals that 86% of D’Ivoire (left) and Rosa

smallholders to overcome these short terms shocks.

consumers are concerned, to some degree, to hear Elena Lopez de Soto,

that some brands and retailers are moving away harvesting coffee at

5% 10% 1 in 5

from Fairtrade, rising


to nine out of 10 among Aguadas Co-operative,

of consumers of 25-34 yr olds the Fairtrade under 35s. Co-op’s position to 100% Fairtrade Colombia bagged

make Fairtrade make Fairtrade goods “There ‘most are of noticeable sugar came concerns as a result around of the changes to European

purchases ‘all purchases ‘all introduction the time’ of other tariffs, ethical which schemes, gave preference claiming to EU and

the time’

the time’

varying, untested benefits,” threatened the report market says. access for sugar producers

“Consumers could from easily developing confuse these areas. schemes Many Caribbean /

It sold the UK’s first Fairtrade-labelled chocolate with Fairtrade, and Central mistake American other programmes countries are very reliant on

bar The in 1994 four and leading switched reasons its for entire buying own-brand Fairtrade for are offering the same the level sugar of industry impact, for and income. the

chocolate bar range to Fairtrade in 2002. In 2016 it independent assurance of Fairtrade. However,

a combination of morals and product preference:

was the was ahead of other retailers in selling ownbrand

Fairtrade Easter eggs.

understand the term Fairtrade, and 49% having

with 23% of consumers saying they completely


1. Knowing that it is doing good for communities (51%) The flower industry employs a largely female workforce

It sold the first Fairtrade bananas (and converted some understanding, by demonstrating impact and

all bananas to Fairtrade in 2012) – and is also the difference, Fairtrade




in a good




to continue

and therefore more vulnerable

largest 2. seller Liking of Fairtrade products wine in the (29%) world.

to maintain and build workers. on its shoppers.” Fairtrade Top selling is working to protect workers’

According to Mr Hill, rights Fairtrade and ensure is Fairtrade the certification decent products

working conditions.

SCHEME 3. Seeing CONFUSION it as better quality (24%)

of choice for producers. “Producers at continue Co-op: to tell

us that Fairtrade is the Wine most effective certification

Fairtrade 4. Trusting trail-blazed the quality the because concept the of ethical for them in a mainstream Wine market,” grape farming he says, is “and very is labour-intensive,

purchasing supermarket ever since of the choice Fairtrade stocks Mark a launched the only certification so to wine empower production Bananas

those producers often leads to poor labour

all the way lot of back Fairtrade in 1994 – products and the scheme (21%) has now and pay a minimum standards price Premium. and Chocolate living We conditions need for small farmers

become mainstream. Three out of four (72%) of to do what we can


to really





on large


plantations. In South Africa

shoppers in the Group’s survey said they completely benefits to communities of them Tea by making bags the

Fairtrade is working to tackle low wages and provide

or mostly understand what Fairtrade is all about. Fairtrade choice.


adequate housing for workers.

Two thirds say they buy Fairtrade only “We believe the right approach is to build


‘sometimes’ or ‘not often’, but 33% would upon the success of Fairtrade. That’s why, in

switch to Fairtrade if they understood more addition to our sourcing commitment, Sugar we are

about the benefits of making such purchases. investing directly to extend further Coffee the benefits


And this is where one of the problems lies. of our trading relationships. We are embarking

Over recent years, the number of alternative

ethical schemes has risen, from the Rainforest

in new projects with our coffee farmers in Brazil,

tea farmers in Malawi and banana farmers in

Alliance to in-house labels such as Dominican Republic.”

Fairtrade baskets

It is not surprising to see that tea and c

products most synonymous with Fairtr

followed by chocolate (45%) and banan


likely to


1. Coffe

2. Choc

3. Bana

4. Tea (

5. Bagg

6. Wine

7. Flow

8. Cott

The average Fairtrade consumer has be

products for five years, though six and a

they have only started buying them in th

eight per cent say they have been purch

a decade or more. Just one in 10 consum

buy Fairtrade, though two thirds say the

only ‘sometimes’ or ‘not often’. But there

to change this behaviour as 33 per cent

Fairtrade if they understood more abou

making such purchases. This is followed

the product itself (34%), believing that t

quality (21%) and getting a recommend

MARCH 2018 | 45

Co-op Education Conference 2018:

Q&A with Dr Cilla Ross

The Co-operative Education Conference is focusing on two strands this year:

‘Learning for new co-operative times’ and ‘The Co-operative University’.

Organised by the Co-operative College, the conference takes place at

Federation in Manchester on 1-2 May. Here College vice-principal, Dr Cilla

Ross speaks about the event, and the role co-operative education has in an

ever-changing future.

Join the debate on

what the future of

co-operation should

look like at the 2018

Co-op Education

and Research

Conference, 1-2

May at Federation

in Manchester. For

more information

and to book your

place, visit





The Co-operative Education Conference is an

opportunity to discuss new ideas around not just

co-operative education, but co-op policy and the coop

world. Yes it’s for people associated with co-ops,

but we need to push the boundaries of what that

means. This conference is for those in education,

those in the traditional movement or emerging

co-ops and anyone with a general interest in cooperation

and the social solidarity economy. We’re

thinking about the big ideas.

At the heart of the conference are two strands:

learning for the new co-operative times and the

co-operative university, which is getting a lot of

support (for example from the Labour Party) and

gaining momentum.

As we approach our centenary year in 2019, the

College is looking wider. We’re looking to create

great teaching, learning and research - but what

does this mean and who is this for? The conference

will be unafraid of asking this.



Co-operatives have an absolutely massive role

to play in light of technological change, and the

changing nature of work and working life.

Interestingly, Labour’s recent discussion about the

doubling of the co-op sector implies a new, growing

co-operative workforce. The fundamentalist notions

of what work is changing: what role do co-operatives

play? Yes, we’re seeing technological changes, but

we also need to look at what we’re experiencing in

terms of liberation and what it means for identity.

One thing we’ve been looking at is the union

co-op model, thinking about how co-ops can

challenge precarity, and I’ll be hosting follow up

workshops bringing unions and co-ops together.

So a challenge is what skills we need for the

future. Do we need to be more agile and creative, do

we need more useful non-work life?



The College is facilitating the Co-operative

University Working Group (CUWG) whose aim is

to explore various models of co-operative higher

education, including a co-operative university, as a

result of the UK Higher Education Research Act 2017.

The Act gives us an extraordinary opportunity to

think about the co-op model.

My background is in alternative adult higher

education and there are many emerging education

groups that have diverse interests about education.

The idea of a co-op university has been well

received. No one wants to be in the level of debt

current universities model necessitates. So we need

to think creatively.

The CUWG has had meetings with Higher

Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) and

the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education

(QAA), and has been conceptualising what a

co-op university could look like – from community

courses to accredited university qualifications. It’s

brilliantly messy!

There’s a chance to look differently at the

federated model, at pedagogy, economic models,

ownership, and organisational structure.

There’s no reason we can’t have a co-operative

university - we can meet the quality assurance – but

the big issue is money. This year, for example, we

need to bring in expertise to look at the specialist

regulatory framework. So as a movement, one of the

next steps is to look at more creative ways of raising

money – will it be a co-op? Will people get a divvy?


A co-operator can look like anyone and everyone.

Every single person has the potential to be in a

co-op if they wish. Yes we need to work with people

already in the movement, but it’s about other

people as well – we need to work with whoever we

can. This is essential for survival. The more we can

open things up, the better.

46 | MARCH 2018

By buying Co-op Fairtrade products

members support communities locally

in the UK, and around the world

Lending Power:

How Self-Help

Credit Union

turned smalltime

loans into

big-time change,


When you buy Co-op Fairtrade products, you support

producers and their communities. As a member, 1% of what

you spend goes to a local cause at home too * .

Find out more at coop.uk/fairtrade

* Applies when members buy Co-op branded products in Co-op Group Food stores. Members earn 1% for local causes. Offer not available in independent societies including

Midcounties, Central England, Southern or Chelmsford Star co-operatives. Exclusions and restrictions apply. See Membership T&Cs at www.coop.co.uk/membership.

MARCH 2018 | 49


Bankruption - How community banking can survive fintech

By John Waupsh,

(Wiley, 2017)

Bankruption argues that the community banking

movement should reinvent itself to overcome

challenges from emerging market entrants.

John Waupsh, who has a background in fintech,

believes that community banking is broken.

He highlights some inefficiencies within the

credit union sector, describing it as “a model the

average consumer doesn’t know or care about,

with a belief system that outstrips capability”.

He also criticises credit union boards for lacking

people with experience in banking or technology.

And he makes the compelling case that, in

an increasingly competitive and regulated

market, community banks and credit unions will

have to work together with entrepreneurs and

fintech companies to provide the digital services

their members need.

But can credit unions learn from other

sectors? Waupsh thinks that when it comes

to omnichannel approaches, big retailers

have some useful lessons for community

banking. He provides tips for credit unions to

eliminate the worst practices, network and

expand contacts.

From investing in new research and

technologies, to supporting with fintech startups

and partnering with other businesses,

community banks will have to be proactive as

well as find new niche markets not served by

the big banks.

So what does the fintech future hold for

credit unions? Bankruption says big changes are

needed, urging the movement to work harder for

a shift to a digital community. It is a change

that is coming whether the movement is ready or

not, warns Waupsh.

“The branch of the future is a mobile device,”

he writes.

Lending Power: How Self-Help Credit Union turned small-time loans into

big-time change

By Howard E

Covington Jr,

foreword by

Darren Walker

(Duke University

Press, 2017)

Rising inequality and the desire for alternative

economic models means co-ops and credit unions

are the subject of growing interest – which makes

this account of a small-non profit, created to tackle

poverty in Reagan’s America, a timely one.

It is the story not just of the rise of a radical credit

union but also of its role in the community that

shaped it, which saw it work with churches, civil

rights activists, maverick philanthropists and city

planners to deliver change.

Self-Help Credit Union traces its roots back to

North Carolina in 1980, with the formation of the

non-profit Center for Community Self Help to lend

money to community development projects and

worker buy-outs of struggling companies. From

these small beginnings – it established its first

credit union in 1983 with the $77 proceeds of a

bake sale – Self-Help has become the USA’s largest

lender to people on low-to-moderate incomes.

In this lively, absorbing look at the organisation,

historian Howard E Covington Jr notes: “The

credit union’s loan portfolio of 30-year, fixed-rate

mortgages to low- and moderate-income borrowers,

nearly half of them single mothers and people of

colour, proved to be as sound as institutions that

made loans to borrowers with established credit.”

Founders Martin Eakes and Bonnie Wright were

fired by radical notions and “a belief that the civil

rights movement is not over until everyone in

society enjoys economic justice”. But there were

also conservative values at work: borrowers are

expected to pay on time like everyone else, with

no giveaways – and “Self-Help uses the same

financial tools perfected... on Wall Street to benefit

poor people”.

Eakes is the key figure in the book, a tough,

tenacious individual who survived in his penniless

early years by sleeping on his desk and bathing

in the local river while hustling for grants to fund

projects that would “reconcile socialism and

capitalism”. It’s this doggedness that saw him raise

the funds for Self-Help to hire its first staff, and

helped him weather “a national campaign led by

mortgage bankers, payday lenders and the political

Right, who were bound to discredit the organisation

and, according to Eakes, destroy him personally”.

Against this opposition, Self-Help steadily grew,

organising worker-ownership conferences on

college campuses, and rescuing and incorporating

credit unions in California, Chicago and Florida.

Moving to national level, it became a federal credit

union in 2008.

Along the way it played crucial roles in vital

regeneration projects, such as the redevelopment

of a huge, derelict site once formerly owned by

the American Tobacco Company in Durham, the

North Carolina town where Self-Help was born.

When the project stalled in 2003, the credit union

worked with local authorities to arrange finance so

the regeneration could go ahead. The derelict site

48 | MARCH 2018

Women’s Periodicals and Print Culture in Britain 1918-1939

Women’s Periodicals and Print Culture in Britain

looks at various publications offered to women in

the interwar period and the different notions of the

modern woman they portrayed.

The book explores the role of women’s print media

in reshaping public discourses of gender by defining

women’s interests, activities, and identities in

those days.

The period was marked by women’s victory

in their campaign for the vote in 1917 as well as

mass unemployment following the Wall Street

Crash of 1929.

One of the publications analysed is Woman’s

Outlook, a magazine for women in the co-operative

movement, which was published between

1919 and 1967.

Written by Nathalie Bradbury, the Woman’s

Outlook chapter focuses on the role of the woman

in the co-operative movement and the wider society.

The Women’s Outlook developed out of a column

called Woman’s Corner, featured in Co-op News in

1883. The first editor of the column was Alice Aclan,

one of the founding members of the Co-operative

Women’s Guild.

Unlike many women magazines at the times,

which were owned, written and edited by men,

Woman’s Outlook was written and edited by women

in the movement.

The chapter explains how readers were not

regarded as passive recipients, but were invited to

contribute content and take part in discussions. The

key message of the magazine was that women’s

involvement in the co-op movement should not

be limited to their role as consumers. In spite

of its relationship with the CWG and the wider

co-operative movement, the magazine had its

own identity, reflecting the challenges faced

by its readers.

Ed. by Catherine

Clay, Maria DiCenzo,

Barbara Green &

Fiona Hackney

Edinburgh University

Press, 2018

is now a thriving hub,

could provide nearly

4,000 jobs.

It’s a vivid symbol

of how credit union

principles can make

a difference. More

evidence of this

difference can be seen

in Eakes’ battles with regulators and legislators to

stop predatory businesses turning non-profits into

regular, for-profit corporations. There’s a useful

account of Self-Help’s advocacy work, including

a campaign to keep health insurer NC Blue as a

non-profit; of Eakes’ attack on global banking giant

Citigroup over its move into the subprime market;

and his work with lawmakers to draft a responsible

lending bill.

This fighting spirit was much needed in the

poverty-stricken towns of North Carolina, where

Eakes once had to frisk workers for guns on their

way to a lawsuit against a bankrupt employer for lost

pay. He also had to challenge racial bias and a

financial industry where an African American

business owner would find that “a bank would easily

give him a loan for $20,000 Cadillac, but he could

not get $100 to buy an acre of dirt to expand his

logging operation”.

Lending Power is an object lesson in how the

credit union movement can make a difference in

such situations. As Eakes said in 2014: “We did not

have to be geniuses. We just had to have enough

faith in simple things.”

Below: Self-Help Credit Union,

Fayetterville, North Carolina

(Photo: Allen Forrest).

Left: The credit union helped

to facilitate the funding of

the regeneration of the

American Tobacco

district in Durham,

North California

(Photo: Anthony


MARCH 2018 | 49



discusses a programme to shift power

away from central government and

multinationals in Wigan from 27-29

March; Claire McCarthy of the Co-op Party

is among contributors at platform co-op

event OPEN 2018 in London from 26-27

July; Community Energy Fortnight runs

from 23 June - 8 July; Ed Mayo, secretary

general of Co-operatives UK, which holds

its AGM in Manchester on 18 May

2 March: Co-op Party NI Winter School

Learn how the co-operative agenda could

transform the political economy, from

housing to agriculture.

WHERE: Adelphi, Portrush

INFO: s.coop/26710

9 March: Co-operative Retail Conference

With keynote presentations, best practice

examples and discussion of the co-op

retail environment.

WHERE: Chesford Grange, Kenilworth

INFO: s.coop/26710

27-29 March CTRLshift: An emergency

summit for change

Join activists, organisers, commoners,

and entrepreneurs to develop a shared

agenda for regaining power over our

democracy, economy and environment.

WHERE: The Edge, Riveredge, Wigan

INFO: www.ctrlshiftsummit.org.uk

11-13 May: Worker Co-op Weekend

The Worker Co-op Weekend, hosted by

Co-operatives UK, has practical sessions

covering a range of topics. Designed

and run by worker co-ops for worker

co-ops, with food sourced from co-ops

like Essential and Suma, with bread from

Infinity, beer from Bartlebys Brewery and

veg from Unicorn Grocery. Vegan-friendly

catering, camping and campfires.

WHERE: Foundry Adventure Centre,

Great Hucklow, Derbyshire

INFO: www.uk.coop/wcw18

18 May: Co-operatives UK AGM

Open to all Co‐operatives UK members.

Issues discussed by delegates and the

priorities identified will be taken to

Co operatives UK’s strategic review group.

WHERE: Holyoake House, Manchester

INFO: www.uk.coop/AGM

23 June: Co-operative Congress

Annual conference for the co-op sector.

WHERE: etc Venues, Liverpool Street

London EC2M 3YD

INFO: www.uk.coop/wcw18

23 June - 8 July: Community

Energy Fortnight

Showcasing communities who are

sharing their resources and generating

renewable energy and wasting less. Run

by Community Energy England on behalf

of the Community Energy Coalition.

WHERE: National

INFO: www.ukcec.org/about-CEF

15 -18 July: World Credit Union

Conference 2018

The World Credit Union Conference is

designed for high-level credit union

leaders from around the globe including

credit union staff, board of directors,

committee members and regulators.

WHERE: Singapore

INFO: www.wcuc.org

26 - 27 July: OPEN 2018: Platform


OPEN 2018 will focus on three main

themes: The Platform co-op showcase,

The Collaborative and Peer to Peer

technology sessions and discussions

on the changing narrative. Contributors

include Natalia Lombardo of Loomio,

academic Nathan Schneider, Claire

McCarthy of the Co-operative Party, David

Boyle of the Community Shares Company,

and Arthur Brock from HOLO.

WHERE: Conway Hall, Holborn, London

INFO: 2018.open.coop


August 31 - September 2 UK Society

for Co-operative Studies Conference

2018 (Sheffield)

50 | MARCH 2018

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