Learning for a
Plus ... Co-operative
Retail Conference update
... Abcul’s annual event ...
Q&A with Gillian Lonergan
9 770009 982010
CO-OPERATIVE COLLEGE CENTENARY TAKE-OVER
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Transforming communities and
changing lives: celebrating the
impact of co-operative education
CONNECTING, CHAMPIONING AND
CHALLENGING THE GLOBAL CO-OP
MOVEMENT SINCE 1871
Holyoake House, Hanover Street,
Manchester M60 0AS
(00) 44 161 214 0870
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Elaine Dean (chair), David Paterson
(vice-chair), Sofygil Crew, Gavin
Ewing, Tim Hartley, Beverley Perkins,
Barbara Rainford and Ray Henderson.
Secretary: Richard Bickle
Established in 1871, Co-operative
News is published by Co-operative
Press Ltd, a registered society under
the Co-operative 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 organisations.
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.
From the start, co-operators have acknowledged the importance of education – both
in terms of giving colleagues and members the opportunity to learn, and raising
awareness of the co-operative model. The Rochdale Pioneers enshrined education
in their founding principles 175 years ago. And it was 100 years ago that the
Co-operative College was established to continue this legacy.
As principal and chief executive of the College, it gives me great pleasure to
welcome you to this special takeover edition of Co-op News, which forms part
of our centenary celebrations. We would like to thank everyone associated with
Co-op Press for this opportunity to not only showcase the work we have been doing,
but to recognise people involved in the sector and explore the conversation around
co-operative education more widely.
This issue we draw on our long-standing partnership with the Co-operative
Heritage Trust to look at the history behind the college (p34) and the continuing
importance of the Rochdale and the Pioneers Museum as a place of international
historic significance (p40-41).
By using some of our amazing heritage in new and imaginative ways, we can
demonstrate the difference that co-operation makes. This year the College is
engaging in a number of exciting projects that, with the movement’s support, could
improve the lives of many people both in the UK and internationally, meeting our
shared commitments under Principle 5.
We are within touching distance of the College gaining degree awarding powers as
the final step towards a Co-operative University (p38-39). We are influencing future
policy through our Adult Education 100 campaign, which maps out a new vision for
lifelong learning across the UK (p33). And we are making tremendous progress in
reaching out to marginalised young people in the UK, making them aware of the
power that co-operation has in supporting them to improve their lives (p36).
Over the last 100 years we have developed our long standing reputation as an
international co-operative development organisation and, with our partners,
continue to have a positive impact in building co-operative enterprises in developing
The College empowers people with the skills and knowledge to make a real difference;
great things really do happen when people co-operate. We are hugely grateful for
the long standing support we have received from the co-operative movement – and
we look forward to continue working with you over the next 100 years.
Enjoy the read.
- PRINCIPAL AND CHIEF EXECUTIVE
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.
APRIL 2019 | 3
9 770009 982010
CLOCKWISE FROM TOP LEFT
Stephen McDow, who spoke at the
Co-operative Retail Conference (p25-27);
John Glen MP, economic secretary to the
Treasury and City Minister, at the Abcul
conference (p28-29); Gillian Lonergan,
librarian at the National Co-operative
Archive, who retires at the end of March
(p42-45); Hazel Johnson, Trustee of the
Co-operative College (p31-32); John Jacques,
College tutor and co-operator (p34-35)
22-23 MEET... LINDA SHAW
The former vice-principal of the
34-35 TIME LINE
The journey of the College from
1919 to 2019
news Issue #7306 APRIL 2019
Connecting, championing, challenging
Learning for a
Plus ... Co-operative
Retail Conference update
... Abcul’s annual event ...
Q&A with Gillian Lonergan
CO-OPERATIVE COLLEGE CENTENARY TAKE-OVER
COVER: Education for all:
The Co-operative College
Read more: p30-47
25-27 CO-OPERATIVE RETAIL
Updates from the event which features
keynotes from industry specialists and
best practice examples from peers
28-29 ABCUL ANNUAL CONFERENCE
Updates from the annual event hosted by
the Association of British Credit Unions
30-47 CO-OPERATIVE COLLEGE
Features created and curated by
the College as part of its centenary
Cilla Ross, College vice-principal,
looks back at 100 years of education
– while building for the future
31-32 ADDRESSING THE CHALLENGES
OF OUR TIME
Hazel Johnson, College Trustee, on the
benefits of co-operative organising
33 ADULT EDUCATION 100 CAMPAIGN
Q&A with Nigel Todd, chair of the
36-37 FROM ROCHDALE TO RWANDA
A showcase of the College’s project
work, in the UK and around the world
38-39 BUILDING CO-OP UNIVERSITY
Co-operation in higher education
40-41 CO-OPERATIVE HERITAGE TRUST
The role of the trust – and its place in
the Rochdale community
42-45 GILLIAN LONERGAN
Interview with the National
Co-operative Archive librarian on
the eve of her retirement
46-47 CO-OPERATIVE SCHOOLS
Russell Gill, chair of the Co-op
Academies Trust, on the role of
co-operation in schools
5-14 UK updates
15-21 Global updates
4 | APRIL 2019
As Brexit crisis unfolds,
co-ops give Hammond
budget a mixed reception
As the political crisis surrounding the
Brexit process continued to escalate, Philip
Hammond presented his spring statement
to MPs last month –but one leader from
the co-op movement dismissed it as “an
ordinary budget in extraordinary times.”
There were no significant
announcements on tax and spending,
although the chancellor pledged £26.6bn
to boost the economy should MPs vote
to leave the EU with a deal. He warned
that the country would face significant
disruption if it left without a deal.
Mr Hammond is also going ahead
with his push for a digital service tax to
pool money from online retailers and
relieve pressure on high street retailers. A
consultation will open on 1 April.
Ed Mayo, secretary general of
Co-operatives UK, said: “Despite the
headlines of mass spending if crisis hits,
the spring statement is an ordinary budget
in extraordinary times.
“It is as if to reassure us that
government goes on while parliament is
in confusion and our relationship with
trading partners is in tatters. There is an
economic cost to pay for all this, because
businesses tend to benefit from stability
and lose out when there is volatility.
“Co-operatives are no different, even
if we are here to meet needs rather than
benefit investors. We will be calling for
action by the chancellor to invest in
communities, urban and rural, that are
losing out, with the release of funds that
used to be spent through EU programmes
into more local community control.”
Mr Hammond made a number of
announcements around the government’s
housing policy, including a new £3bn
scheme of borrowing by housing
associations in England to support
delivery of 30,000 affordable homes.
Nic Bliss, head of policy at the
Confederation of Co-operative Housing,
said: “Anything that leads to more
homes being built or brought back into
use has to be a good thing. So funding
p Ed Mayo (above) said businesses need more action from Mr Hammond (top)
for affordable housing is a good thing.
It may also be welcomed that the housing
association right to buy is parked due to
lack of funding – although some housing
association tenants would not agree.
“But for us in the community led
housing sector, the boost that the
government’s Community Housing
Fund has already given us is the major
issue and we continue to work
with government and others to
ensure that it leads to the several
thousand community homes that
it could deliver.”
APRIL 2019 | 5
Sowing the seeds of a
platform co-op sector
to rival the tech giants
Co-operatives UK is launching a £120,000
seed fund and roadshow to build platform
co-ops into a viable alternative to big
corporations such as Amazon and Uber.
The launch coincides with the
publication of Platform Co-operatives,
Solving the Capital Conundrum – a report
from Nesta and Co-operatives UK which
says better access to capital investment is
the key to platform co-ops’ growth.
A platform co-op is a digital platform
that offers a service and is collectively
owned and governed by the people who
depend on and participate in it.
The report follows research on the
potential for platform co-ops to create a
fairer digital business model and provide
long-term social and economic benefits.
It outlines the conditions necessary
for platform co-ops to become viable
alternatives to the big tech corporations
that monopolise the market. And it
proposes an investment model based on
community shares – a popular approach
to raising finance unique to co-operative
societies, where investors become
co-owners of enterprises.
Ed Mayo, secretary general
of Co-operatives UK, said: “Web-based
platforms dominate our daily lives. But
the standard platform business model
often relies on the monetisation of user
data and disregards privacy and workers’
rights. It’s time for an alternative.”
Nesta CEO Geoff Mulgan added: “We
have to find a way to help platform co-ops
scale up. An investment model based
on community shares can provide an
alternative to venture capital and angelbacked
Co-operatives UK’s development lead,
Simon Borkin, who wrote the report,
said: “Capital raising and support for
burgeoning platform co-ops is vitally
important. So we are delighted to
announce a programme of support worth
over £120,000 funded by Open Society
Foundations, to create a seed fund to
help platform co-ops to start and grow,
including an important institutional
investment in Equal Care Co-op, which
will help us develop real-world support
for other platform co-ops.”
Co-operatives UK is also running
a roadshow to share its research and
encourage emerging platform businesses
to scale co-operatively, as part of its
platform co-op start-up programme
UnFound, funded by the Co-op Bank and
in partnership with Stir to Action.
Nominations open for the UK Co-operative of the Year Awards
Nominations are open for the
Co-operative of the Year Awards, which
will be presented at Co-op Congress
This year the awards, organised by
Co-operatives UK, will feature two
extra categories, which will go to
The categories are:
• Leading Co-operative of the Year
(for co-operatives with turnover of more
• Inspiring Co-operative of the Year
(for co-ops with turnover of between £1m
• Breakthrough Co-operative of the Year
(for co-ops with turnover of up to £1m)
• Co-operative Council of the Year
(sponsored by CCIN, the Co-operative
Councils Innovation Network)
• Co-operator of the Year (open to anyone
affiliated to a Co-operatives UK member)
• Lifetime Achievement Award (for
individuals who have made a significant
contribution to the movement)
Up to five co-operatives or individuals
for each category will be shortlisted
by the nominations panel, made up
of Co-operatives UK’s chair, secretary
general and a senior representative from
sponsors the Co-op Bank and CCIN (for
p The winners of the 2018 Co-operative of the Year awards
the Co-op Council Award). Online voting
will take place from 6 May to 13 June. The
previous year’s winners and shortlisted
contenders are not eligible to enter.
“The Co-operative of the Year Awards
are one of the highlights of the year,” said
Co-operatives UK secretary general, Ed
Mayo. “I am always inspired by the range
of diversity of nominations and the sheer
number of public votes, which provide
a fantastic platform for the shortlisted
co-ops to promote their businesses.”
The Breakthrough Co-operative of the
Year will have the option to access £1,000
worth of specialist business advice from
The Hive, Co-operatives UK’s business
support programme run in partnership
with the Co-op Bank.
Andrew Bester, chief executive at
the Bank, said: “We are delighted
to be supporting the awards, which
complements the commitment we have
made to supporting and developing
co-ops through The Hive. The Hive has
already provided over 650 groups with
training, mentoring and resources over
the last two years.”
Nominations close on 29 April. The
awards are free to enter and open to all
Co-operatives UK members. You can make
your nominations at s.coop/22ek9
6 | APRIL 2019
FCA scraps registration fees – saving co-ops £1m a year
p The winners of the 2018 Co-operative of the Year awards
The UK’s Financial Conduct Authority
(FCA) has announced it is abolishing
annual registration fees for societies –
saving organisations up to £495 per year.
It is also scrapping the £12 charge
for accessing records on the online
The move, which will mean an
estimated saving of £1m for the sector,
has been championed by Co-operatives
UK, which led calls to abolish the fees and
encouraged societies to respond to the
FCA’s consultation on the issue.
“The FCA Mutuals Team deserves
a lot of credit for all this,” said a
Co-operatives UK spokesperson, “but we
also know the pressure we’ve applied
behind the scenes has helped make the
business case for these changes inside the
“It’s great example of how, working
together, we can push for change to
benefit the sector overall.”
The regulator has also launched a new
online portal for registering and filing as
a society, and has made improvements
to its registration and AR30 forms in line
with Co-operatives UK recommendations.
Questions for co-operative societies
now align with the ICA definition and
questions for community benefit societies
make a clearer link between business
activity and community benefit.
“We warmly welcome the changes
introduced by the FCA who were
extremely receptive to our suggested
improvements,” said Co-operatives UK’s
secretary general, Ed Mayo.
“This is a great example of how a strong
and open relationship with an exemplary
modern regulator can bring about positive
results. We’d also like to say a huge
thank-you to our members who took the
time to respond to the consultation to
create the change that will save the sector
an estimated £1m per year.”
New members, app and chief executive for NHS Credit Union
The NHS Credit Union (NHS CU) has seen
an increase in membership of more than
60% thanks to a successful recruitment
campaign in Fife.
The news comes alongside the launch
of a new mobile banking app and the
appointment of a new chief executive.
Supported by public service union
Unison and the internal communications
team at NHS Fife, the membership drive
saw the NHS CU team make site visits
to hospitals and health centres in the
Fife area. The recruitment campaign has
resulted in a 63.2% growth in membership
in just five weeks. The total number of
members of the entire credit union now
And the credit union’s new mobile
banking app, which recently began being
rolled out to members, now has 2,000
Alongside this activity, NHS CU also
welcomed a new chief executive, as Ruth
Dorman took over from Robert Kelly,
p Ruth Dorman CEO NHS CU
now chief executive of the Association
of British Credit Unions (Abcul).
Ms Dorman said: “I knew I was joining
a successful organisation and the success
of the app and the Fife campaign certainly
shows we are moving in the right direction.
I look forward to welcoming more
members into our financial family and
continuing to help care for the financial
welfare of NHS staff from Shetland
“I firmly believe that working together
at a strategic level we can contribute to
the discussion and the influence that
credit unions bring to the development
and direction of financial services and
poverty reduction in Scotland and beyond.
Working together, we can exert a positive
influence on the direction of travel and
shape the future for members and, in turn,
APRIL 2019 | 7
New marketing chief and partnership deal at Co-op Energy
Co-op Energy has signed a five-year
deal with home assistance company
HomeServe to offer insurance for a range
of services to its 370,000 UK customers.
The suite of products provides cover for
gas central heating, boilers and supply
pipes; plumbing, drainage and water
supply pipes; and home electrics and will
p Helen James
be available from £3 per month, delivered
under the Co-op Energy brand.
“We know green energy is important
to our members,” said David Bird, Co-op
Energy’s CEO. “That’s why we advise our
customers on how they can reduce their
consumption wherever we can. Part of
that includes maintaining an efficient
boiler and fixing any minor problems or
faulty appliances quickly.
“Working with our partners at
HomeServe to deliver a range of simple,
good value new services that help achieve
that therefore builds on the values that are
at the heart of what we do.”
Steve Ashton, chief partnerships officer
of HomeServe, said: “we’re proud to serve
more than two million UK customers
and more than eight million in countries
across the world.
“We look forward to giving many of
Co-op Energy’s customers that added
peace of mind when it comes to protecting
Meanwhile, Co-op Energy has appointed
Helen James as chief marketing officer as
it seeks to engage customers through its
Ms James, a customer insight specialist
who joins from nPower, will focus on
customer engagement and growing the
co-op movement within energy.
She said: “Co-op Energy is already
driving change in this sector, delivering
green power as standard, supporting
innovation in a sector on the brink of
transformation. To continue its growth,
it needs to truly engage both existing and
future customers with the values that
drive it – democracy, openness, equality
and social responsibility.”
Mr Bird added: “We represent fairness
in a sector that is crying out for that.
“Helen’s expertise in customer insight
and experience within the energy sector
makes her the perfect fit for us as we
seek to grow the co-operative movement
Wales Co-op Centre
finds new home close
to young creatives
Development agency Wales Co-operative
Centre has relocated to the new Canolfan
S4C Yr Egin building in Carmarthen, where
it hopes to network with a new audience
of young creatives and entrepreneurs.
Project manager Marc Davies said: “The
office brings new project partnership
opportunities, with Business in Focus,
Carmarthen County Council and
Pembrokeshire County Council also
having office space in the S4C building.
“Our Digital Communities Wales project
will be one of the main beneficiaries, as
many of the building’s tenants are linked to
the creative technology industries, which
is always looking for new and innovative
ways to embed digital inclusion.”
The building is opposite the University
of Wales Trinity St David’s College
campus. Wales Co-operative Centre hopes
the move will facilitate networking with
the creative industries and projects linked
to the Swansea Bay City deal programme.
p The new branding at Scotmid’s Drumnadrochit store, which opened in January
Scotmid’s new logo uses the ICA marque
Scotmid Co-op is adopting a new
brand identity, which incorporates the
Co-operative Marque developed by the
International Co-operative Alliance.
The society has been using a new
logo, developed in house on all materials
produced since the start of 2019. It plans to
roll it out across all of its outlets to mark
its 160th anniversary in November.
A spokesman said: “We’re really excited
about the new branding – it incorporates
the ICA marque and points towards our
core purpose which is the fact we are
guided by the same values and principles
adopted by all co-operatives.
“The new branding was introduced
when our Moredun store was reopened
in April 2018 and will be rolled out across
the entire store estate while also featuring
prominently in our 160-year anniversary
celebrations in November – a fresh look
during a milestone year in our history.”
The branding is in place at Scotmid’s
new state-of-the-art, purpose-built
convenience store in Drumnadrochit,
which opened in January.
8 | APRIL 2019
Co-op Group trials home
The Co-op Group is launching a home
delivery service for groceries, beginning
with a trial in nine London stores.
It is the first time the organisation has
offered online grocery deliveries via a
dedicated website, shop.coop.co.uk, and
follows a recent trial of robot deliveries in
Milton Keynes and a free service by taxi
for groceries at eight other UK stores.
The service will initially be available
within a 4km radius of a store on the Kings
Road, Chelsea, before being rolled out
to eight more London stores. Orders will
be fulfilled using zero-emission electric
cargo bikes, from e-cargobikes.com.
The trial claims shoppers will receive
their orders within two hours. There is a
standard £5 delivery charge and a £15
minimum spend, with all prices the same
as they are in stores. A free click and
collect service will also be made available.
“This is an exciting time for the Co-op,
with trials under way on a number of new,
p Jo Whitfield, chief executive of Co-op Food, with a delivery bike
online initiatives,” said Chris Conway,
head of food digital.
However, the news comes after the
Group closed its online electrical business
on 24 March following a strategic review.
“This decision reflects the small scale of
the business and the significant capital
investment that would be needed to
expand it,” said a statement. “This is
within a market which is also facing
significant challenge and uncertainty.”
The Group has also confirmed that the
5-and-1 store reward scheme for members
no longer applies to items reduced to clear.
It said: “This is because these products
are already significantly reduced, typically
by 50% from their previous retail price,”
adding that while there is no requirement
to notify members individually of a change
in the terms, it has updated the terms
and conditions on its website and briefed
1.1 About this report
Co-op Group finds nearly a fifth of Brits unaware of modern slavery
New research commissioned by the Co-op
Group shows that 18% of British people
are unaware of modern slavery.
The study was published on 1 March
(see Annex 1).
to coincide with the second anniversary
of Bright Future, an employment scheme
that sees charities and businesses create
jobs for victims of modern slavery.
The programme started two years ago
when the Co-op Group began working
with charity City Hearts to offer work
opportunities for survivors of the crime.
Eighteen businesses and 26 charities
have joined the scheme so far – but
according to the research, one in five
Brits remain “totally unaware” of modern
slavery. Around 82% of those surveyed
had heard of modern slavery and believed
care in the UK.
more should be done to combat it. Of
these, 47% wanted more information to
advise people on how to spot the signs
of slavery, and 36% believed employers
could do more to help victims find work.
Bright Future has already helped to
provide employment to 50 survivors, with
This report is an independent interim review of the Bright Future
programme, commissioned by the Co-op, and conducted by a
the Co-op Group estimating that 300 will
secure placements by 2020.
Among them was Peter from Romania,
who lived in shared accommodation with
a group of kickboxers who intimidated
him. He was forced to work in a car wash
for free and accompanied to banks to open
accounts used for money laundering.
After a couple of weeks, he managed to
escape. Police referred him to City Hearts
and he has been working for 10 months.
Similarly, 39-year-old Martin from
Poland was forced to do agricultural
labour. During this time, he was not paid
any wages and was severely assaulted.
He went to the police, who referred him
to the National Referral Mechanism for
specialist trafficking support.
Once his case was shared with Bright
Future, he was offered a placement in a
Co-op Group store, where he has been
over the past 10 months.
Paul Gerrard, director of campaigns
at the Group, said Bright Future had
attracted some of the UK’s top businesses,
team of researchers led by Dr Alex Balch from the University of
Liverpool. The research that informs it was conducted during
September and October 2017. We were asked to assess the
relevance, efficiency and effectiveness of the Bright Future
programme, and to consider its outcomes and sustainability
We carried out 35 interviews with key informants (see Annex
2) as part of our evaluation of Bright Future, its processes,
the experiences of those participating in the programme, the
operation of relationships between the Co-op and its external
partners and how these could be improved. This report therefore
has a focus on lesson-learning with a view to how the programme
can be improved and enhanced, but also how it can inform
national efforts to address the problem of long-term integration of
survivors of modern slavery.
It should be noted that our findings and recommendations are
based on the relatively short lifespan of the programme and we
were not able to interview all of those who had been on individual
placements, and can therefore only point to very preliminary
ideas about outcomes. It is also important to recognise that
many survivors will not have the right to work (see Annex 3), and
others may never recover sufficiently to be in a position to work.
Therefore the Bright Future programme alone should not be
considered the sole basis for a national model for wider survivor
including John Lewis, Typhoo, Dixons
Carphone and the Body Shop – but added:
“Unfortunately, this research underlines
how much work still needs to be done if
modern slavery is to be eliminated from
“We think of slavery as something from
the history books but it is happening in
towns, cities and even rural areas across
Bright Future: An independent Interim Review
the UK at this very moment.”
APRIL 2019 | 9
for renewable energy
and broadband projects
Two more share offers have been launched
by community benefit societies for
projects in energy and broadband.
B4RN (Broadband for the Rural North)
is looking to raise £3m to expand its full
fibre network. Set up in 2011, it has 2,500
members and delivers fast fibre optic
broadband to over 5,000 rural homes,
businesses and schools in the North West
and, more recently, East Anglia.
It hopes to raise the funding, which
would help it quadruple its network over
the next five years, using Triodos Bank’s
investment crowdfunding platform.
In addition to offering one-gigabit
capable broadband to rural communities,
B4RN provides free internet to schools.
The society works with local residents
and rural landowners to gain access
across their land, which helps it install
cables at a reduced cost.
Meanwhile, Assel Valley Community
Renewables Society wants to raise £1m so
locals can take a stake in the Assel Valley
windfarm near Girvan, Ayrshire.
The windfarm was developed and built
by Falck Renewables Wind and comprises
ten Nordex N90 wind turbines, each rated
2.5MW with a total installed capacity of
25MW, generating 84,000 MWh a year.
Assel Valley has partnered with
Energy4All, a network of 24 renewable
energy co-ops, on the share offer. Locals
can purchase shares for a minimum of
£250, at asselvalley.coop.
Director Jim Lee said: “We have
recruited some local directors who will
be helping to get as many local people as
possible involved. Looking to the future,
the renewables society will create a fund
for the benefit of the local community
closest to the wind farm site.”
Erin Hunter, Falck Renewables’
community relations manager, said:
“We have always been determined as a
company to offer people the chance to
have a stake in their local wind farm.”
Arla’s climate pledge sees dairy co-op aim for zero carbon
Arla Foods, which includes farmers across
the UK has announced plans to make its
operations carbon neutral by 2050.
The dairy co-op – owned by 10,300
farmers across the UK, Germany, Denmark,
Sweden, Finland, the Netherlands and
Belgium – has also pledged to balance
nitrogen and phosphorus cycles to
support clean water systems, and to take
steps to increase biodiversity in the UK.
Arla – which gave its entire 2018 profit
to farmers hit by last year’s drought
– claims the changes will show that
“business growth can be achieved without
It says it has managed more than
40% more milk since 2005, but has also
reduced its CO2 emissions by 22% across
production and packaging. On its farms, it
says CO2 emissions per kilo of milk have
reduced by 24% since 1990.
Arla says targets can be met through
improved tech and farm efficiency, and
points to a 48% reduction in its UK plastic
carbon footprint, achieved by reducing
the weight of its standard milk bottles
and using up to 40% recycled plastic in
them. This makes 84% of its packaging
produced in the UK recyclable.
No palm oil is used in products made in
the UK, it adds. All palm oil in products
from outside the UK comes from growers
with independent verification from the
Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil.
Other measures include generating
renewable energy on farms, grazing cows
outdoors to help absorb carbon dioxide,
and having farmers look after hedgerows.
Arla said the commitments involve
“applying our co-operative principles to
nature”, adding: “Arla’s farmer owners
work with the nature around them to
apply the best environmental measures.”
Clare Oxborrow, from Friends of the
Earth, said: “It’s good to see businesses
responding to the climate crisis. It’s also
positive to see Arla doing this holistically,
including aiming to enhance biodiversity.”
But she added: “It’s vital greenhouse
gas savings are not made by intensifying
production and pushing dairy cows
to be more ‘efficient’ at the expense of
their welfare. Overall we need a ‘less
and better’ approach to meat and dairy
production in the UK that brings down
climate emissions, protects biodiversity,
safeguards our health and animal welfare
and secures farmer livelihoods.”
10 | APRIL 2019
Report calls for a
co-op option for
Scotland needs more housing co-ops
to build stronger communities, offer
affordable rents and empower tenants, a
report said last month.
With 150,000 people on council house
waiting lists, Scotland has just 11 registered
housing co-ops, compared to 685 across
the UK – and the report, launched
by Co-operatives UK for Scotland’s
Cross Party Group (CPG) on Co-ops,
wants the government to remedy this.
The research, which features case studies
including West Whitlawburn Housing
Co-op, Edinburgh Student Housing
Co-op and Ploughshare Housing Co-op,
offers an eight-point plan to deliver more
This includes a three-year programme
to develop housing co-ops in the social
and private rental sectors; consultation
with Scotland’s social tenants and work
to lower the costs and increase the scale
of community-led housing.
The report suggests working with the
sector to create a co-op foundation to
finance larger community-led projects.
And it says existing housing co-ops also
need government support, particularly
in terms of safety improvements needed
after the Grenfell fire.
Another recommendation is to grant
“carefully targeted” relief from Land and
Buildings Transaction Tax on additional
property purchases made by fully mutual
housing co-ops in order to help nonregistered
housing co-ops expand.
James Kelly MSP, convener of the CPG
on Co-ops, said: “We hope colleagues
across the Scottish Parliament and
beyond will read this report and support
Co-op launches bursary to encourage women in STEM
Central England Co-operative has
launched a bursary programme to
encourage women into traditionally
male-dominated sectors such as IT and
engineering. The society is donating up
to £20,000 every year for the next three
years to help Birmingham City University
students taking IT and digital subjects, as
well as science, technology, engineering
and maths (STEM).
Suicide bereavement charity funding from Southern Co-op
A charity helping people affected by
suicide received a donation of £7,000
from Havant’s crematorium, the Oaks,
which is part of the Southern Co-operative.
Sue Fisher, facilitator for Portsmouth’s
Survivors of Bereavement by Suicide,
says it is important people have a place to
grieve. Her son Kevin died nine year ago at
the age of 27.
Midcounties pharmacies could be up for sale
Midcounties Co-operative is evaluating
its pharmacy division as it prepares to
examine potential interest from buyers. The
news, which comes after a period of change
in the high street pharmacy market, saw
the retailer instructing independent agents
dealing exclusively with pharmacy sales
and valuations to assess the value of 22
of its 30 pharmacies.
Fair Tax Mark for soon-to-be co-op VME Retail
VME Retail Systems, providers of IntelliStore
till and back office software to co-op retail
stores and supermarkets, has been certified
as an accredited Fair Tax Mark business.
Steve Gill, chief executive of VME Retail,
said: “The directors and shareholders of
VME have always believed in the principle
that everyone needs to pay fair tax.”
Scotmid toasts success at the Scottish Grocer Awards
Scotmid Co-op has scored a double win
at the annual Scottish Grocer Awards in
Glasgow. The retailer’s Clarkston store was
crowned Bakery Retailer of the Year while
Scotmid Ratho Station store won Food
to Go store of the Year. The awards are
given by Scottish Grocer, which covers the
country’s convenience retail sector.
APRIL 2019 | 11
Worker bee branding sees Co-op Party hark back to Rochdale roots
The Co-operative Party has revealed
a new brand identity, which features
a fresh logo incorporating a bee.
With membership at its highest level in
modern times, the Party says it wants to
reflect renewed ambition while remaining
true to the values of the co-op movement.
The beehive was initially used by the
Rochdale Pioneers in the stonework of
their first store on Toad Lane, back in 1844.
Since then, it has become an emblem of
the co-operative ethos.
The branding has already been adopted
by dozens of local Party branches, which
have received starter packs including a
roller banner, tablecloth, membership
forms, and a USB stick with templates.
The rebranding process began in 2018
when the Party started working with the
agency Soapbox, known for its work for
Oxfam, the Institute for Public Policy
Research and Fabian Society.
Communications officer Ben West
said: “Our new logo incorporates a bee,
a symbol long associated with the co-op
movement, reminding us of our strength
when we work together. The bold fonts,
imagery and colours are intended as a
modern take on our movement’s rich
history; practical, campaigning and
restless for change. And that sense of
bold, no-nonsense practicality extends to
the roll-out of the new brand. The aim is to
make it easy for everyone to use the new
brand and to make it their own.”
Meanwhile, the Party has released
research which shows almost half of
principal authorities in England and
Scotland have appointed cabinet or leadlevel
members for food poverty.
Through its Campaign for Food
Justice, the Party says it will work with
councils to develop food action plans and
partnerships and to measure the scale
of the problem in different areas.
Parliamentary group chair Jim
McMahon said: “Councils are at the sharp
end of years of austerity, a dysfunctional
economy that no longer provides fair pay
for far too many, and a broken housing
market. This is causing the return of
hunger to families and communities in the
sixth richest country in the world.”
Central England Co-op
welcomes new CEO
Debbie Robinson has started her new
role as CEO at Central England Co-op.
Appointed in November, Ms Robinson
will be responsible for developing the
strategic and commercial direction of the
society, which boasts 8,000 staff and over
400 trading outlets across 16 counties.
She takes over from Martyn Cheatle, who
has been at the helm of the business since
2010. He saw the society grow with the
transfers of Anglia, Shepley and Wooldale
societies. The number of food stores rose
from 168 to 266, while funerals expanded
from 81 to 131 branches.
Ms Robinson joins from Spar, where
she was UK managing director. She has
previously worked at the Co-op Group,
Marks & Spencer and WHSmith.
She said: “I am excited to be joining a
progressive, forward-looking business.
p Debbie Robinson started the new role on 4 March
I look forward to building on the fantastic
work Martyn has done and working
with the team to ensure Central England
Co-op fulfils its ambitions and potential,
making a real difference for our
customers, members and communities.
“My vision is to grow sustainably and
make the most of the society’s key USP:
our co-operative values and principles.”
Central England president, Elaine
Dean, said: “All at Central England Co-op
are delighted to welcome Debbie.
“She joins at an exciting time of
growth and development for us and we
can’t wait to see how she uses her vast
experience in the retail sector, combined
with co-op values, to take us forward as a
dynamic and independent co-operative.”
12 | APRIL 2019
KPMG faces £4m fine
over its handling of
C0-op Bank audit
Big four accountancy firm KPMG could be
hit with a £4m fine over its supervision
of the Co-operative Bank’s accounts, Sky
News has reported.
The Financial Reporting Council started
reviewing the firm’s audit of the bank in
2014. The investigation is ongoing.
KPMG handled the bank’s acquisition of
the Britannia Building Society in 2009 –
widely seen as one of the factors behind
the exposure of a £1.5bn capital shortfall
at the Bank in May 2013.
In 2016 the Co-operative Bank’s former
chief financial officer and chief executive,
Barry Tootell, reached a settlement
agreement with the Institute of Chartered
Accountants in England and Wales
(ICAEW). He admitted misconduct and
agreed to be excluded from membership
of the accountancy body for six years.
In 2016 the Prudential Regulation
Authority also carried out an enforcement
investigation into the Co-operative Bank.
The FRF decided the PRA’s findings were
“conclusive evidence of misconduct” and
banned Mr Tootell – along with former
Co-operative Bank managing director,
Keith Anderson – from holding banking
positions of significant influence.
The Bank appointed EY as auditor in
2014, replacing KPMG, who had been the
Co-op Group’s auditor for 30 years. EY
are also the current auditors of the Co-op
Group, which sold its final stake in the
bank in 2017.
FRC and KPMG declined to comment.
James Arnold, former director of the New Lanark Trust
p Jim Arnold at the gates of New Lanark
Jim Arnold, who served as director of the
New Lanark Trust from 1974-2010, was
one of the people most responsible for the
resurrection of New Lanark, arguably the
birthplace of British co-operation, writes
It is hard to believe that he has been
taken from us. Jim had been associated
with New Lanark since 1974 and was its
first director from then until 2010.
The work he undertook from a semiderelict
village to Unesco World Heritage
Site inscription was quite astonishing as
recognised by his many awards including
an MBE and an honorary doctorate and
degrees from the Universities of York,
Strathclyde and the Open University.
In 1987 he was presented with the
Europa Silver Medal, a major European
conservation award for the restoration
of New Lanark. He was undoubtedly one
of the most important figures in industrial
heritage in the UK, if not the world.
As a committed co-operator, he
passionately believed in preserving
the memory of Robert Owen and
highlighting the relevance of his work
today. Jim believed that, as a father figure
of co-operation, trade unionism and the
Labour Party, Owen’s relevance could not
be more important to the co-operative
and labour movement today.
However, Jim didn’t just operate at the
dizzy heights of Unesco. During the 1980s
and 1990s, I persuaded Jim to support the
revitalisation of co-operative democracy
in Scotland by serving on the CWS Larkhall
committee (later the Lanarkshire Area
Committee), one of many such committees
in a Scotland largely abandoned by the
CWS of the day and a mockery of serious
democratic involvement. With Jim’s
commitment and others like him, we
dragged the CWS into the 20th century,
returning the co-op to its members,
where it remains, more or less, today.
After retirement, Jim stayed on in
New Lanark always ready with advice
and help for his successors. He was
also a member of the advisory board of
Co-operative Development Scotland. Jim
and his colleague Lorna Davidson were
also founder members of the Utopian
Studies Society of Europe.
Quite recently Robin Stewart, Graham
Melmoth and I enjoyed a very pleasant
evening with Jim in the New Lanark Hotel,
which is in itself, a testimony to the work
of Jim Arnold.
Jim is sadly missed but he remains
forever a giant in the history of
industrial heritage, New Lanark and the
Dr James Edward Arnold, MBE, MA,
MUniv, DUniv, BA, Cert Ed, FRSA, 16
March 1945 (Glasgow) - 19 February,
2019 (New Lanark)
Iain Macdonald is a trustee of New
Lanark and former director general of the
International Co-operative Alliance.
APRIL 2019 | 13
International Women’s Day: Women co-operators share their journeys
Co-operators highlighted the movement’s
contribution to gender equality as they
celebrated International Women’s Day on
Central England Co-op hosted an
event in Sutton Coldfield as part of
Co-operative Women’s Voices, a series
of spaces for women in co-ops to meet,
learn and share experiences.
“Co-operation is not a noun, it is a verb,
a process of being, putting Principle 6 in
action, seeking to change the world,”
said Dorothy Francis, chief executive of
Leicester-based Co-operative And Social
Enterprise Development Agency (CASE).
“Co-ops have been my entire adult life,”
Ms Francis talked about her experience
growing up in the UK in a Jamaican
family and being taught, along with her
siblings, to co-operate, share and stand
up for each other.
In Jamaica co-ops are a common way
of organising, whether by selling
produce collectively or getting loans from
But in the 1970s, running a business
was not an option for young women in the
UK; they were not given the opportunity.
This prompted Ms Francis to pursue her
work at CASE, promoting business to
women, especially women of colour and
in newly arrived communities.
She has helped over 200 enterprises
to start, develop and realise their
potential. She has been made an MBE
and a Companion of the Chartered
Management Institute for her work,
and been given the Queen’s Award
for Enterprise Promotion Lifetime
Co-op Group member nominated
director Margaret Casely-Hayford also
shared some of the hurdles she faced
during her career, such as being told by a
chemistry teacher that she would become
a housewife. This, she said, drove
her to achieve more, following the
motto “I can, I will, just watch me”. She
left school with A levels and worked
in local government before studying
a law degree at Oxford University.
She joined Denton Hall Law Firm (now
SNR Denton) in 1987 where she was
made partner in 1998. Later, she became
head of legal services at the John Lewis
p Top: Dorothy Francis posing with a cardboard model from the 50 Fantastic Females Exhibition
Below: Elaine Dean, president of Central England Co-op, Barbara Rainford of Midcounties
Co-op and Debbie Robinson, CEO of Central England (Photos: Alex Cantrill-Jones / ACJ Media)
Partnership, where she played a key
role in engaging with the government
to redraft legislation for employeeowned
businesses, securing tax relief for
bonuses paid to employees in 2014.
She now chairs the board of
Shakespeare's Globe and is chancellor
of Coventry University.
In 2008 The Black Power List named
the Casely-Hayfords the most influential
black family in the UK and in 2014 she
was named Black British Business Person
of the Year.
Women co-operators also heard from
Debbie Robinson, newly appointed
chief executive of Central England
Co-operative. She shared her journey,
highlighting that she had chosen to focus
on the positive aspects rather than on
the difficulties faced as a woman in the
“Today we have been able to talk about
things that we don’t usually talk about. I
would like all of us to be the change that
we want to happen. You’ll be the only
person that stops you from doing that,”
she told the audience.
Central England president Elaine Dean
said the society had a 50-50% gender
balance on its board.
Employee director Tanya Noon added:
“It’s important that we continue to
highlight the role women play in co-ops,
building on the heritage of both men and
women. It’s imperative that we continue
to do this and inspire future generations
to be the guardians of co-op values
In addition to presentations and
workshops, the event featured Elaine
Pantling in a performance as Leicester
suffragette Alice Hawkins.
14 | APRIL 2019
Date confirmed for ICA Global Conference
The International Co-operative Alliance
(ICA) holds its Global Conference in
Kigali, Rwanda, on 14-17 October.
The event, which will see delegates
gather from around the world, is
organised by the ICA with support from
the Rwandan government, alongside the
country’s co-operative movement.
In a letter to members, ICA president
Ariel Guarco said the conference would
boost international recognition of the
co-operative movement and reinforce
its role as a key player in sustainable
development around the globe.
He said it would also show the
economic, social and environmental
contribution co-ops are making to
“The vital contribution that co-ops
make covers each of the 17 Sustainable
Development Goals (SDGs) of the United
Nations, which leads the implementation
of policies and programmes that foster
the emergence or consolidation of co-ops
around the world,” he wrote.
Mr Guarco said the ICA would set up
a committee of representatives from its
sectoral and regional organisations to
create a programme for the conference. In
January, he went to Rwanda where he met
representatives from the country’s co-op
movement and visited local co-ops.
The three-day event will feature good
practice presentations from co-operators
and experts in the field of development,
as well as keynote speeches. The results
of the ICA’s work on the contribution
of co-operatives to the SDGs will
also be presented.
Alongside co-operators, the conference
will bring together other players in the civil
society such as development agencies,
policy makers, researchers, institutional
partners, high-level government officials,
and representatives from international
and regional organisations.
And there will be exhibition space
for co-ops to showcase their work, in
particular to highlight the potential of
co-operative value chains and fair trade.
“The co-operative movement and the
government of Rwanda are expecting a
big crowd in Kigali,” said Mr Guarco. “We
must, as co-operators, take full advantage
of this wonderful opportunity for exposure
and advocacy that the conference offers
to assert our collective values and
experiences as well as to articulate the
public policies that we need.
“Our conference on Cooperatives
for Development promises to be very
interesting, intense and rewarding.
I extend co-operative greetings, and
I look forward to seeing each and every
one of you.”
The conference will be followed by the
ICA’s General Assembly on 17 October.
The preliminary programme will be
APRIL 2019 | 15
Mutuals on the move: How ‘trust and security’ after the
crash saw co-op insurers grow faster than rivals
Co-operative and mutual insurers have
experienced a decade of growth since the
2008 financial crisis, says a report by the
International Co-operative and Mutual
Insurance Federation (ICMIF).
Launched in February, the Global
Mutual Market Share 10 report shows
that over the 10-year period since the
onset of the financial crisis (2007-2017),
the premium income of the global mutual
and co-operative insurance sector grew
by 30% – compared to 17% for the total
global insurance industry.
The report also reveals that the global
market share of mutual and co-operative
insurers rose from 24.0% in 2007 to 26.7%
in 2017. The sector’s assets were worth
US $8.9tn (£6.70tn) in 2017.
p Hilde Vernaillen, chair of ICMIF (Photo: ICMIF)
In her foreword, Hilde Vernaillen, chair
of ICMIF and chief executive of Belgian
co-operative insurer P&V Assurances,
said the financial crisis had helped to
grow the sector.
“At this financially volatile time, as
consumer trust, consumer spending
and interest rates plummeted, the
co-op/mutual insurance sector began to
emerge, even flourish, outperforming the
insurance industry average and capturing
more market share,” she wrote.
“Additional qualitative research carried
out by ICMIF during this period suggests
that this positive performance is linked
to consumers’ preference for providers
that can demonstrate characteristics most
p Shaun Tarbuck, chief executive of ICMIF (Photo: ICMIF)
commonly associated with co-operatives
and mutuals: trustworthiness, security
and service excellence.”
Membership of mutual and co-operative
insurance companies increased by 13%
since 2012, with 922 million members
and policy holders served by the sector
in 2017. The number of people employed
by the sector also increased, reaching 1.16
million in 2017 – a 24% growth since 2007.
The report includes a detailed
analysis of the premium income, assets,
investments, number of employees and
number of members/policyholders of over
5,100 mutual and co-operative insurance
companies in 77 countries.
The top insurance markets in terms
of mutual and co-operative market share
are Austria (59.9%), Finland (56.2%), the
Netherlands (55.9%), Slovakia (53.4%)
and France (51.8%). Furthermore, mutual
insurance had a significant presence
(market share of 40% or more) in some
of the world’s largest insurance markets,
including the USA, Japan, France
Ms Vernaillen also highlighted the
importance of the federation’s extensive
research on the mutual and co-operative
sector, adding: “The Global Mutual Market
Share report is an important tool for
ICMIF to hold evidence-based discussions
about the socio-economic importance
of mutual/co-operative insurers with
legislators, regulators and policymakers.
“In emerging markets, where the lack
of inclusive insurance impedes economic
development, poverty reduction and
disaster recovery, ICMIF continues its
efforts to extend access to co-operative/
mutual insurance. In developed markets,
ICMIF and its members can make use
of this report to make the case for due
consideration and equitable treatment of
Shaun Tarbuck, chief executive
of ICMIF, said: “Now that we have
reached the 10-year anniversary of the
onset of the global financial crisis, it is
hugely encouraging to see that the mutual
and co-operative insurance sector is
continuing to grow, and at a faster rate
than the rest of the industry.
“The growth in market share is very
positive, but equally so is the growth in
membership numbers and the number
of people employed by our sector. The
mutual sector grew at a faster rate
between 2007 and 2017 than the rest of the
industry in Europe, North America, Latin
America and Africa.”
He added: “Globally, over 5,100
mutual insurers collectively wrote $1.3tn
(£0.98tn) in insurance premiums in
2017, the second highest level of
premium volumes ever recorded by the
“Also, the mutual sector registered
positive annual growth in nine of the
previous 10 years since 2007.”
16 | APRIL 2019
Strong performance lifts the Desjardins divi
Canadian financial co-operative
Desjardins Group reported surplus
earnings before member dividends of
CA $2.33bn (£1.33bn) in 2018, up 8.14% on
the previous year.
Due to a strong performance, the
co-op will hand out $253m (£144.51m)
to its members in dividends, the highest
level in six years.
Announcing its annual results for
the year ended December 2018, the
group revealed the dividend was up
25% from 2017. Desjardins is the largest
co-operative financial group in Canada
and the largest federation of credit
unions in North America.
In addition to the dividends, in 2018 the
co-op also provided $94m (£53.69m) in
sponsorships, donations and scholarships
(Q4 2017: $82m) and $42m (£23.99m)
in Desjardins Member Advantages
(Q4 2017: $36m).
“I am very proud of Desjardins
Group’s performance,” said Guy Cormier,
president and chief executive. “Our
membership grew at the fastest rate in
10 years, and this includes young adults.
Moreover, surplus earnings are growing
and living up to our expectations.
“We also received an award from
Corporate Knights for our new ETFs and
SocieTerra fund, underscoring Desjardins
Group’s leadership in achieving the
objectives of the Paris Accord. I don’t
think there is any doubt that efforts to
continually strengthen our member and
client culture and our digital shift have
a lot to do with the remarkable results
Desjardins’ Property and Casualty
Insurance division reported a surplus
of $173m (£98.82m), down from $446m
(£254.76m) in 2017 due to an increase
in claims from drivers as well as those
affected by last spring’s floods in Quebec.
However, the co-op maintains a total
capital ratio of 17.6% at December 31, 2018.
Operating income also went up by
7.2% to $16.56bn (£9.46bn) while total
assets increased by 7.4% since 2017 to
$295.5bn (£168.79bn). Desjardins says
this growth was largely due to the
increase in net loans and acceptances,
as well as securities, including securities
borrowed or purchased under reverse
purchase agreements. Desjardins added
50,000 new members in 2018.
Teachers Mutual scores high marks
on worldwide ethical business list
One of Australia’s largest mutual banks
has made it onto the World’s Most
Ethical Companies list, compiled by the
Teachers Mutual is the only Australian
business to be included in this year’s
list, which spans 21 countries and 50
industries. The bank recently became the
largest in Australia to certify deposits and
mortgages as socially responsible under
the Responsible Investment Association
Australasia (RIAA) guidelines.
Founded in 1966, Teachers is one
of Australia’s largest mutual banks,
comprising four brands: Firefighters
Mutual Bank, Health Professionals Bank,
Teachers Mutual Bank and UniBank. It
has over 200,000 members and more than
AU $7bn (£4bn) in assets.
“Our aim is to be the most socially
responsible bank in Australia,” said
chief executive Steve James. “The Royal
Commission [on banking] has shown
what happens when you lose sight of
the customers’ interests, but for 52 years
we’ve been focused solely on them. That’s
a big reason we’re recognised here.
“Our operations are carbon neutral, our
investments are fossil fuel free, and we
don’t have conflicts between shareholder
and customer interests ... That’s not going
As part of its ethical policy, the bank
screens member deposits to exclude 14
harmful activities, including gambling,
tobacco, and fossil fuel lending.
Ethisphere CEO Timothy Erblich said:
“Today employees, consumers and
stakeholders value companies that show
a commitment to business integrity, and
have the organisational humility to never
stop seeking improvement. The World’s
Most Ethical Companies honourees
understand that this approach has a
profound impact on communities and
is the foundation for broader success
and profitability. We congratulate all
honourees for making our world a better
place by blending profit and purpose in a
Ethisphere also gathers best practice
from honourees, which will be released in
a report this month.
APRIL 2019 | 17
lobby lawmakers on
community grants and
Two US credit union associations have
urged lawmakers to fully fund the
Community Development Financial
Institutions Program (CDFI), which helps
the sector access grants to serve millions
In a letter to the House Appropriations
Subcommittee on Financial Services
and General Government, the National
Association of Federally-Insured Credit
Unions (Nafcu) said the grants are an
“invaluable resource” for credit unions.
Writing to the subcommittee ahead of
a hearing on CDFIs, Nafcu’s Brad Thaler
said there are 285 CDFI-designated credit
unions, which hold more than 50%
of total CDFI assets.
“Over the past two years, CDFI credit
unions received roughly $70m in grant
funding to aid in their efforts to offer
financial services to their low- and
moderate-income members,” he wrote.
“Without the programme, many CDFI
credit unions would not have been able
offer new products and loans that provide
financial stability for members.”
Mr Thaler added that CDFI-certified
credit unions were “critical partners” in
the fund’s mission, mostly operating in
low-income areas. Nafcu argues that,
without CDFI, thousands of customers
could find themselves without credit
The grants enable credit unions to
provide a range of products, including
mortgage lending for first-time
homebuyers, flexible underwriting for
community facilities, and commercial
loans for businesses in low-income areas.
The Credit Union National Association
(Cuna) also wrote to the subcommittee on
“CDFIs such as some community
development credit unions (CDCUs) are
charged with supplying low-income,
distressed communities with traditional
banking services such as savings
accounts and personal loans, and offering
individuals the tools needed to become
p CDFI has supported the work of credit unions in towns such as Johnston City, Tennessee
self-sufficient stakeholders in their
own future,” it said.
“The CDFI Fund uses small amounts
of federal dollars to leverage significant
amounts of private and non-federal
dollars, and has added a tremendous
boost to the CDFI industry, which relies
heavily upon private sector funds.”
Cuna notes that in Johnson City,
Tennessee, Appalachian Community FCU
secured a $2.1m CDFI grant two years ago
to assist over 200 families with its down
payments assistance loans, helping to
And in Missouri, St Louis Community
CU received a grant in 2013 to help launch
a programme to provide affordable car
loans. Worth $849,000, the grant was
leveraged into over $22m in auto loans.
“These examples represent just two
credit unions and how the CDFI Fund
is being used to grow local economies
and serve the most economically
distressed communities in the nation,”
In February, president Trump signed
the budget deal which sets CDFI Fund
levels at $250m for the 2019 fiscal year.
Credit unions are also asking the
government for more time before they have
to apply the new credit loss accounting
Issued in 2016 by the Financial
Accounting Standards Board
(FASB), the standard focuses on the
estimation of expected losses over
the life of the loans. Nafcu says credit
unions should be excluded from the
standard or given a one-year delay
of the effective date.
“Nafcu continues to believe that credit
unions should not have been included
in the CECL standard, especially because
credit unions have a unique capital
framework and face certain regulatory
constraints,” Andrew Morris, Nafcu’s
senior counsel for research and policy,
wrote in a letter to the FASB. “We urge
the FASB to partner with the National
Credit Union Administration to identify
opportunities for capital relief and
prevent a scenario where credit unions
must dramatically scale back asset growth
or face mandatory supervisory action in
the event that net worth ratios fall below
Cuna has also written to lawmakers
asking for a delay in implementation.
18 | APRIL 2019
Woccu scheme sees motorbike bankers
bring financial inclusion to the borders
A credit union project is helping
thousands of people at Colombia’s
border with Venezuela to get access to
Led by the World Council of Credit
Unions (Woccu), the financial inclusion
project surpassed its original goal of
delivering financial services to 210,000
rural, low-income Colombians.
The initiative is funded through
the national Banca de Oportunidades
programme, which helps families
and small enterprises to access vital
The scheme has been funding Woccu’s
work in Colombia since 2008. Between
2014 and 2016, the third reiteration of
the project, Woccu provided technical
assistance and training to 31 credit unions.
For 2016-2019, the council set the target
to reach 210,000 people, 100,000 of whom
have not been certified as members of the
formal financial system.
Between 2017 and 2018, partner
financial institutions managed to reach
90% of the total adult population in the
border areas, 85,648 of whom have became
part of Colombia’s formal financial system
for the first time.
In total, 224,378 people have benefited
from the scheme, helped by field agents
travelling to border areas by motorcycle
to offer mobile banking services. The
approach reduces operational risk
because their devices are linked to the
financial institution’s banking software.
Agents also deliver financial literacy
activities through the project, which
combines different microfinance
methodologies, such as village banking,
community banks, individual microcredit,
and village and savings loans.
“It’s a very good project. I’ve managed
to have my own business. Previously, I had
no formal job, no business. But they gave
me a loan and taught me how to save. Now
I am working out of my home and I have
several clients,” said Yamile Hernández, a
beneficiary of the project.
“This programme is very important for
the people living along the border,” said
Oscar Guzman, Woccu’s director of the
p A financial literacy event under the scheme
project. “Most of the rural communities
don’t have access to a physical credit
union or bank branch – and traveling to
a city that has one can cost families more
than half of their savings. Our project
ensures they can open accounts, make
deposits and withdrawals – even secure
a loan – right in their own communities.”
The programme saw more than 60,000
people attend “financial days” to receive
information on financial services and
“We had not had the opportunity for
someone to come and teach us how to
save as a community and family. Thank
you very much for coming here,” said
Carmenza Savogal, a member of the
Misaya community of the Yukpa.
ICA calls for
cash to shout the
message on co-ops
The International Co-operative Alliance
(ICA) has called for funds to highlight the
contribution of co-ops to sustainability.
It is urging the co-op movement to “fully
explore this unprecedented opportunity”
and wants members to help promote
the sector’s work on the United Nations’
Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
The funding would support activities
including monitoring the actions of
the co-op movement; an awareness
campaign; releasing reports; providing
methodological and training tools;
establishing an expert group and
developing a certification system.
The SDGs were launched in 2016 to
address the world’s greatest challenges,
particularly those related to poverty,
inequality, climate change, environmental
degradation, prosperity, and peace and
justice. The 17 goals set specific targets to
be achieved by 2030.
In a fundraising document, the ICA
says its current instruments are not
sufficient to highlight the co-operative
sector’s contribution to the SDGs. It also
wants resources to campaign for a more
favourable policy environment, which
would allow co-ops to increase their
contribution to sustainable development.
It says its current data is not sufficient
to report, between now and 2030, on
how or to what extent co-operatives are
contributing to the SDGs. However, the
ICA believes achieving this would offer
unprecedented global visibility to the
Its global office, funded through
membership fees and the ICA-EU
partnership programme Cooperatives in
Development, is providing other services
to the movement, including back office
administration, surveys and consultations
with members, and organising the ICA
To continue to support the work around
the SDGs, the ICA is now seed funding,
and hopes to launch the new initiative
over the next few months.
u ICA members and co-ops wishing to
make a donation can transfer funds into
the bank account of the ICA: IBAN: BE70
7340 3713 3225 BIC: KREDBEBB. More
information at ica.coop
APRIL 2019 | 19
offers its workers a
Basque co-op Fagor Industrial is
encouraging employees to swap cars for
The worker co-op has formed a
partnership with bike manufacturer
Orbea, also a Basque co-op, which entitles
Fagor employees to a 25% discount for
over 100 bike models.
Initially a family-owned business,
Orbea became a worker co-op in 1959
when it was bought out by its employees.
It specialises in producing leisure
bikes for consumers in Spain and
Fagor Industrial forms part of the
Mondragon Group. It produces kitchen
appliances and catering equipment.
Over the last three years, Fagor
increased its workforce by 17%. The
initiative aims to address the demand for
more parking spaces as well as promote
an environmentally friendly alternative
In addition to buying the bicycles at
a discounted price, Fagor employees
are also able to pay in instalments, over
the course of 24 months. And staff were
given the chance to test the bikes for
a week before deciding which model
to go for.
To further incentivise staff to adopt
sustainable transport options, Fagor
will give a €200 (£170) bonus to anyone
cycling to work more than 50 times over
the course of the year.
“Our priority when launching this
initiative was to provide workers with
a social benefit,” says Jone Urzelai,
president of Fagor Industrial.
“Furthermore, we had no doubts about
carrying this project out with Orbea, a
co-operative from Euskadi like ourselves.”
He added: “This initiative has allowed
us to strengthen ties between the two
p Rubén Gabilondo, president of Orbea and
Jone Urzelai, president of Fagor Industrial on
the day they singed the partnership
businesses and could encourage other
organisations to do the same. I would like
to emphasise that this project is just the
first phase, and that Fagor Industrial is
committed to continue promoting respect
for the environment and sustainability,
recognising and rewarding the entire
group that travels to work in shared cars
Around 5% of employees have already
bought a bike through the scheme.
Co-op football league aims to revolutionise the beautiful game
A group of amateur football clubs has set
up a self-managed co-operative league to
take the game back to its roots.
So far, the Co-operative Football League
(LICOOF) has 30 junior and adult teams,
including female footballers.
The league, which officially opened
in February, started in 2017 when six
Santiago-based clubs found themselves
dissatisfied with the service from their
privately owned amateur leagues.
“We would always be given spaces that
had deficiencies and did not meet our
requirements,” says Eduardo Partarrieu
Bravo, president of the co-op.
“After reading about practices that had
been used in Chile in the past, we came
across the concept of co-operative football
leagues organised by clubs themselves.”
He says the initiative is an attempt to
go back to the roots of football – selfmanaged
leagues. In recent years, the
approach had shifted from benefiting
these clubs to commercialising the spaces
and boosting profits for the enterprises
managing the league.
The co-op gathered leaders from
different clubs to establish common
agreements and find the best way to
develop a co-operative league.
Mr Partarrieu Bravo thinks the
co-op model is the perfect fit. “We aim
to create a common meeting space,
where participation, collaboration and
transparency in managing economic
resources are always present.”
The clubs hope that pooling resources,
knowledge and experience will help them
create a model that can be replicated in
other sports – not just at amateur level,
but also by professional clubs.
“We see football as a social, sporting
and cultural phenomenon and we would
like the league to have all of these
characteristics,” he adds.
Mr Partarrieu Bravo thinks the model
is an alternative to the excessive
commercialisation that has overtaken the
game in recent decades.
20 | APRIL 2019
welcomes new EU laws
to help energy co-ops
The EU has brought in new laws on
renewables that will benefit energy co-ops
across Europe, says sector body REScoop.
In a new booklet, published in
collaboration with Friends of the Earth,
Greenpeace and Energy Cities, REScoop
looks at the how the new legislation can
remove barriers to community and citizen
The changes were introduced in
December, when the EU’s Transport,
Telecommunications & Energy Council
adopted the revised Energy Efficiency
Directive, the revised Renewable
Energy Directive and the new
This means the EU has adopted four
of the eight legislative acts which make
up the Clean Energy for All Europeans
package, published by the European
Commission on 30 November 2016.
The package aims to make the EU the
world leader in renewable energy.
The framework introduces the first
national energy and climate plans and
empowers consumers to become fully
active players in the energy transition.
The EU also sets a new binding
renewable energy target for 2030 of at
least 32% and an energy efficiency target
of at least 32.5%.
REScoop’s booklet, aimed at national
and local energy campaigners, municipal
members, local environmental groups,
members of energy co-ops and active
citizens, says the new legislation is
“a game changer”.
“Citizens and energy communities
across the EU now have a number of
guarantees that ensure they are able to
invest in renewables and benefit from the
energy transition,” it says.
MSc scholarships in co-ops, food and sustainability
Up to six fully paid scholarships are
available for a masters course on
co-ops and food sustainability in Ireland.
The Centre for Co-operative Studies, at
University College Cork, is running an
MSc in Co-operatives, Agri-Food and
Sustainable Development. Scholarships
are open to all EU candidates – including
students from the UK after Brexit.
Argentine dairy co-op looks to Asia to boost exports
Argentinian dairy co-op Manfrey has
set its sights on entering the Indian and
Vietnamese markets in a bid to increase
exports. The co-op’s president, Ercole
Felippa, recently toured both countries as
part of a commercial delegation to promote
rapid negotiation of trade agreements
and reduce trade barriers. They currently
operate in Cuban and Mexican markets.
Honduran chocolate co-op targets European market
Honduran president Juan Orlando
Hernández has officially opened
the Cooperativa Agrícola Santalária
Limitada – a chocolate producing co-op
that will export to Holland, France and
Chile. Supported by the World Bank, the
co-op will benefit 534 cocoa producers
in Honduras, creating 35 permanent
jobs, 15 temporary jobs and 6,500
NZ praises co-ops for work on sustainable development
Co-operatives are helping the world meet
the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals,
says New Zealand prime minister Jacinda
Ardern. In her speech at the annual forum
of the country’s co-op sector, Ms Ardern
said New Zealand was due to report on
its progress towards the 17 SDGs at a High
Level Political Forum of the UN.
Asia’s credit unions go digital to drive financial inclusion
The Worldwide Foundation for Credit
Unions is helping to develop new digital
platforms for its Asian network. It wants
to promote financial inclusion across the
continent via interoperable, open-loop,
low-cost, real-time payment platforms.
The platforms will trial in Indonesia and
in the Philippines,
APRIL 2019 | 21
Meet ... Linda Shaw,
former vice principal
of the Co-operative College
Dr Shaw is a trained historian with experience in adult education
and international development. She retired from the College in 2015,
after 14 years with the organisation.
HOW DID YOU BECOME INVOLVED IN THE
My children were in the Woodcraft Folk. I joined the
Co-operative College when it moved to Manchester
in 2001. That was my first engagement with the
I was working in adult education at the University
of Manchester and I welcomed the opportunity to
work in adult education within another sector, at
a time when universities were running down their
adult education provision.
WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE COLLEGE’S
AMBITION TO GET DEGREE-AWARDING
POWERS AND PROVIDE MORE OPPORTUNITIES
FOR ADULT LEARNERS?
The co-operative university project is a very
positive step forward and I am very supportive of it.
I think it’s important for the College to move
forward and the big idea of the co-op university is
a good fit. Throughout the College’s history, there
has been a lot of discussion around a co-operative
university. This is fulfilling the early dreams, which
WHAT IS YOUR BEST MEMORY FROM YOUR TIME
AT THE COLLEGE?
I think my best memories relate to the people
I worked with over the years. It was a privilege to
work with people to build something together. That
applied just as much to the international work as it
did to UK work.
It was a privilege to work in the co-operative
movement. The sector has been expanding and
growing in confidence.
While there, I helped to shape some of the
directions, redeveloped the international work and
focused on research as well. It was very fulfilling.
HOW HAVE YOU BEEN INVOLVED SINCE
I helped to finish the work on some of the writing for
the co-operative development work. Stirling Smith
and I worked together in the northern province
of Sri Lanka on an education and development
programme for co-ops, which lasted around 12
months. We did a return trip last year.
The other main project I am involved in is
working on two books that will be published to
mark the College’s centenary. One, Learning for a
Co-operative World, is in its final stages of
publication. It features a collection of articles
around co-op education and the College and covers
a range of issues, from platform co-operatives in
the USA to the ideas of Robert Owen.
The second book is a history of the Co-operative
College, which it will be published before its
conference in November. This will be published by
Palgrave as part of its histories of adult education
series. I am exploring the international aspect
WE ALSO NEED TO STRENGTHEN CO-OP
RESEARCH SO WE CAN ARGUE
THE CASE FOR CO-OPS GROUNDED ON
22 | APRIL 2019
of the College’s work, looking at the colonial office
under the then Labour government and how it came
to support colonial and Commonwealth students at
the College, a process which lasted 40 years.
IT SEEMS THAT THERE IS GROWING RECOGNITION
OF THE WORK CO-OPERATIVES DO IN TERMS OF
DEVELOPMENT. DO YOU THINK CO-OPS COULD
BUILD ON THIS MOMENTUM?
I think we need to keep doing what we’ve been
doing. Cooperatives Europe’s publication on the
role of co-ops in promoting peace builds on the
work we did trying to bring co-ops onto the EU’s
development agenda – that was a long process but
it seems to have been fruitful.
Also, it is important to collaborate more among
ourselves. Individual co-op bodies are sometimes
doing their own thing.
For the College, education is a big driver
of co-operative development. But again, we
need to consider what kind of education we are
Looking at some of the work the College did in
Malawi, we found co-ops on the ground often get
conflicting education from different agencies.
This can be the case in other countries as well,
where members get confused by the different
definitions of co-operatives or may not be aware of
Perhaps more work also needs to be done to
make policymakers aware of the way co-ops can
and do contribute to development because they
can play a really valuable role. The movement itself
needs more understanding about the different
We also need to strengthen co-operative research
so we can argue the case for co-ops grounded on
academic studies. I’d like to see more evidence,
WHERE DO YOU THINK CO-OPERATIVE RESEARCH
AND EDUCATION WILL BE IN 10 YEARS’ TIME?
There will be a next generation coming through.
I hope we see some improvement in terms
of students focusing on co-ops.
I don't think a sudden change will take place, but
I expect to see some incremental growth.
The ICA recently advertised that the Centre
of Expertise for Cooperative Entrepreneurship
(KCO) of KU Leuven, Belgium, is looking for five
full-time PhD students to pursue research on
co-operatives. That’s great. If we could have
more on this scale, it would raise the profile of
co-operative research in the future.
The way we look is changing.
But what we stand for is staying the same.
We deliver vegetarian, natural and
responsibly-sourced products to businesses
and communities across the UK, and worldwide.
And as a worker-owned, equal pay co-op, we’ve
been doing it differently for more than 40 years.
We are Suma.
APRIL 2019 | 23
RE: FOUR CO-OP PARTY MPS JOIN
THE BREXIT WALKOUT FROM THE
LABOUR PARTY (MARCH EDITION)
After reading through your article on page
5, I found your coverage very uneven.
Almost two full columns dedicated to
unsubstantiated claims from third parties.
You do not cover the policies of the new
Independent party, which closely match
Tory policies that harm communities.
I really hope you will have better
oversight of further articles on such
The article feels like a cut and paste
of last week’s tabloids.
Peter Hunt endeavours to make the
case for the leaving of the Labour Party,
by attributing it to Jeremy Corbyn’s “hard
left brand of politics” but he does not state
where his complaint really lies.
I, as a member of the Labour and
Co-operative Parties, for many years
suffered under Tony Blair and Gordon
Brown the Iraq war and PFI – leading to
a situation this country is still trying to
extricate itself from.
Having experienced the right in both
of these parties, they did not bear any
relation to the reasons why I joined them
all those years ago. I am glad this is no
longer the case.
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
Hopefully this is not the only letter critical
of the gang of former Labour MPs – four
of whom were Co-op Party sponsored.
The Daily Mail, perhaps tongue in cheek,
described them as “respectable MPs”.
It certainly did not back in 2009
during the expenses scandal. One of the
MPs, Joan Ryan, was a serial expenses
claimer at £173,691 – coming first overall
in London, moving up from second the
previous year. Attempts were twice made
coming from inside the House of Commons
to edit out the worse aspects of her
expenses, according to the Enfield local
press. This may explain why she just
scraped in to retake her seat when Labour
majorities were shooting up in 2017. How
on earth did such a person get selected?
Of the MPs leaving Labour and being
shown the door double quick by the Co-op
Party, only one was around in 2009, Mike
Gapes. His claim to expenses fame was
the £1,600 he took towards his mortgage
month in and year out, plus £200 per
month for food, no receipts required.
Maybe this explains his corpulent frame?
There is only one Co-op shop in Ilford –
Did he attended members meeting to
push for more. Whether the £200 monthly
was spent at the local Co-op would not
be hard to discover. There was only one
oblique reference to “Co-op” on all his
websites. Slightly above the norm for
Co-op MPs. His voting record on
“theyworkforyou” was however 47.62%
a below average figure apparently.
Who is worse in all this, the individuals
who will no doubt be dismissed as
“class traitors” or the Co-op Party who
proudly paraded these members on their
website? This site has its members listed
with photos in a non-alphabetical way; the
infamous four just ceased to be displayed
the same morning.
They never existed. Just like the Co-op
Party in Parliamentary terms. It is not even
mentioned in House of Commons library
stats. A sham to all intensive purposes.
In 2017 it had 38 MPs, now down to 33 –
John Woodcock was another one shown
the door. Its membership compares
unfavourable to, for example, the Greens.
The only near comparison is, ironically,
the DUP with a small similarly secretive
membership and 10 elected members. But
the DUP is streets ahead of the Co-op Party
in terms of a favourable ratio between
membership and elected MPs – and were
one to trounce out we would all hear
The Co-op Party would not exist without
funding from the Co-op Group. How about
that sum going to Co-operatives UK who
would do a far better job with it and be
accountable? The minimum should be that
the Group seeks a refund for the “bursary”
expended on the four leavers.
24 | APRIL 2019
Co-op Retail Conference
Representatives from across the UK co-op retail
sector gathered in Cheshire in March for the annual
Co-operative Retail Conference. Organised by
Co-operatives UK and sponsored by VME Coop,
it featured keynote presentations from industry
specialists alongside best practice from retailers.
James Walton, chief economist at IGD, a grocery
research and training charity, gave a keynote on
how retail has been reshaped by politics, economics
and technology, and what this means for co-ops.
His primary message was to focus on digital,
warning that “UK co-ops are underdeveloped when
you compare them with that bigger rivals”.
Tech is starting to “blur the boundaries
between stores and vending machines”, he said.
But while tech specialists are vital partners in
bringing new technologies to market, they are
also potential threats and market disruptors.
Another problem, despite progress, is waste
in the UK grocery supply chain. This is a massive
sustainability challenge, said Mr Walton, adding: “If
that could be resolved in co-ops, it would free up a
huge amount of money which could be returned to
members or invested in other worthwhile activities.”
But the current focus has to be Brexit, he said.
“Tech is going to transform the way food retail works.
But I also have to be a Brexit bore ... Businesses that
are not ready for Brexit are not going to be around to
see that high-tech future.”
Tech was also the focus of a presentation by
Stephen Gill and Richard Bridges of event sponsor
VME Coop, which looked at the future of payment
systems, and what tech means for retailers. “Through
technology we can help the co-op movement grow,”
said Mr Gill. “The movement coming together with
the same platform can achieve great things.”
They highlighted six consumer payment trends
which present a great opportunity for co-ops: 60% of
Generation Z, “who have never lived without Google,
Amazon or Facebook” are using mobile banking
daily or weekly, and don’t want to carry cards or
cash; the importance of a fluid user experience (UX);
the rise of mobile payments; the use of rewards; the
importance of networks; and fintech.
On membership cards, Mr Bridges said: “Digital
generations aren’t going to download 13 different
apps for 13 different societies. Polls indicate that one
in three co-op membership cards is being rejected at
the till because they’re not the right card.”
VME Coop, whose software runs in nine of the 13
independent retail co-ops, believes that having a
single card, attached to a single software system,
that can be used across stores in different societies,
would grow revenues and memberships – and save
“This is our point about the common platform,”
said Mr Gill. “This is a great opportunity for the
movement be ahead of the game.”
But they also noted the Access to Cash Review,
which said 17% of the UK population would struggle
to cope in a cashless society. Those most affected
will not, as is often assumed, be older people –it
will be those in poverty. Co-ops, “as people-centred
businesses”, should be mindful of this, said Mr Gill.
The conference also welcomed Doug O’Brien,
president and chief executive of NCBA-CLUSA
(America’s National Cooperative Business
Association) and Stephen McDow, director of
membership & development at the Keystone
Development Center, based in Pennsylvania.
Mr McDow formerly worked with Mr O’Brien at
NCBA-CLUSA, where he researched the way some
predatory dollar stores target rural white, African
American and Latino communities. The number
of dollar stores has grown by 50% in the last eight
years, he said. “Less than 1% of items sold in these
stores is fresh produce. Essentially what these dollar
stores are betting on in a large way is that we are
going to have a permanent underclass in America.”
But the US grocery co-op sector also faces
challenges around capital, access to quality food,
land location, racial and cultural bias, education,
and supply chain and distribution networks.
“The biggest question is: how do we educate
the next generation?” said Mr McDow. “How do
Images from top: IGD
chief economist, James
Walton; Richard Bridges
and Stephen Gill of
event sponsors VME
APRIL 2019 | 25
Together we will reach new heights
Our co-operative IT solution includes everything needed to run a consumer co-op. Our
mission is to help the independent co-op movement thrive. We do this by reducing your
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31 | APRIL 2019
What else happened at the Retail
Phil Ponsonby, chief executive at Midcounties
Co-operative, spoke about the organisation’s
partnership with food technology business
Happerley, which enables customers to track the
provenance of food and drink products. A QR code
on Happerley-certified products brings up details
of the ingredients, which is gathered from the
producer in a “low cost, low bureaucratic” way.
Hannah Gallimore, corporate responsibility
manager at Central England Co-op, and Simone
Connolly from FareShare presented a partnership
which joins the dots between retail surplus
and community need. It uses Central England’s
distribution network to deliver crates of surplus
food to a nearby FareShare distribution centre.
Over 250 stores will be taking part by the end
of May, and there are pilot schemes at Heart of
England and Tamworth societies.
Lee Hammond and Scott Walker, from East of
England’s Co-op Secure Response (CSR), told
how organisation is tackling the causes and
consequences of antisocial behaviour. One of their
successful programmes works with offenders to
examine the consequences of their actions. “We
have worked with 15 young offenders,” said Mr
Walker. “Of those, one reoffended, 14 didn’t, and
two now work for us.”
James Blackburn, head of funerals at Scotmid,
examined how market disruptors in Scotland such
as Fosters and Caledonia Cremation are helping
to change the pace of the traditional sector. Jon
Levett, chief executive of the National Association
of Funeral Directors, expanded on further drivers
of change, including a Treasury investigation into
pre-paid funeral plans; a Competitions and Markets
Authority (CMA) study; and the appointment of
an Inspector of Funeral Directors in Scotland.
Delegates heard C l i ff M i l l s, consultant at
Anthony Collins Solicitors, in conversation with
Gareth Swarbrick, chief executive of Rochdale
Boroughwide Housing, talking about how the
organisation was founded on the question: What
would tenants and employees coming together as
equals let us to do differently?
And Nick Thompson, chief executive of The Phone
Co-op, discussed what the BT IP Transition will
mean for co-ops. “Businesses throughout the UK
are reliant on phone lines that were invented in the
1800s,” he said. “These will become obsolete in
2025 when BT switch off all PSTN and ISDN lines."
we get workers to understand the farm-to-table supply chain, the co-operative
advantage, and the co-operative principles?”
Community involvement is key, he said, but more important is picking the right
stage to introduce learners to co-ops. “When I talk to farmers, they’re not really
invested [in higher education]. What they found valuable were apprenticeships.
We need to develop an educational programme that’s publicly funded, that’s at
scale and that educates young people while giving them paid jobs and vocational
training, that may later be used to help subsidise university training.”
Mr O’Brien looked at wider challenges in society – a crisis of confidence in
institutions, inequality, the changing world of work, a data-driven digital
marketplace, and climate change.
“Co-operatives empower workers to tackle these challenges and to make
gains,” he said, adding that the “silver tsunami” of baby-boomer business
owners reaching retirement age was a huge opportunity for co-op conversions.
He said NCBA-CLUSA wants to use co-op values to work towards an inclusive
economy – and to do this, it needs to confront the problem that people aren’t
looking to co-ops as key partners.
“We need to embrace an inclusive economy strategy both inside and
outside the co-operative community, measure the impact of co-ops on society
and share this in the most compelling way. Think about what could happen if
co-operatives put all of our energy in erasing racism, or youth engagement,
or climate change.”
The final session was a workshop facilitated by Ed Mayo, secretary general of
Co-operatives UK, and Rebecca Harvey, executive editor of Co-op News, to
explore where the co-op movement could be in five years time – and how to make
this happen. The results of this session will feed into work being undertaken by
the UK movement’s support organisations to work better together.
Images from top: Stephen McDow, director of membership & development at the
Keystone Development Center; and Hannah Gallimore, corporate responsibility
manager at Central England Co-op with Simone Connolly from Fairshare
APRIL 2019 | 27
Association of British Credit Unions meets
in Manchester to plan the sector's future
facilitates the session
The Association of British Credit Unions (Abcul)
held its annual conference in Manchester on 8
March, where it launched a major consultation
on the future of the credit union movement.
Robert Kelly, chief executive of Abcul, which is
the umbrella body for the UK sector, set out the
key themes covered by the consultation.
He said the cross-sector initiative would
engage members and stakeholders, drawing on
lessons from the last couple of years to take the
The conference session was facilitated by
organisational change expert Dr Brandi Stankovic
of CU Solutions. She said credit unions around
the world face challenges around technology,
enterprise risk management, and governance.
Most credit unions are concerned about the
increasing appeal of fintechs – but Dr Stankovic
argued that the real worry comes from techfins.
These are technology firms that find better
ways to sell their products by creating their own
financial services. Around 68% of millennials
trust them, she said.
If credit unions want to meet this challenge,
she added, they will have to update their
legacy systems, increase tech literacy, and get
to know their member experience. She also
told delegates to examine strategic risks and
establish multiple lines of risk assessment.
Another challenge for credit unions is
ensuring strong succession on boards – a crucial
governance challenge for the sector. Dr Stankovic
warned that although some board members are
good representatives of their communities, they
do not know how to run a credit union.
Other challenges include the ageing
membership of credit unions, having lending
limited to unsecured personal loans, and
ensuring that the delivery of those loans is
Some credit unions face regulatory issues
around serving the financially excluded while
others struggle to present and market their
products to younger people, or to diversify their
The session explored the idea of proactive
mergers and consolidation within the sector, as
well as the role of Abcul in facilitating this.
Dr Paul Anthony Jones, who heads up the
Research Unit for Financial Inclusion (RUFI) at
Liverpool John Moores University, said most
credit union mergers in the UK had been the
result of larger credit unions rescuing smaller
ones, rather than large organisations joining
through strategic mergers.
Asked whether Abcul should be taking the
lead in facilitating merger activity, the audience
voted in favour of the suggestion (53%).
The conference also explored the idea
of strengthening collaboration within the
sector, including through credit union service
organisations, a model pioneered by the USA.
Dr Stankovic encouraged credit unions to be
careful with contingency planning, deal with
issues in a timely manner, drive young leadership
development and collaborate in a more proactive
“While we’re trying to figure some things out,
Amazon is taking over our business,” she warned.
28 | APRIL 2019
Treasury minister pledges support and
urges sector to push financial inclusion
John Glen, economic secretary to the Treasury,
pledged support for credit unions during his
speech at the conference.
“I have a strong personal belief in the
contribution credit unions make to this country
and our economy,” he said, telling delegates he
wanted to see the sector grow and strengthen.
Credit unions play a vital role in financial
inclusion, allowing more than two million
members in the UK to borrow or save. But Mr
Glen said more action was needed – starting with
education. The government had made financial
literacy part of the national curriculum to enable
young people to save and budget, he said.
Another priority is to crack down on those
exploiting vulnerable people. Mr Glen said the
Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) introduced a
cap on payday lenders in 2015, and last year the
government announced proposals to protect
millions of people who use overdrafts and highcost
This month, the FCA confirmed the
introduction of a price cap to protect vulnerable
customers in the rent-to-own (RTO) sector, who
currently pay more than four times the retail
price for some goods.
And last October the government opened a
consultation on a breathing space scheme, which
would give a 60-day pause to people struggling
against debt recovery action. In addition, the
government introduced a prize-linked savings
scheme for credit union members, as well as a nointerest
loans scheme for deprived borrowers,
which could have a role for credit unions.
“The challenge for you as a sector is to ensure
that social and community lenders can go toe to
toe with larger, commercial competitors,” said
Last August, the government announced
£55m in funding for financial inclusion through
Fair4AllFinance, an organisation responsible for
deploying funding from dormant bank accounts.
These have been untouched for more than 15
years, where the holder is not contactable.
And Mr Glen said regulation would be
simplified to make it easier for social landlords to
direct creditors to credit unions as alternative to
While the government-funded Credit Union
Expansion Project, which aimed to migrate
member credit unions to a new tech platform
had not met expectations, important lessons had
been learnt, he said. A one size-fits all approach
was unlikely to work.
The government is now planning a £2m
affordable credit challenge fund to encourage
fintechs to focus on serving credit unions and
community financial institutions.
“Consider talking to fintechs about your
individual needs,” said Mr Glen, urging credit
unions to speak with a single voice and present a
common vision for the future.
Abcul has also been working with the
government on developing a pilot scheme for 10
to 15 credit unions to launch prize-linked savings
accounts to encourage individual savings.
The conference saw the launch of a
consultation of members to plan the next steps
to secure a sustainable future for the sector. Mr
Glen said the government is keen to engage with
credit unions once the consultation has finished.
John Glen gives his
APRIL 2019 | 29
A HUNDRED YEARS OF EDUCATION:
Building for the future
are part of the
Written by Dr Cilla
Ross - Vice-Principal,
It is a century since the Co-operative College opened
its doors, but its roots lie deep in the decision made
by the Rochdale Pioneers to pledge a percentage
of Toad Lane’s profits to education. Throughout
the 19th century, as co-operation grew into
a powerful social movement, adult education about
co-operatives was delivered in reading rooms,
above shops, at the heart of communities. The focus
was on two things. Firstly, to equip co-operators
with the skills to run successful enterprises,
democratically and values-based. The second was
to encourage co-operative identity, the co-operative
spirit and an ‘enthusiasm for the application
of co-operative principles’.
By the 20th century, the conviction had grown
that ‘co-operative education could only be provided
in a college owned by the co-operative movement,
staffed by co-operative teachers, and controlled by
a co-operative committee’. In 1919 the College was
opened as a means to meet the need of co-operators
and working class adults, and as a testament
to peace following the slaughter of so many
co-operators in the First World War.
The curricula was widespread and eclectic.
For example, between 1919 and 1939, residential
accredited courses were not only in co-operative
book keeping and management but in history;
economics; citizenship; sociology; ethics;
education; public speaking; and propaganda.
While courses were run for board members and
co-operative managers and leaders they were also
held for employees and members in the guise of,
for example, Pioneer Courses in Social Subjects;
Employees’ Training Courses; and Women’s Issues
and Concerns. The correspondence and face-toface
courses focused on the needs of both UK based
co-operators and the global co-operative movement.
Following the foundation of Stanford Hall, large
numbers of international co-operators participated
in the College’s long and short programmes, some
of which were accredited by local universities as
well as the College itself.
The return to Holyoake House in 2001 coincided
with significant changes in the funding and focus
of adult and further education; the emergence
of new learning technologies and the changing
fortunes of the co-operative sector more widely.
Much education and training was taken in house by
the various co-operative societies – and universities
began to widen participation to reach a critical mass
of students. Adult education budgets were slashed
and the orientation of much education became
narrowly focused upon skills and employability.
The College continues its strong educational,
training and research work nationally and
internationally, serving the global movement.
However, new opportunities are appearing as the
College pushes boundaries and expands its delivery
to emerging as well as existing co-operatives and to
the wider social solidarity economy.
This means reflecting on the scope and
possibilities of the co-operative idea and the
education that is needed to support it to grow.
It also means the College can be proactive, finding
new places and spaces of possible co-operation.
As we move into the next 100 years and a possible
Co-operative University, the College can draw
upon its own distinctiveness as it delivers valuesinformed
and democratic educational approaches.
The College is also aware that it continues to
have an international responsibility to deliver
education which is active, participatory, critical and
interdisciplinary rather than competitive, collective
and research informed.
In these difficult times when co-operatives can
offer real prospects for poverty alleviation and
equality, co-operative values based education will
continue to play an important part in democratic
practice. Co-operative education needs to be fit
for purpose but it must be bold in offering a vision
of a different type of world.
36 | FEBRUARY 2019
Addressing the challenges of our time
Can co-operation and forms of co-operative
organising help address the social and economic
challenges of our time? In particular, can
co-operatives and related forms of organisation
go beyond addressing corners of market and
state failure and help promote structural change?
These are questions that grow in importance the
more that our societies become fractured socially,
economically and politically in the face of global,
regional and national tensions, increasing
inequality and persistent disadvantage.
Co-operatives are a significant global
phenomenon, with more than 1 billion members
worldwide. In the UK alone there are more than
7,000 independent co-operatives that have
a combined turnover of £36.1bn. Co-operatives
vary hugely in scale and can be found in every
sector from food production and finance to
energy; housing; health; education; and digital
enterprises. They are informed by values
and principles which, when taken together,
form a blueprint for a unique business and
But what does this mean in practice and how
far can co-operatives inform wider social and
economic organisation and service provision that
is increasingly marketised? To what extent can
co-operatives – and co-operative education – meet
the current and future needs of disadvantaged
populations, and promote social justice? To what
extent can their experiences challenge ‘what is’ and
enable us to think ‘what might be’?
These and other issues informed a lively
seminar at The Open University in December 2018.
Researchers with policy and practice experience
from, or linked to, the OU and the Co-operative
College discussed co-operative education, social
and economic hardship, youth, and the strengths
and weaknesses of co-operatives in the UK, Europe,
sub-Saharan Africa and South America.
They also reflected on future challenges
The panel discussing education comprised Dr
Linda Shaw (former College vice-principal), Dr Cilla
Ross (College vice-principal) and Dr Fenella Porter
(RED Learning Co-op).
Written by Hazel
Johnson, Trustee of the
and Emeritus Professor
of Development Policy
and Practice at
The Open University
APRIL 2019 | 31
Referring to her work in sub-Saharan
Africa and Sri Lanka as well as the UK,
Dr Shaw said more work is needed on
co-operative education. “There has been a lot of
work on co-ops, and education has been a part
of that,” she said, “but it's time we moved it centre
stage – it’s critical as a driver of innovation and
change”. She quoted Dr Brett Fairbairn, who believes
education is the “agency which holds members and
their co-operatives together”, and underscored
that the demand for co-operative education
greatly outstrips supply. “There is a need for more
co-operative education that is more consistent
The third panellist, Dr Fenella Porter, introduced
the RED Learning Co-op (Research, Education and
Development for Social Change). RED was set up a
year ago by a small group of academics who used
to work at Ruskin College in trade union education.
“We see learning as located in a landscape
of activism and change,” she said. “We see education
as going beyond individual student achievement,
as integral to the way labour movements and
others face the challenges in the current political
environment. How we go about teaching and
learning is completely embedded in the idea
that this is about how we can contribute to this
broader landscape of change.”
Co-operative education, learning and expansion
of horizons through engaging in co-operative
action were underlying features of a lively debate.
Presentations from the other panels picked up
on the role of the state in supporting, but not
controlling, co-operatives; the relationship between
co-operatives and other forms of activism; how
co-operatives can support livelihoods in the
aftermath of conflict and disasters; and how they,
“Whether co-operatives address market
failure or promote structural change,
it was argued that they tend to blossom
when linked to other social movements
and in a language and location that learners
can understand and interact with,” she said.
Dr Ross spoke about the Co-operative University
project – “brave, bold, scary and possibly
controversial” – that was initiated, in part, as a
response to “some of the massive changes that
are happening across our society; whether that’s
changes in the co-operative movement itself, changes
in higher education, or the extraordinary changes in
society and the great crises of poverty, inequality and
the changing world of work”. She emphasised that
the project will strengthen deep engagement with
co-operatives – both the established movement and
the different ways people are building livelihoods
and communities. Alongside its federated model,
governance, funding and co-operative pedagogy,
one distinction of the university project is its
aim of using a values-based approach to make
a better world.
as well as other forms of collective organisation
and networks, can help address unemployment
and youth concerns.
Whether co-operatives address market failure
or promote structural change, it was argued that
they tend to blossom when linked to other social
movements and organisations, suggesting that
working together with others is important for
the future. Co-operative memberships are a huge
human and organising resource. Given the threat
of climate change, jeopardising development across
the world, should climate change and related
issues be a key focus to mobilise around?
Videos of panel sessions and a report
on the seminar, with information
about all the speakers, are available
via the Open University website
32 | APRIL 2019
ADULT EDUCATION 100 CAMPAIGN
Q&A with Nigel Todd
WHAT IS THE ADULT EDUCATION
It’s rooted in the centenary of a far-reaching
government report, called the ‘1919 Report’, that
covered adult education, libraries and museums,
and army education.
The campaign will boost the profile of life-long
learning. It’ll engage individuals, institutions,
voluntary organisations and local groups in feeding
into a Commission on Adult Education charged with
producing a modern version of the ‘1919 Report’.
WHY IS IT SO IMPORTANT?
Adult education enhances people’s lives. It helps in
acquiring skills for work and everyday life, building
self-confidence, and improving or maintaining
health and wellbeing. And it enables more
people to participate in the way we live, whether
in community activity, or through insights into
literature, history, philosophies, arts and culture.
Adult education also cultivates independent,
critical thinking. At a time when fake news and
social media are concerns, being able to form your
own judgement is pretty vital.
HOW HAS ADULT EDUCATION CHANGED
OVER THE LAST CENTURY?
There’s now more emphasis on ‘learning through
doing’ rather than being talked at. We no longer
see adults simply as empty vessels to be filled up
with information by experts. We’ve moved from the
world of the overhead projector to more effective
uses of PowerPoint, the web, iPads. And traditional
correspondence courses have been supplanted by
the emergence of MOOCs – Massive Open Online
Courses – making more learning opportunities
available for everyone to access.
Adult educators have always championed change.
The Workers’ Educational Association (WEA)
pioneered the use of educational radio in the 1920s,
and the experience of adult students provided the
basis for the Open University.
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES?
Access for all and funding! For example, the
‘1919 Report’ temporarily enabled adults to go to
university, but eventually ‘mature students’ became
a significant proportion of the student population.
Yet student loans and other priorities for universities
have had dire impacts. Staggeringly, the number of
mature students in universities has halved in the
past five years.
Sufficient funding has always been a problem,
and government funding has now diminished
substantially. So, there are 2 million fewer adult
learning places in further education than in 2004.
In England, especially, the coming transfer of much
of the adult skills budget to devolved and mayoral
authorities is posing a major threat to broad adult
learning provision where adult education is seen
as only about vocational skills, important though
those are. Humans are multi-dimensional beings,
and therefore routes into learning must be broad
WHY IS IT RELEVANT TO CO-OPERATIVES?
Co-operatives have generally seen education as
developing co-op members’ participation in their
co-operatives, and also to gain the skills required
to direct, manage, operate and shape their co-ops.
We call this commitment Principle 5, don’t we?
There’s some research evidence that members like
taking part in their co-ops if it’s a way of learning
new things. Hopefully, the Co-operative Group’s
recent members’ survey on life-long learning will
reinforce Principle 5 as a co-operative ambition.
HOW IS THE CO-OPERATIVE COLLEGE
INVOLVED IN THE CAMPAIGN?
We initiated it to a degree. The Co-operative
Movement was well-recognised in the 1919
educational landscape, and as Chair of the College
I approached both the WEA and the University of
Oxford who had been key partners in producing
the ‘1919 Report’. I proposed that we get together
to mark the centenary. This brought a very positive
response, leading to a joint steering group that soon
included Nottingham University and the Raymond
The College has been contributing staff support,
and it hosts the ever-growing contact list of people
across the country who want to help the campaign.
Nigel Todd is chair of the
Co-operation beyond borders
Co-operatives answer needs. Those
needs may vary – but whether you’re in
Rochdale or Rwanda, working together
and using an ownership model that
puts people first creates benefits far
beyond individual profit. But educating
people about how the co-op model
works, or even making them aware of it
in the first place, requires a deft touch
and the ability to work with relevant
partners in very different communities.
This skill is one that the Co-operative
College has been honing over the last
Here the organisation’s UK
programmes manager, Gemma
Obeng, and international programmes
manager, Sarah Alldred, look at how the
Co-op College is helping to transform
communities by raising awareness
of co-operative ways of working.
By Gemma Obeng
Top left to right:
in Lesotho, a
participant in the
How do you develop and inspire a new generation
of co-operators? How do you empower them to
develop their skills and knowledge so they can have
a positive impact not only on their own lives but
also on their communities?
For the College, the key answer is making
sure we work with the right people, partnering
with organisations that already have reach
in communities (geographic or social) where
co-operation can address some of the key challenges
of our times. Some of those biggest challenges are
for young people.
For children in schools – particularly those
in deprived areas – we have been delivering our
Young Co-operatives Programme, which over the
last decade has given thousands of 8-18 year olds
the chance to set up and run their own co-operative
businesses, letting them know this model exists,
while helping them develop important business
and life skills.
In partnership with the Greater Manchester
Youth Network (with support from the Co-operative
Foundation and the #iwill fund) we’re helping
to tackle youth loneliness, particularly among
care leavers. The 25 young people involved in
the Youth Co-operative Action project worked
co-operatively to design and perform a stage
show featuring rap, singing and a desert island
monologue. They highlighted the damaging impact
that loneliness can have, using their own stories
to bring the performance to life and reducing the
stigma attached to feeling lonely – boosting their
confidence and self-esteem in the process.
We’re also working with the Autistic Society for
Greater Manchester (ASGMA), Enable and Mencap
on a three-year project in Manchester, Cannock
(the Midlands) and Fife (Scotland) to support
young people with learning difficulties, disabilities
and autism to engage in a series of activities twice
a week through the Co-operative (Ad)venture
initiative. Funded by the Pottersbury Lodge
Trust, sessions help young people gain a deep
understanding of co-operative values and practices
with the aim of setting up their own “co-operative”
to tackle problems they collectively identify in their
On the back of the above projects, we’ve secured
support from the Royal Bank of Scotland Skills and
Opportunities fund to deliver Together Enterprise,
Scotland which aims to empower 25 young people
aged 16 to 24 who are not currently in education,
employment or training from the Pilton area of
Edinburgh to set up and run their own co-operatives.
We’re running a similar programme in Rochdale,
supported by the Co-operative Group; our vision is
for a Co-operative Hub to be developed in Rochdale
and we are working with the council to make this a
reality. We want to develop a space for co-operative
thinking which acts as a centre for young people’s
projects, where co-ops can be formed and access to
advice and guidance is freely available.
These projects all encourage people to learn
about co-operatives, co-operative ways of working
and enterprise through working co-operatively:
learning by doing. Education isn’t just about sitting
at a school desk. Marketing, budgeting, legal
structures, social media, network mapping and
business planning are some of the important skills
young people want to learn, but teamwork, selfconfidence
and group decision-making are just as
important co-operative skills, and are vital to help
prepare the next generation of co-operators.
36 | APRIL 2019
Ever since its inception in 1919, the Co-operative
College has had an international reach, from
receiving a regular cohort of international students
on courses at its former Stanford Hall site to more
recently developing our expertise in International
Co-operative Development. As the world feels ever
more divided, it’s critical for the College that cooperatives,
supported through its internationally
agreed values and principles, continue to act as a
vehicle for transforming the lives of everyday people
As an organisation, we’ve worked hard to build
relationships right across the globe through
the support and solidarity of the Co-operatives
Europe Development Platform (CEDP) and the
International Co-operative Alliance (ICA). Aligned
to the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, all our
co-operative education and training programmes
aim to improve the lives of individuals and their
communities, inspiring people to work together to
build a fairer world.
We currently run international projects in
Malawi, Zambia and Rwanda, supporting the startup
and development of co-operative enterprises. It
is this work across Africa with smallholder farmers
that has seen us make a huge impact, co-operating
across borders to enable individuals to take control
of their own lives.
In addition to our training, which has a particular
focus on giving women and young people a voice,
we also partner with experts in their field to equip
people with the complete set of practical skills their
co-operative will need. Partnership is crucial to the
work we do.
The results from our work in Malawi have been
particularly impressive. Our training has benefited
over 48,000 people since 2012. In a country where
71% of the population lives in extreme poverty,
we’ve reached over 2,500 young people, increasing
their income by 91%. This has transformed not
only their futures but also those of their families.
What’s more, as a direct result of our training, 68%
of leaders sitting on co-op boards are now women.
The income of women in co-operatives has also
changed dramatically, up 24%.
It is these kind of results that prove just how
transformational the co-operative model can
be, with our training in leadership, governance,
business enterprise, and gender and youth
engagement empowering people with the tools to
do it for themselves.
We began working in Zambia with Christian
Aid in 2018, supporting 4,000 farmers (75%
of which are women) and associated self-help
groups with training to set up and successfully
Our project in Rwanda has seen us partner with
Tearfund, working in a country where co-operatives
have become a route back into work for women who
were widowed as a result of the genocide that led to
the loss of over one million lives.
This unique partnership has acted as the
catalyst for communities and individuals who are
learning to trust each other again, and with 90%
of Rwandans engaged in subsistence agriculture,
co-operatives have emerged as a natural solution
to a number of the challenges that have emerged.
Our sessions have equipped a network of trainers
with the skills to return to their communities and
spread their knowledge of co-operative values and
principles, governance and finance even further.
This in turn has led to communities that were once
divided coming together for the common good, with
co-ops now seen as a route to peace.
It is this role of co-operatives as a route to
peace that has formed the core of the recent
Co-operatives Europe report that the College played
a key role in pulling together. “Cooperatives and
Peace: Strengthening Democracy, Participation
and Trust - A Case Study Approach” highlights how
co-operatives can be a hugely powerful tool for
change, re-connecting communities and individuals
that were once divided.
By Dr Sarah Alldred
To find out more
about any of these
projects and how
you could get
APRIL 2019 | 37
BUILDING A CO-OPERATIVE UNIVERSITY
And gaining degree awarding powers
By Anca Voinea
The Co-operative College is seeking university
status in an attempt to disrupt the higher
The ambitious plan will see the College
acquire degree awarding powers and work in
collaboration with other organisations under
a federated structure.
The College formed a Co-operative University
Working Group in 2017 in response to the UK
Higher Education Research Act, which encourages
the formation of ‘challenger’ institutions
complementary to the existing university system.
An educational charity, the College is already
delivering higher education in collaboration
with university partners but it wishes to acquire
degree-awarding powers and hopes to be able to
offer degree level courses from autumn 2019. On 31
August 2018 it submitted its application for degree
awarding powers to the Office for Students.
The University would provide four courses
starting in the 2019/20 academic year: a BA in
International Development and Co-operation; a BA
in Social Movements and Parallel Histories; a BA in
Co-operative Leadership, Culture and Management;
and a PG Certificate in Co-operative Education
All courses will start with a module
in co-operative learning, research and practice.
Future degree offers will include accredited
higher education programmes in democratic
practice; social and community organising;
community history and culture; human ecology;
art and community; alternative forms of social
and economic organisation; and the nature and
future of work.
In March, over 100 people attended the
Co-operative College’s information day to discuss
the Co-operative University. Over the coming
months, the College will be hosting similar events
across the country to raise awareness about
“We’re now at the next stage of this journey,” said
Simon Parkinson, principal and chief executive
of the College.
The courses will be tailored to meet the needs
of a diverse community, especially adult learners.
College trustee Hazel Johnson said the university
aimed to “produce learners who will play a key role
in building a different kind of future”.
Vice-principal Cilla Ross added: “The Co-operative
University is not just going to provide academic
experience, but also support and learning. It is
going to open up education and learning for many
people that at the moment are being excluded.
There is nowhere like this in the UK.”
The courses would cost £22,000 for the four-year
period but students will get back £2,000 in member
dividend. This means they will be cheaper than
average degree programmes, which cost £27,000
of more. Students will be able to study part time as
well, over a four-year period.
A key challenge will be having enough students
registered to be able to run the courses. Academic
programme manager Dr Polly Wilding says the aim
is to get 15 students per course.
WHO ARE THE COLLEGE’S
So far, four organisations are working with the
College to establish a federation of higher education
co-operatives. These are RED Learning Co-operative,
Oxford; Centre for Human Ecology, Glasgow; Feral
Art School, Hull; and Leicester Vaughan College.
In Preston, the local council – which is a leading
light of the co-op councils movement – is setting up
38 | APRIL 2019
10 worker owned co-operatives and has expressed
interest in helping to establish a Co-operative
The Research Education and Development (RED)
Learning Co-operative in Oxford is made up of
former members of Ruskin College in Oxford, who
were made redundant in March 2017.
Co-founder Caroline Holmes says the
co-operative model was a natural fit for them due
to their distinct approach to learning. Knowledge
was based on students’ experience and they were
working in a co-operative environment in spite
of being part of an academic institution. RED
now runs professional development programmes
for trade unions.
The Centre for Human Ecology was founded
at the University of Edinburgh in 1972. It
offered an MSc in human ecology. Now
based in Govan, Glasgow, the centre is an
independent educational co-operative open to
Similarly, Feral Art School was originally part
of Hull School of Art and Design. With the college
making cuts, the school found itself without a
home. It set up a community interest company
and became a new art school for Hull, and now
provides learning experiences for adults over 18
with a curiosity for engaging with and making
artwork. Because it has no premises, the school
runs classes at different venues in partnership with
Leicester Vaughan College was also initially
associated to the University of Leicester. In 2016,
the university decided to let go of the lifelong
learning centre. Tutors set up a community benefit
society to focus on pedagogy over profit, explained
Dr Malcolm Noble, a member of the co-op.
The college provides a non-accredited programme
at levels 3 and 4 (for counselling) and level 4
(for arts, humanities and social sciences).
Bringing together all of these organisations, the
federation will aim to make radical ideas relevant
for now. Once the Co-operative College acquires
degree awarding powers, it will be able to accredit
partner organisations delivering courses. Partner
organisations will have to share commitment to cooperative
APRIL 2019 | 39
Reinvigorating the Rochdale story
By Anca Voinea
Ever since it was set up in 2007, the Co-operative
Heritage Trust has been working to safeguard the
heritage of the UK co-operative movement. At
the same time, the trust is bringing together local
communities in Rochdale to learn more about their
town’s key role in the birth of a business model that
has changed lives around the world.
Co-operative Heritage Trust manager Liz McIvor
says the trust, a registered charity, was established
at a time when the co-operative movement was going
through enormous changes. Founding members the
Co-operative Group, the Co-operative College and
Co-operatives UK wanted to ensure the movement
retained and looked after important assets and
documents. This includes the building where the
Pioneers commenced trading on 21 December
1844, which is now home to the Rochdale Pioneers
Museum, and the National Co-operative Archive,
which holds 200 years of co-operative records. The
Co-operative College manages the Museum and
Archive on behalf of the Trust.
In the 1980s, archive material was collected on
an ad-hoc basis as and when items were donated
to the Co-operative College or Co-operatives
UK. After the 1990s, materials started to come
in more regularly. At that time, the College ran
its own library and collection of items, which it
had inherited from the Co-operative Union (now
“Most of the items people were interested in
looking at were not text books but original records
related to history of the movement. This formed the
basis of the Archive,” says Ms McIvor.
“The charitable trust was formed to bring the
Archive and Museum together and to present a
more formalised approach to the wider public.”
Until then, people had to apply in advance to visit.
The trust moved it to a more professional approach
and brought the museum to industry standards.
Another important aspect of its work is
raising awareness, says Ms McIvor. “There is less
understanding among the wider public as to what
a co-op is, why that matters, and why the history
and heritage of this movement are important in
the UK and abroad. That’s why it’s crucial for us to
think about future planning for audiences as well as
looking after the assets.”
The trust is in the process of becoming
a charitable incorporated organisation, which
means it can have a wider membership, and
offer those members a voice in how it is run by
As an independent charity, the trust also
qualifies for public funding. In 2015 it successfully
applied for funding through the Museum Resilience
Fund, which enables museums to become more
This support helped it to compile a strategic
development report, which included proposals to
re-establish the museum and the work of the trust
in Rochdale – taking it back to the movement’s
roots by working more closely with local people.
As part of this process, the trust developed a
community outreach programme to re-establish the
museum as a venue and an option for people living
in Rochdale, particularly those in deprived areas.
One of the programme’s most recent initiatives is
a co-operative pop-in shop offering food and other
essentials to local people living in poverty. The
Pioneer Pantry is open on Friday afternoons and
stocks a range of store cupboard essentials, along
with fresh products and toiletries.
Run as a member-owned co-op, the shop enables
local people to pay £1 to join and take home a bag
of food every week, paying what they can afford in
subsequent weeks. In addition, the museum hosts
monthly Friday night dinners, when cooked meals
are offered to families living in poverty.
The project is also bringing new life to the story
of the Rochdale Pioneers. Those coming to the shop
get to learn about the history of the building as well
as the basics of healthy eating, and join in with a
wide range of community events.
“We were aware, though, that there was an
audience that wasn’t featured: young people aged
12-25. It is a missing audience in terms of museum
and galleries,” says Mr McIvor.
To address this issue, the trust designed a project
for young people to learn about Rochdale and
develop a sense of local belonging and identity.
With funding from the National Lottery Heritage
Fund, the initiative will offer the chance to learn
new skills such as community reporting and
40 | APRIL 2019
It will also offer lessons which put co-operative
heritage in a wider context, prompting those taking
part to look at why co-operation was – and remains
– so important.
They will go on trips, carry out investigative
reporting, and learn how to work as a group by
reaching decisions democratically.
“Younger generations are more likely to
understand ‘co-operation’ in terms of a word used
in the workplace or in schools,” says Ms McIvor.
“It means working together, but they don’t
have an understanding of the deeper meaning of
what that is and why it is specific to where they
“That’s what we’re looking to plug back into – to
re-cement that idea: that it’s not just part of history,
it’s something endemic to the way people lived in
this part of the world. Not just Rochdale, but also
Greater Manchester as a region”.
The project will run until 2019, with around 40
young people taking part. The trust hopes they
will go on to become ambassadors and mentors for
other young people.
Ms McIvor adds: “We want it to be interesting
and for them to feel they know their region better at
the end of the programme. We want to take them to
places where some of these ideas have grown, and
to see some good stories coming out as part of that.
“ We want to inspire them with co-operative news
stories. They will be finding out about things that
happened in the past.”
The funding environment for museums and
galleries remains difficult. The Rochdale Pioneers
Museum welcomes around 11,000 visitors a year,
60% of them from abroad. More local people are
coming through the doors than in the past but
raising awareness remains a priority in spite of the
museum being free.
“We’re not selling an object, we’re selling an idea,
the history of a concept. That concept is something
people find hard to understand unless they had a
personal connection with it,” says Ms McIvor.
She thinks that learning about co-operative
heritage can play a key role in uniting communities,
particularly diverse ones like Rochdale.
“In times of austerity, the usual tendency is to
cut non-services that are seen as luxuries,” she
adds. “But, actually, are they luxury? Is access to
culture and understanding of identities a luxury or
something we need?
“Heritage is a perfect example of an integrated
experience, it’s something you could share. It
doesn’t matter whether you are male or female, old
or young, have different backgrounds or religions,
there is a positivity of coming together and the
solidarity of the movement is a positive framework
to wrap yourself around.”
Rochdale is going through a major regeneration,
with a new shopping centre due to open in 2020
and the high street being redeveloped. The trust is
helping the local council to regenerate the town,
focusing on its co-operative heritage.
“We want to feed those young people’s ideas,
hopes dreams into those plans for regeneration.
A newly regenerated Rochdale should have
co-operation at the heart of it,” says Ms McIvor.
Like Rochdale, other cities across the UK have
their own history of co-operation – not least
Manchester, whose wealth owes a great deal to the
“In times of hardship identity can be polarised
and make people less inclined to be open and
engage with people they see as different,” she adds.
“So it’s even more important to represent solidarity
in a positive way.”
signing the Heritage
agreement on 1
6 May. Top, from
left: John Searle,
director of economy,
Council; Liz McIvor,
England; and Allen
Brett, leader of
from left: Clare
Below: Liz McIvor
at the Co-operative
APRIL 2019 | 41
42 | APRIL 2019
Librarian at the Co-operative Heritage Trust’s
National Co-operative Archive
Gillian Lonergan is librarian at the Co-operative Heritage Trust’s National Co-operative Archive –
and over the last three decades has been one of the first ports of call for anyone looking to learn more
about the history of co-operatives in the UK. She studied librarianship at Manchester Polytechnic,
archive administration at Aberystwyth University and indexing and proofreading at work. She is a
Wigan Rugby League season ticket holder and spends the rest of her time knitting or attempting to
keep the allotment under control. On the eve of her retirement, we hear about her love of co-ops,
the changes she has witnessed and her favourite items from the archive...
By Rebecca Harvey
HOW DID YOU FIRST GET INVOLVED IN
I became interested in co-ops through working
in co-ops. I came to Manchester to go to library
school at Manchester Polytechnic – what is now
Manchester Metropolitan University. One of my
fieldwork placements was at the CWS laboratories
library. When I left college, they were looking for
somebody for a temporary post. I got it, then when
that was coming to an end I heard about a job at
the Co-op Union library. So I landed myself working
there with no idea about what co-ops were. I had
missed them totally. So I started spending some of
my lunch hours reading through the books, trying
to immerse myself in some of the history – and
I got hooked.
The role was based at Holyoake House and
I worked alongside Roy Garratt, who had previously
worked for the Co-op Press. He was a brilliant man,
absolutely wonderful. As a librarian he spent most
of his time with international delegations, so I got
to know more about the international movement as
well. I looked after the library and any information
needs, but the main part of the role was to do with
the history, encouraging people to learn more about
YOU SAY THAT YOU GOT HOOKED
– WHAT WAS IT ABOUT CO-OPS THAT
I think the sheer breadth of it all. The more you
look at co-ops, the more you realise that people
can achieve anything if they work together. Right
the way through the archive, you can see this in
story after story. I inherited this love of stories from
Roy, I think, because he was very into stories of
the movement, the stories that tell how working
together really achieves things. It happens today
as well of course. Some of the work that the
Co-operative College has done in the UK and around
the world shows exactly the same thing: a group
of people getting together can achieve much more
than they can working alone.
WHEN DID YOU JOIN THE CO-OPERATIVE
That was in 2000. The College was then based at
Stanford Hall near Loughborough, and over the
50 years it had been there it had developed its
own archive. So we had an archive in Manchester,
we had an archive at Stanford Hall and it just got
silly. We were sending researchers from one to the
other, so it was decided that it would be better if
we brought them together. I spent 2000 and half of
2001 splitting my time between working from home,
working at the museum and working at Stanford
Hall. And then the College relocated and returned
to the same building it had left in the first place – so
I ended up back in Holyoke House.
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST CHANGES YOU
HAVE WITNESSED IN THE
I came to co-ops in the early 1980s, which was not
really a high spot for the movement as a whole.
At that time you tended to see each type of co-op as
very separate, and the Co-op Union was really only
dealing with consumer co-operatives. You didn’t
get to deal with worker co-ops or housing co-ops,
but you knew good things were going on there.
It was it was great for me to see the merger of the
Co-operative Union and the Industrial Common
Ownership Movement (ICOM) in 2001, to form
Co-operatives UK, because that brought the
consumer and worker co-op movements together
so that they could learn from each other. People are
much more involved in the movement as a whole,
APRIL 2019 | 43
ather than just their a little bit of it. All of the work
that went on in the 1990s to do with the restatement
of the co-operative identity also had a major impact.
You could see people thinking ‘this is why we’re
here, this is why what we’re doing is important’.
WHAT ABOUT THE CHALLENGES?
One of the major challenges I have witnessed is
that people of my generation didn’t really know
about co-ops. They saw the shops on the high street
and bought groceries there, but didn’t necessarily
know what they were or why they were different.
I didn’t learn anything about co-ops at school either,
nothing at all. So one of the challenges is making
sure that we don’t get to a point again, where
somebody can get to their 20s and not know what
co-ops are. We need to be much more out there,
doing things. We need to be unignorable.
COULD YOU TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT
THE CO-OPERATIVE HERITAGE TRUST?
The merger of the two archive collections in 2000
meant that we started to talk about a National
Co-operative Archive, that was a really important
change in the way we were looking at things. Before
that, the archives tended to be nice things to have,
but not a huge priority. Setting up something called
the National Co-operative Archive gives you a huge
challenge and responsibility in that you have to
make it work. Creating that gave us the opportunity
to then look at how we wanted to develop in the
future, and one of the things that became very
important was the idea that it needed to be looked
after as a heritage entity. That involved setting up a
separate charitable trust to own the archive and the
museum collections. The Trust always says it has
three aims: 1. preservation – making sure that the
things are there for future generations. 2. Making
them as accessible as possible in whatever way
possible. 3. Using them for education.
Setting up a charitable Trust enabled us to do
that. The Co-operative Heritage Trust was created in
2007 by the College, Co-operatives UK and the Coop
Group. It has a management agreement with the
Co-operative College which manages the archives
and does all the background work, enabling the
staff to get on with what they need to do. The link
with the College also gives us a huge outlet. When
people are developing courses at the Co-op College
people come to us and say ‘What have you got? How
can we build heritage into it?’
WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE ITEMS IN
My favourites are things in the archive that tell
a story about what things were like, how things
operated, and give a real flavour of an individual
or a place. One thing I always loved is from the
collection of Edward Owen Greening (1836-1923).
He was involved predominantly in agricultural and
horticultural co-ops, and as somebody who has an
allotment, he’s brilliant! We were listing some of his
letters (there are around 11,000 items in the EOG
collection) and a volunteer came to me and said
44 | APRIL 2019
‘I found this stuff.’ ‘Stuff?’ ‘Yes, there’s this brown
stuff in one of the letters...’ We dug a bit deeper and
it turned out somebody had sent him a sample of
moss from Ireland. This was right at the beginning
of the 20th century and he had just put it in with
his letters – so we have this squashed piece of moss
which is rather nice.
Another item is from the George Jacob Holyoake
collection. He is one of my great heroes, a great
talker about the movement and a great inspirer
of others. In his collection we have a little tin
containing two bottles, which relate back to when
he was involved in the Reform League, campaigning
to increase the number of people who could vote in
Parliament. A delegation went to Robert Walpole,
who was then in the Home Office, to ask if they
could hold a big public demonstration. Apparently
Walpole was rather worried about this causing
public discontent and was said to have wept during
the meeting. So the Reform League, as a bit of a
joke and a fundraiser, filled these small bottles
with bread pellets and carefully labelled them as
Items like these bring up a different time. You
read about these demonstrations but you don’t
necessarily think about the jokes that go alongside
and the silly stuff that people did.
TALKING OF STORIES, THE NATIONAL
CO-OPERATIVE ARCHIVE HOLDS EVERY
SINGLE BACK ISSUE OF CO-OP NEWS
SINCE IT BEGAN IN 1871. WHAT’S THE
BEST STORY YOU HAVE COME ACROSS?
Co-op News is a fantastic periodical and is the first
port of call for most researchers who come in to look
at the movement. One story that I love is from about
1904. They had a Christmas greeting from George
Jacob Holyoake, with his picture and ‘GOM’ on it.
They always called him GOM – the Grand Old Man
of co-operation. It’s an interview with him, which
is rather beautiful. He was in his 80s then, coming
to the end of his life, but he was talking about the
bright future that he saw for co-operation and how
people could develop it from there on in.
The News covers so many different subjects,
because the breadth of it covers all types of co-ops,
and anything that it feels is of interest to co-ops.
It’s got stories and poetry, all sorts in it. You open
a volume from a particular year and it takes you to
that time in a really interesting way.
IF YOU COULD HAVE A CONVERSATION
WITH ONE PERSON FROM CO-OPERATIVE
HISTORY, WHO WOULD IT BE?
It would have to be Holyoake. He was involved in so
many different things and was such an interesting
character. Just being able to read some of his letters
in the archive gives you quite a flavour of him:
sometimes a bit crusty and brusque, but with great
knowledge. He was a journalist by profession, so he
follows that trend of finding stories. It would also be
nice to go back to 1844 and see what went on in the
Rochdale Pioneers’ first store on Toad Lane (now
the Rochdale Pioneers’ Museum). The Pioneers
were so busy doing what they were doing, that
they didn’t always write everything down. But for a
conversation, it would have to be George.
THE COLLEGE IS 100 THIS YEAR. WHAT
DO YOU THINK ITS ROLE IS IN 2019?
I think a lot of what the College was set up to do
is also what it’s doing today. It was set up for
education in its broadest sense. A lot of the work
that it’s doing both in this country and abroad it has
been doing throughout its history, so I look forward
to it carrying on and extending the depth of what it
does in different areas. I think it has a really great
future in front of it.
TALKING OF THE FUTURE, YOU'VE BEEN
INVOLVED WITH CO-OPS FOR OVER 35
YEARS – WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS NOW?
My plan involves taking early retirement, getting
a camper van and a dog and going off exploring.
Knowing me, there will be lots of co-ops to visit as
well! I'm staying involved with the UK Society for
Co-op Studies, working on the Journal, and I’ve said
that if anybody has any interesting events that they
think I’d like to come to, I’ll be there.
APRIL 2019 | 45
CO-OP ACADEMIES TRUST
Plans to be a driving force within the
co-operative schools movement
By Anca Voinea
With the Co-op Group becoming the largest
sponsor of academies in the country, we
spoke to the Russell Gill, head of co-operative
relations at the Group and chair of the
Co-operative Academies Trust, to find out more
about the retailer’s plans for the future …
Earlier this year, the Trust announced it would
expand from 12 to 40 schools in the next three
years, growing to more than 40,000 students and
4,000 staff. The Co-op is putting a further £3.5m into
the Co-op Academies Trust to kick-start the next
How did the Group become a sponsor
of academies? Mr Gill, who has been with the
Group for 27 years, says the retailer has always
carried out activities in partnership with local
schools. His first day as a member relations officer in
London was playing parachute games in a primary
school in the East End.
“Mervyn Wilson, former principal of the
Co-op College, was my boss at the time,” he recalls.
In 2002 the government introduced Business and
Enterprise Colleges, which enabled secondary
schools to specialise in certain business fields.
In partnership with the College, the Group
identified eight schools to sponsor.
“What that meant in practice was providing
business students with opportunities using the
co-op model and using some of the Co-op Group’s
resources and expertise,” says Mr Gill.
“From the College’s point of view, that’s where
the idea of co-operative trust schools was born and,
indeed, some of the first co-operative trust schools
came from that initial batch of schools.
“Within the Co-op Group, it showed us that
having a direct and close relationship with
individual schools, as opposed to the education
sector in general, could be quite beneficial. We had
a lot of resources and expertise that we could offer
those schools and it was a rewarding experience.”
In 2008 the Group, along with four other large
businesses in Manchester, was approached by the
council to see if it would jointly sponsor academies.
“The Group agreed to take on the worst school
of the lot – Plant Hill in Blackley,” says Mr Gill. “At
the time, it had the worst attendance of any school
in England, appalling exam results and it was in
a tumble-down building.”
The Group recruited a new principal, developed
a new ethos rooted in co-operative values and
principles, and worked with the council to
redevelop the site with a brand new building.
This marked the birth of the Co-op Academies,
said Mr Gill, with the principal given a desk in new
Century House to embed the school within the
Group, and senior managers recruited as governors.
Its success attracted the government’s attention,
spurring the Group to take on two more schools, in
Stoke-on-Trent and in Leeds.
From there came the idea of growing a trust
beyond just one school, says Mr Gill. The Group
recruited professional team to drive school
performance, culminating with the appointment
of Frank Norris as trust director in 2013. Staff of
Co-op Academies automatically become members
of the Group to drive integration between the two.
Through the Academies, young people are
introduced to the co-operative ethos through the
Ways of Being Co-op toolkit.
“There is correlation between how we talk about
co-op business and co-operation with 70,000
colleagues and what we do with 15,000 students,”
says Mr Gill. “The Co-op primary school in Leeds
was running assemblies on the meaning of the
co-op values, such as solidarity, equity and equality.
You can talk about the sophisticated things that
make us different and the kids will pick these up.”
But the key to success is a strong focus on school
performance. “The mistake made by some in the
co-op movement was to believe that if you got the
co-op values and principles then school
improvement would follow,” says Mr Gill. “There
were a number of trust schools that didn’t succeed
in the way that some of our academies have. That
success is part down to the work Frank and his team
46 | APRIL 2019
have done, along with the fact that this has been
twinned with very strong governance and a growing
commitment from the Co-op Group.”
For a time, with the Group recovering from its
financial crisis, the trust maintained a low profile
but following his appointment as chief executive
in 2017, Steve Murrells visited one of the academies
and expressed his support. And last year the Group
agreed to inject £3.5m to speed the trust’s growth.
The trust now has 18 academies, and this month
welcomes another – Connell Sixth Form College,
next to the Manchester City football ground.
“That will attract students from the five secondary
schools we operate in Manchester and create a
pipeline for apprenticeship opportunities for people
to work within the Co-op and, hopefully, other jobs
in the city as well,” says Mr Gill.
Every summer the Group has 150 young people
aged 14 and 15 working in different parts of the
business with mentor support.
And some pupils from Co-op Academies go on
to do apprenticeships at the Group. One of them
was 17-year old Jasmine Joynt, customer service
apprentice for Co-op Insurance, who studied at
the Co-operative Academy in Manchester. In 2018
she was named the Outstanding Intermediate
Apprentice of the Year (Level 2) at the national
From September, students at Connell can
start courses that will include one day a week
as a paid apprentice at the Group’s national
support centre in Manchester. For the rest
of the week they will study for a BTEC Level
3 qualification across a range of business areas.
“They can experience different parts of the Co-op
business and think about what aspect of business
they are interested in,” says Mr Gill.
“At a time when maintenance grants and other
support have been withdrawn from young people
who are in further education, it might help provide
opportunities to some kids who otherwise would
look for another option because of the financial
pressure of studying. This adds up to quite an
innovative and different approach – you will not
find another sponsor of multi academy trust that
does it quite the way we do it.”
The intention, he says, is to produce “alumni
of young people who’ve been through our co-op
schools and remember what co-operation means”.
These could go on to become colleagues at the
Group, member pioneers and even council members
– forming “a new generation of co-operators”.
Last year the Group announced that Frank Norris
was leaving the trust. It appointed Chris Tomlinson,
regional director (secondary), for Harris Federation
as its new as the new CEO.
While academies exist only in England, the
Co-op’s approach to education could inspire
other groups in Scotland and Wales, says Mr Gill.
And curriculum resources around Co-operatives
Fortnight could be shared with other schools.
Looking forwards, Mr Gill believes there will be a
co-op schools movement. He notes that as the trust
grows underpinned by the Group’s investment, it is
leveraging significant government funding.
“ The Co-op primary
school in Leeds was
on the meaning of the
co-op values, such as
“By the time we reach 40 academies, it could
mean £200m of government funding.
“The movement needs to think more creatively
about how, by working with the public sector and
government, it can unlock resources.”
APRIL 2019 | 47
A century of education, social change
and the Co-operative College
Reviewed by Nick Matthews, chair of Co-operatives UK
World (Edited by
Tom Woodin and
UCL Press, 2019
To register your interest
for a copy, please
This is very timely publication, and not just
because it marks the centenary of one of the British
Co-operative movements cherished institutions,
but because it sets the discussion of co-operative
education firmly in what is happening in the
educational world. At a time when the neoliberal
model has a firm grip on mainstream education
what is the co-operative alternative?
Defining and articulating a case for a distinctly
co-operative education is not easy as the editors
point out in the introduction. They highlight how
it “cannot be easily contained within anyone
organisation or movement and does not fit
into§ existing categories or divisions” and that
this, “ambiguous location accounts for its lack
Despite these challenges, the contributors to
this collection of enlightening and entertaining (for
us co-op geeks anyway) essays have made a bold
attempt at making that case.
The book collects the essays into three parts;
essentially the view from the past, present and
future. The first section looks at the past and Crome
and O’Connor’s essay draws us right back to Robert
Owen and the formation of character. I suppose it’s
cliché but true nonetheless that you cannot have
co-ops without co-operators. Some of that early
language about virtue, morals and ethics seems to
be coming into vogue again.
Tom Woodin’s essay, Recovering Co-operative
Education, strikes me as being very important in
terms of how we place the movements current
educational assets in the context of the “consumer
movement facing a new educational crisis” and the
fact that the “relevance of co-operative education
is not always clear”. We could do worse than to
publish this as a stand alone pamphlet to stimulate
thinking about how we proceed.
The redoubtable Linda Shaw reminds us in the
next part of the internationalism of the movement
and the crucial role that education has played in
this. One interesting issue she raises which merits
further investigation is why the College model of
educational delivery that developed around the
world between the wars has not survived in the
developed countries but continues to flourish in
The last contribution to this first part is by Liz
McIvor, manager of the Co-operative Heritage
Trust. She places that precious collection in
the current thinking about how to use such a
valuable educational resource and how to build a
congregation for the cathedral of co-operation in
The second part about the present, whilst full of
riches, is a little disappointing for a practising cooperator
as there is little about the role of education
in actually existing co-operatives which in some
ways speaks volumes of our present predicament.
Professor Mike Cook of the University of Missouri
gives a fascinating tour of a century of education in
US co-operative agriculture a $300billion industry.
The changes in structure and demand for formal/
informal co-operative education and training mirror
the UK experience to a large extent.
The vice-principal of the UK Co-operative College
Cilla Ross contributes a very thoughtful piece
locating the glue of co-operative education in the
key relationships of co-operatives as associations as
well as businesses and the way people learn in the
new post-Fordist economy requires us to re-evaluate
the contribution of co-operative educational forms.
The rate of change in the nature of work makes
life long learning essential, whilst at the same time,
makes finding the time to engage in educational
activities almost impossible.
Linda Shaw contributes a further piece
on Building Sustainable Co-operatives and
demonstrates the importance of co-operatives as
crucial development institutions and the need for
them to underpinned by high quality co-operative
education. Whilst thinking about this chapter it
occurred to me that this capacity building approach
could well be needed in some of our “left behind”
communities here in the UK. The practice of ‘training
the trainers’ seems to me to be essential if are
to turn Community Economic Development into
an opportunity to create large numbers of new
The final section is where we look to the future.
Professor Richard Hall reminds us that it is
unthinkable that in any future academic offer, IT
won’t play a significant part. But reminds of the
old adage that ‘first we control our technology then
it controls us’. The question of how to find a cooperative
option utilising platform technology is an
important one. In the world of the hyper capitalism
of Silicon Valley the possibility of the genuine
democratisation of this technology is one of the
questions of the age.
48 | APRIL 2019
Professor Rory Ridley-Duff shows us his scares
fro trying to embed the co-operative business form
in university courses on social entrepreneurship.
Certainly the idea of spreading the idea of collective
entrepreneurship is a good one and what were the
Rochdale Pioneers if not just that.
Co-operative Schools are almost a new
co-operative sector so it’s good to get a view of
what has been happening in this space. A space
in which governments of all colours seem to spend
an inordinate amount of time restructuring their
previous restructure. Education in Britain is an
area where there is an important co-operative
opportunity best aligned with the growth of cooperative
councils to begin to develop public cooperative
Lastly Mike Neary and Joss Winn of Lincoln
University outline the historical process of the
development of the thinking about the idea of
a co-operative university. The idea that the UK
should emulate Mondragon and have a University
sounds like a really good one but there seems to be
a conflict between the whole idea of what would be
co-operative about it is still to be defined.
Does it develop the people required for a growing
co-operative economy? Is the institution itself
a co-operative and would the pedagogy be based
upon co-operative learning practice or a combination
of all of these?
One definitely for the future methinks but
surprising and interesting how much progress has
been made in fleshing out these issues.
This is a valuable volume of contemporary
thinking of how co-operation contributes to the
world of education. And that is no bad thing, as the
great co-op educationalist RL Marshall pointed out,
“The argument is that, in a real sense, the business
of the Co-operative Movement is education”.
Linda Shaw and
Tom Woodin, editors
of Learning for a
APRIL 2019 | 49
FROM FAR LEFT: The Ways Forward
2019 conference explores the large
scale resurgence of co-operative
solutions (5 April); The Worker Co-op
Weekend is in Northamptonshire in
May; The Stir to Action Festival is in
Somerset in July; and Co-operatives
UK’s Ed Mayo is giving the UKSCS
annual lecture in June.
4 Apr: Unlocking co-ops:
revealing the hidden potential
Co-operative College event looking
at the movement’s needs in terms of
research and education. Participants
can pitch their ideas, try research speed
dating and design posters for their ideas.
WHERE: One Angel Square, Manchester
5 Apr: Ways Forward
Are we seeing the early signs of a new
large scale resurgence of co-operative
solutions, championed by local
authorities across the country, with the
active engagement of both grassroots
activists and Labour politicians?
WHERE: Methodist Hall, Manchester
10-12 May: Worker Co-op Weekend
Hosted by Co-operatives UK, the weekend
is aimed at worker co-operatives to help
them learn, share and be inspired by
WHERE: Rock UK Frontier Centre,
21-22 Jun: Co-op Congress 2019
The annual event when members and
directors, activists and CEOs from co-ops
large and small come together. Including
the Co-operative of the Year Awards.
24 Jun to 7 Jul: Co-op Fortnight
Two weeks of mass co-operation
to spread the co-op word and share the
values that make co-operative businesses
24 Jun: UKSCS Annual lecture
Co-operatives UK secretary general,
Ed Mayo will expand on his recent Journal
of Co-operative Studies article on the long
history of co-operation, Twelve Cases of
Early Co-operation and Mutuality
WHERE: Leicester Secular Hall
24-27 Jun: 7th EMES International
Research Conference on Social Enterprise
A central meeting place for all researchers
that are involved in social enterprise,
social entrepreneurship and social
and solidarity economy research.
WHERE: Sheffield Hallam University
16-18 Jul: Stir to Action Festival
Three days of conversations, participatory
theatre, virtual reality experiences, live
podcasts, interactive workshops, idea
surgeries, live crowdfunding, sustainable
food and more.
WHERE: Critchill Manor Estate, Somerset
11-13 Oct: The Co-operative Party
The annual conference of the co-op
movement’s political party.
12-18 Oct: International Co-operative
Alliance General Assembly
Co-operative thought leaders and
businesses come together for learning,
debating and networking.
WHERE: Kigali, Rwanda
26-28 Nov: Co-operative College
Forming part of the celebrations of the
College’s centenary year.
50 | April 2019
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