APRIL 2019

cooperativenews

A magazine about and for co-operatives. This issue is the Co-operative College takeover edition to make the organisation's centenary, with a focus on co-op education

APRIL 2019

EDUCATION

FOR ALL

Learning for a

co-operative life

Plus ... Co-operative

Retail Conference update

... Abcul’s annual event ...

Q&A with Gillian Lonergan

ISSN 0009-9821

9 770009 982010

01

£4.20

www.thenews.coop

CO-OPERATIVE COLLEGE CENTENARY TAKE-OVER


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ACCIDENTAL MANAGER

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news

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

www.thenews.coop

editorial@thenews.coop

EXECUTIVE EDITOR

Rebecca Harvey

rebecca@thenews.coop

INTERNATIONAL EDITOR

Anca Voinea | anca@thenews.coop

DIGITAL EDITOR

Miles Hadfield | miles@thenews.coop

DESIGN:

Keir Mucklestone-Barnett

DIRECTORS

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.

@coopnews

cooperativenews

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

countries (p37).

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.

SIMON PARKINSON

- 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


ISSN 0009-9821

9 770009 982010

01

THIS ISSUE

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

Co-operative College

34-35 TIME LINE

The journey of the College from

1919 to 2019

news Issue #7306 APRIL 2019

Connecting, championing, challenging

APRIL 2019

EDUCATION

FOR ALL

Learning for a

co-operative life

Plus ... Co-operative

Retail Conference update

... Abcul’s annual event ...

Q&A with Gillian Lonergan

£4.20

www.thenews.coop

CO-OPERATIVE COLLEGE CENTENARY TAKE-OVER

COVER: Education for all:

The Co-operative College

take-over edition

Read more: p30-47

25-27 CO-OPERATIVE RETAIL

CONFERENCE

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

TAKE OVER

Features created and curated by

the College as part of its centenary

celebrations

30 INTRODUCTION

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

Co-operative College

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

REGULARS

5-14 UK updates

15-21 Global updates

24 Letters

48-49 Books

4 | APRIL 2019


NEWS

ECONOMY

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


DIGITAL

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

start-up models.”

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.

AWARDS

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

in June.

This year the awards, organised by

Co-operatives UK, will feature two

extra categories, which will go to

individual co-operators.

The categories are:

• Leading Co-operative of the Year

(for co-operatives with turnover of more

than £30m)

• Inspiring Co-operative of the Year

(for co-ops with turnover of between £1m

and £30m)

• 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


FINANCE

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

Mutuals Register.

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

FCA bureaucracy.

“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.”

CREDIT UNION

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

exceeds 18,000.

And the credit union’s new mobile

banking app, which recently began being

rolled out to members, now has 2,000

regular users.

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

to Sheffield.

“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,

broader communities.”

APRIL 2019 | 7


ENERGY

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

their homes.”

Meanwhile, Co-op Energy has appointed

Helen James as chief marketing officer as

it seeks to engage customers through its

co-operative values.

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

in energy.”

WALES

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

RETAIL

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


RETAIL

Co-op Group trials home

delivery service

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

store colleagues.

MODERN SLAVERY

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

our society.

“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

6

the UK at this very moment.”

APRIL 2019 | 9


COMMUNITY SHARES

Funding opportunities

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.”

AGRICULTURE

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

environmental impact”.

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


HOUSING

Report calls for a

co-op option for

Scotland’s tenants

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

housing co-ops.

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

our recommendations.”

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


POLITICS

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.”

RETAIL

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


BANKING

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.

OBITUARY

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

Iain Macdonald.

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

co-operative movement.

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


EQUALITY

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

8 March.

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,”

she said.

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

credit unions.

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

Achievement Award.

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

retail sector.

“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

and principles.”

In addition to presentations and

workshops, the event featured Elaine

Pantling in a performance as Leicester

suffragette Alice Hawkins.

14 | APRIL 2019


GLOBAL UPDATES

RWANDA

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

sustainable development.

“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

available shortly.

APRIL 2019 | 15


GLOBAL

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

and Germany.

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

the sector.”

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

mutual sector.

“Also, the mutual sector registered

positive annual growth in nine of the

previous 10 years since 2007.”

16 | APRIL 2019


CANADA

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

last year.”

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.

AUSTRALIA

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

Ethisphere Institute.

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

to change.”

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

meaningful way.”

Ethisphere also gathers best practice

from honourees, which will be released in

a report this month.

APRIL 2019 | 17


USA

Credit unions

lobby lawmakers on

community grants and

accounting standards

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

of members.

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

union products.

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

the matter.

“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

enhance home-ownership.

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,”

added Cuna.

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

standard (CECL).

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

minimum levels.”

Cuna has also written to lawmakers

asking for a delay in implementation.

18 | APRIL 2019


COLOMBIA

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

financial services.

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

financial services.

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

financial literacy.

“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.

GLOBAL

ICA calls for

cash to shout the

message on co-ops

and sustainability

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

co-operative movement.

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

global conferences.

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


SPAIN

Fagor Industrial

offers its workers a

greener commute

Basque co-op Fagor Industrial is

encouraging employees to swap cars for

electric bikes.

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

across Europe.

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

to driving.

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

and bicycles.”

Around 5% of employees have already

bought a bike through the scheme.

CHILE

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


EUROPE

REScoop

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

renewable energy.

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

Governance Regulation.

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

indirect jobs.

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...

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

CO-OPERATIVE SECTOR?

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

co-op movement.

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

is great.

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

YOU RETIRED?

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

ACADEMIC STUDIES

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

talking about.

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

co-op laws.

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

development strategies.

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,

more research.

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


YOUR VIEWS

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

strong topics.

The article feels like a cut and paste

of last week’s tabloids.

Robert Kennion

Via email

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.

George Conchie

Via email

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

letters@thenews.coop

@coopnews

Co-operative News

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

about it.

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.

Leslie Freitag

Via email

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

organisations money.

“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

Coop; NCBA-CLUSA

chief executive

Doug O'Brien

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

Conference?

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


ABCUL CONFERENCE

Association of British Credit Unions meets

in Manchester to plan the sector's future

Brandi Stankovic

facilitates the session

(Photos: Paul

Herrmann)

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

movement forward.

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

digitally effective.

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

lending portfolio.

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

manner.

“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

credit.

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

Mr Glen.

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

high-cost credit.

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

keynote speech

APRIL 2019 | 29


A HUNDRED YEARS OF EDUCATION:

Building for the future

These features

are part of the

Co-operative

College take

over edition

Written by Dr Cilla

Ross - Vice-Principal,

Co-operative College

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


CO-OPERATION:

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

social model.

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

and opportunities.

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

Co-operative College

and Emeritus Professor

of Development Policy

and Practice at

The Open University

APRIL 2019 | 31


“... brave,

bold, scary

and possibly

controversial”

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 organisations”

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

at s.coop/22ek3

32 | APRIL 2019


ADULT EDUCATION 100 CAMPAIGN

Q&A with Nigel Todd

WHAT IS THE ADULT EDUCATION

100 CAMPAIGN?

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

and comprehensive.

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

Williams Foundation.

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-operative College


1.

TIME LINE

9.

8.

2.

3.

4.

8.

6.

5.

7.

1830


10.

11.

17.

12. 15.

16.

13.

14.

2019


ROCHDALE

TO RWANDA

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

100 years.

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:

Project work

in Lesotho, a

participant in the

college's Youth

Co-operative

Action project.

GENERATION CO-OP

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

local community.

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


CO-OPERATION BEYOND

BORDERS

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

sustain co-operatives.

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

involved, visit

www.co-op.ac.uk

/ukprojects or

www.co-op.ac.uk

/international

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

education system.

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

and Practice.

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

the initiative.

“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

PARTNERS?

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

Education Centre.

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

new members.

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

other organisations.

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

pedagogy.

APRIL 2019 | 39


THE CO-OPERATIVE

HERITAGE TRUST

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

Co-operatives UK).

“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

becoming trustees.

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

sustainable businesses.

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

graphic design.

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

come from.

“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

co-op movement.

“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.”

Project partners

signing the Heritage

Action Zone

agreement on 1

6 May. Top, from

left: John Searle,

director of economy,

Rochdale Borough

Council; Liz McIvor,

Co-operative

College; Catherine

Dewar, Historic

England; and Allen

Brett, leader of

Rochdale Borough

Council. Bottom,

from left: Clare

Tostevin, RBH;

and Darren

Grice, Link4Life

Below: Liz McIvor

at the Co-operative

College University

information day

APRIL 2019 | 41


42 | APRIL 2019


GILLIAN LONERGAN

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

CO-OPERATION?

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

co-operatives.

YOU SAY THAT YOU GOT HOOKED

– WHAT WAS IT ABOUT CO-OPS THAT

HOOKED YOU?

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

COLLEGE?

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

CO-OP MOVEMENT?

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

THE ARCHIVE?

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

‘Walpole's Tears’.

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

growth phase.

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

RateMyApprenticeship awards.

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

running assemblies

on the meaning of the

co-op values, such as

solidarity, equity

and equality.”

“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


BOOKS

A century of education, social change

and the Co-operative College

Reviewed by Nick Matthews, chair of Co-operatives UK

Learning for

a Co-operative

World (Edited by

Tom Woodin and

Linda Shaw)

UCL Press, 2019

To register your interest

for a copy, please

email: membership

@co-op.ac.uk

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

of visibility.”

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

developing countries.

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

Toad Lane.

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

co-operative enterprises.

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

spaces.

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

Co-operative World

APRIL 2019 | 49


DIARY

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

INFO: tinyurl.com/ybrtqdwn

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

INFO: waysforward.coop

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

one another.

WHERE: Rock UK Frontier Centre,

Northamptonshire,

INFO: uk.coop

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.

WHERE: Manchester

INFO: uk.coop/congress

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

different.

WHERE: UK-wide

INFO: uk.coop/fortnight

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

INFO: ukscs.coop

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

INFO: s.coop/2atdt

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

INFO: s.coop/tirfest19

11-13 Oct: The Co-operative Party

annual conference.

The annual conference of the co-op

movement’s political party.

WHERE: Glasgow

INFO: party.coop

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

INFO: tbc

26-28 Nov: Co-operative College

Centenary Conference

Forming part of the celebrations of the

College’s centenary year.

WHERE: Rochdale

INFO: co-op.ac.uk/our-centenary

-conference

50 | April 2019


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HIGHER EDUCATION

IS BROKEN.

A CO-OPERATIVE

UNIVERSITY WILL

BE DIFFERENT.

We want to develop a new type of

university based on social justice and

co-operative values and principles which

works for the mutual benefit of all.

WE WILL OFFER:

• Degrees which are open to all, regardless of

previous academic achievement.

• The opportunity for teachers and students to learn

from each other, working together to design and

develop content and delivery.

• Students and staff representation on all university

boards.

• An annual dividend of up to £500 to support your

studies when you most need it.

Together we will build an extraordinary academic

experience. To find out more visit:

www.co-op.ac.uk/cooperativeuniversity

@Coop_CollegeUK

@cooperativecollegeuk

cooperativecollege

hello@co-op.ac.uk

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