December 2022 digital edition

The December edition of Co-op News: connecting, challenging and championing the global co-operative movement. This issue we look at a busy month of co-op movement events, including the Co-op Councils Innovation Network's tenth anniversary conference, and the Swoboda Research Conference on credit unions, both of which looked for ways forward through the cost of living crisis. And there were centenary events for the global co-op insurance and banking sector bodies, ICMIF and ICBA, and anniversaries for UK development agency CASE and Leading Lives social care co-op. Other lessons come from the World Coop Management conference in Brazil and the UK Practitioners forum. We also pay tribute to Ela Bhatt, the 'gentle revolutionary' of Indian co-operation and founder of SEWA. And we look at the fallout from the inquest into the death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak, who lived in a mould-infected flat rented from the mutual Rochdale Boroughwide Housing.

The December edition of Co-op News: connecting, challenging and championing the global co-operative movement. This issue we look at a busy month of co-op movement events, including the Co-op Councils Innovation Network's tenth anniversary conference, and the Swoboda Research Conference on credit unions, both of which looked for ways forward through the cost of living crisis. And there were centenary events for the global co-op insurance and banking sector bodies, ICMIF and ICBA, and anniversaries for UK development agency CASE and Leading Lives social care co-op. Other lessons come from the World Coop Management conference in Brazil and the UK Practitioners forum.

We also pay tribute to Ela Bhatt, the 'gentle revolutionary' of Indian co-operation and founder of SEWA.

And we look at the fallout from the inquest into the death of two-year-old Awaab Ishak, who lived in a mould-infected flat rented from the mutual Rochdale Boroughwide Housing.


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DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong><br />

ELA BHATT:<br />



Plus … The search for<br />

the next Co-op Group MND<br />

... Leading Lives: employeeownership<br />

at the heart<br />

of social care ... Crosscollaboation:<br />

Caribbean<br />

Credit Union Governance<br />

ISSN 0009-9821<br />

770009 982010<br />

01<br />

£4.20<br />

www.thenews.coop<br />

Ela Bhatt ~ 1933-<strong>2022</strong>

food BANK<br />

Advent Calendar<br />

Donate in store or collect at home and help support<br />

your local food bank over the festive period.<br />

1Donate<br />

your<br />

dividend<br />

2<br />

Wash<br />

powder<br />

3<br />

Gravy &<br />

Sauces<br />

Pasta<br />

4 5 6 7<br />

Tinned<br />

tomatoes<br />

Rice<br />

Toiletries<br />

8 9 10 11<br />

Biscuits<br />

Cereal<br />

12<br />

13<br />

16<br />

Sanitary products<br />

14<br />

17<br />

19 20 21<br />

Tinned<br />

potatoes<br />

22 23 24<br />

Longlife<br />

milk<br />

Tea<br />

bags<br />

Tinned<br />

fruit<br />

Tinned<br />

fish<br />

Tinned/packed<br />

desserts<br />

Tinned meat<br />

Give a little something this Christmas...<br />

#GiveALittleSomething<br />

Coffee<br />

Tinned vegetables<br />

Squash<br />

15<br />

Jam & spreads<br />

Longlife<br />

fruit<br />

juice<br />

Pet food<br />

Cooking<br />

sauces<br />


A month of celebration, learning<br />

and knowledge exchange<br />




Holyoake House, Hanover Street,<br />

Manchester M60 0AS<br />

(00) 44 161 214 0870<br />

www.thenews.coop<br />

editorial@thenews.coop<br />


Rebecca Harvey | rebecca@thenews.coop<br />


Anca Voinea | anca@thenews.coop<br />


Miles Hadfield | miles@thenews.coop<br />


Alice Toomer-McAlpine<br />

alice@thenews.coop<br />

DESIGN<br />

Andy Bellis | andy@thenews.coop<br />


Elaine Dean (chair); David Paterson<br />

(vice-chair); Sofygil Crew; Tim Hartley;<br />

Phil Hartwell; Gillian Lonergan; Nick<br />

Milton; Beverley Perkins; Shaz<br />

Rahman; Lesley Reznicek<br />

Secretary: Richard Bickle<br />

Established in 1871, Co-operative<br />

News is published by Co-operative<br />

Press Ltd, a registered society under<br />

the Co-operative and Community<br />

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cooperativenews<br />

CBP013875<br />

It’s been another month packed with co-op events and celebrations, marking<br />

some fantastic milestones across our movement. <strong>2022</strong> is the centenary year<br />

of the International Cooperative and Mutual Insurance Federation (p30-31)<br />

and the International Cooperative Banking Association (p34-36), who met in<br />

Rome and Brussels respectively to celebrate the past and look to the future.<br />

The Co-operative Councils Innovation Network celebrated its first 10 years by<br />

asking how local councils can embed grassroots co-op ideas in communities<br />

(p28-29) – and Paul Gosling looks back at four decades of Leicester’s Cooperative<br />

And Social Enterprise (CASE) development agency (p42-43). “We<br />

would not have survived if we were not a co-operative,” Dorothy Francis,<br />

co-director, said at the anniversary celebration. “It gives us a shared vision<br />

and understanding and means we pull together.”<br />

This shared vision is hugely important to Leading Lives too – an employeeowned<br />

social care co-op in Suffolk which span out of the local authority 10<br />

years ago (p46-47). “For us it’s all about co-production – about shifting our<br />

power base, about finding solutions to what people need,” says Boo Dendy,<br />

vice-chair.<br />

Collaboration is also in evidence in the credit union movement, with a new<br />

partnership between Swoboda (the British and Irish credit union research<br />

centre) and the Caribbean Confederation of Credit Unions, to strengthen<br />

credit union governance in the region. And there was more knowledge<br />

exchange at the World Coop Management conference in Brazil (p32-33), and<br />

co-op learning at Co-operatives UK’s annual Practitioners Forum (p26-27).<br />

But this month has also been one of loss. Rochdale Boroughwide Housing<br />

has come under immense fire following the death of death in 2020 of twoyear-old<br />

Awaab Ishak, who lived in a mould infected flat managed by the<br />

mutual (p5-6). And the world is mourning the loss of Ela Bhatt, the Indian cooperative<br />

giant and ‘gentle revolutionary’ who founded the Self-Employed<br />

Women’s Association (SEWA) of India (p24-25).<br />

Also this issue we speak with Co-op Group member-nominated director<br />

Sarah McCarthy-Fry as the organisation searches for applicants for the<br />

2023 MND elections (p44-45) and start getting ready for Christmas with the<br />

second part of our co-op Christmas gift guide (p48-49).<br />

Wishing all our members and readers a very peaceful festive season,<br />


Co-operative News is printed using vegetable oil-based inks<br />

on 80% recycled paper (with 60% from post-consumer waste)<br />

with the remaining 20% produced from FSC or PEFC certified<br />

sources. It is made in a totally chlorine free process.<br />

DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong> | 3

ISSN 0009-9821<br />

9 770009 982010<br />

01<br />



Dorothy Francis celebrating 40 years of<br />

CASE (p42-43); COP27 and Fairtrade (p14);<br />

Osaro Otobo, deputy chair of the British<br />

Youth Council speaking at Co-operatives<br />

UK’s Practitioners Forum (p26-27); The<br />

World Coop Management conference in<br />

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (p32-33); Leading<br />

Lives social care co-op (p46-47)<br />

DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong><br />

ELA BHATT:<br />



Plus … The search for<br />

the next Co-op Group MND<br />

... Leading Lives: employeeownership<br />

at the heart<br />

of social care ... Crosscollaboation:<br />

Caribbean<br />

Credit Union Governance<br />

www.thenews.coop<br />

£4.20<br />

Ela Bhatt ~ 1933-<strong>2022</strong><br />

22-23 MEET: TIM COOMER<br />

Business development manager at<br />

Co-operative and Community Finance<br />


Co-operatives UK’s annual event<br />

explored diversity – and supporting<br />

members and colleagues through crises<br />



How can local councils embed grassroots<br />

co-op ideas in communities?<br />

30-31 100 YEARS OF ICMIF<br />

The International Cooperative and Mutual<br />

Insurance Federation celebrated its<br />

centenary with global gathering in Rome<br />



Rose Marley and Sarah Alldred report from<br />

Brazil’s WCM <strong>2022</strong> event<br />

gathering looked at how to serve members<br />

while surviving the storm<br />


UNIONS<br />

A new partnership to strengthen credit<br />

union governance in the Caribbean<br />

42-43 MARKING 40 YEARS OF CASE<br />

Paul Gosling on four decades of<br />

Leicester’s Co-operative And Social<br />

Enterprise development agency<br />


The Co-op Group is on the lookout for new<br />

member-nominated director<br />


Meet Leading Lives, a social care co-op<br />

owned by its employees<br />


Ethical giving this festive season<br />

COVER: Ela Bhatt, 1933-<strong>2022</strong><br />

Tributes from around the world poured<br />

in following the death of Indian<br />

co-operative organiser and activist Ela<br />

Bhatt, founder of the Self Employed<br />

Women’s Association of India (SEWA)<br />

Read more: p24-25<br />


The International Cooperative Banking<br />

Association met in Brussels to look at its<br />

legacy and plans for the future.<br />


The annual Swoboda credit union<br />


5-13 UK news<br />

14-21 Global news<br />

24-25 Obituaries<br />

27 Letters<br />

50 Events<br />

4 | DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong>

NEWS<br />


Rochdale Boroughwide<br />

Housing loses £1m in<br />

funding as CEO resigns<br />

over child’s death<br />

Housing secretary Michael Gove has<br />

withdrawn £1m of funds from Rochdale<br />

Boroughwide Housing (RBH) as the outcry<br />

continues over the of death two-year-old<br />

Awaab Ishak in a mould-infected flat.<br />

The funding was part of the Affordable<br />

Housing Programme to build new housing.<br />

Gove said there would no extra funds for<br />

RBH until it “gets its act together” and<br />

warned other providers would face similar<br />

sanctions if they breach standards.<br />

A coroner’s inquest into Awaab’s death<br />

in 2020 has left the mutual in crisis. The<br />

leader of Rochdale Council has written to<br />

the government asking for properties run<br />

by RBH to be returned to its control, and<br />

the mutual’s board has dismissed chief<br />

executive, Gareth Swarbrick.<br />

Swarbrick had declared his intention to<br />

stay in the post but as protesters gathered<br />

outside Rochdale Council offices, the board<br />

withdrew its initial support for him.<br />

“Our original instincts were for Gareth to<br />

stay on to see the organisation through this<br />

difficult period and to make the necessary<br />

changes,” said the board in a statement on<br />

the RBH website, “but we all recognise that<br />

this is no longer tenable.”<br />

It has said it will appoint an interim CEO,<br />

but Cllr Neil Emmott, leader of Rochdale<br />

Council, has written to Gove asking that<br />

“the housing stock managed by RBH is<br />

returned to the control of the local authority<br />

alongside the required funding”.<br />

The barrister representing Awaab’s<br />

family, Christian Weaver, read a statement<br />

at the vigil, which said: “The family were<br />

deeply saddened that following this<br />

inquest, RBH did nothing but express their<br />

confidence in their chief executive Gareth<br />

Swarbrick, despite in the court room doing<br />

everything to indicate that significant<br />

changes would be made.<br />

“The fact that RBH’s chief executive had<br />

to be sacked as opposed to resigning, for<br />

the family speaks volumes. However, they<br />

find it wholly unacceptable that the board<br />

expressed confidence in him the first place.<br />

p Gareth Swarbrick posted a video statement apologising for the death and declaring his<br />

intention to stay in post, but was dismissed days later<br />

The family still feels that much more needs<br />

to be done and a further statement will be<br />

released in due course.”<br />

Awaab’s death has seen the tenant<br />

and employee co-owned mutual, which<br />

runs over 12,000 homes throughout the<br />

Rochdale area, mired in allegations of<br />

racism after it emerged it had blamed the<br />

mould on the family’s “lifestyle”.<br />

The Manchester Evening News criticised<br />

the increase in Swarbrick’s pay package,<br />

including pension contributions, from<br />

£144,000 a year to £185,000 from the end<br />

of March 2019 to April 2021 – the period<br />

surrounding Awaab’s death – and noted<br />

his failure to attend the inquest.<br />

Joanne Kearsley, senior coroner at<br />

Rochdale Coroner’s Court, recorded a<br />

narrative conclusion, stating that the<br />

mould, most likely the result of poor<br />

ventilation, was present in the bathroom<br />

and kitchen of the flat Awaab shared<br />

with his parents, Faisal Abdullah and<br />

Aisha Amin, and was first reported to<br />

RBH in 2017.<br />

“Awaab Ishak died as a result of a<br />

severe respiratory condition caused due to<br />

prolonged exposure to mould in his home<br />

environment,” said Kearsley. “Action to<br />

treat and prevent the mould was not taken.<br />

His condition led to respiratory arrest.”<br />

Kearsley noted that there was no<br />

evidence of complaints by the family to<br />

RBH about the mould between the initial<br />

complaint in 2017 and 2020.<br />

And she said that in June 2020, the family<br />

had instructed solicitors over the issue.<br />

“Due to policy, the impact of the<br />

commencement of a claim meant that any<br />

disrepairs found would not be undertaken<br />

until there had been an agreement from the<br />

claimant’s solicitors,” she wrote. “I heard<br />

evidence that this policy was not unique to<br />

RBH and was adopted by them following<br />

similar organisations who have this policy.”<br />

She also acknowledged that RBH had<br />

“learned many lessons” since the tragedy<br />

but added that the case should become<br />

“a defining moment for the housing<br />

sector in terms of increasing knowledge,<br />

increasing awareness and a deepening of<br />

understanding surrounding the issue of<br />

damp and mould”.<br />

After the hearing, lawyers for Awaab’s<br />

parents read a statement in which they<br />

accused RBH of failing for several years to<br />

treat the mould.<br />

“We cannot tell you how many health<br />

professionals we have cried in front of and<br />

Rochdale borough housing staff we have<br />

pleaded to expressing concern,” they said.<br />

They accused RBH of racial<br />

discrimination in the case, adding: “Stop<br />

providing unfair treatment to people<br />

coming from abroad who are refugees<br />

or asylum seekers. Stop housing people<br />

in homes you know are unfit for human<br />

habitation. We were left feeling absolutely<br />

worthless at the hands of RBH.”<br />

Following the case, the ombudsman<br />

DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong> | 5

has written to RBH with regard to “three<br />

complaints … which have also been<br />

assessed as high or medium risk”.<br />

The ombudsman’s team has been<br />

instructed to speed its investigations of<br />

these cases, using paragraph 12 of the<br />

Housing Ombudsman Scheme to “enable<br />

us to effectively gather any information<br />

required”. It will also investigate further<br />

“to establish if this complaint is indicative<br />

of wider failure within the landlord”.<br />

In its statement, the RBH board added:<br />

“The coroner noted that RBH had made<br />

changes as a result of the tragic death of<br />

Awaab. Under new leadership RBH will<br />

continue to embed these changes and<br />

continue to drive further improvements to<br />

our homes and to our communications with<br />

tenants. We are committed to sharing what<br />

we have learnt about the impact to health<br />

of damp, condensation and mould with the<br />

social housing sector, and to supporting<br />

sector wide changes. We will work with<br />

other agencies local and national and with<br />

central government in implementing the<br />

wider changes recommended to them by<br />

the coroner.<br />

“As an organisation we are deeply sorry<br />

for the death of Awaab and devastated that<br />

it happened in one of our homes. We must<br />

ensure this can never happen again.”<br />

Fallout for the co-op movement<br />

The news is a blow to the UK co-op<br />

movement, with RBH hailed as the UK’s<br />

first tenant and employee co-owned<br />

mutual housing society.<br />

It was launched with fanfare in 2011,<br />

with the time and date of the tenant vote<br />

for mutualisation organised for 8pm on<br />

21 <strong>December</strong>, to coincide exactly with the<br />

anniversary of the opening of the Rochdale<br />

Pioneers’ Toad Lane co-op store.<br />

The council leader at the time, Colin<br />

Lambert, welcomed the move, saying it<br />

“continues the ambitious, pioneering spirit<br />

of the 28 workers who set up the Toad Lane<br />

store and it’s an exciting development that<br />

will quite rightly take its place in our cooperative<br />

history”.<br />

RBH put itself forward as an example<br />

of co-operation, with Swarbrick telling<br />

Co-op News in 2020 – the year of Awaab’s<br />

death – that its initiatives on Covid-19<br />

stemmed from “tenants and employees<br />

as co-owners, giving people a sense of<br />

responsibility and working together”.<br />

Instead it now finds itself at the heart of a<br />

scandal, with the media seizing on reports<br />

by other tenants of mould in their flats.<br />

Asked by Sky, RBH said it had received 106<br />

formal complaints about damp or mould in<br />

their properties over the last year.<br />

Responding to the inquest, Rose Marley,<br />

CEO of sector apex Co-operatives UK, said:<br />

“The death of Awaab Ishak is incredibly<br />

sad and shocking – and the subsequent<br />

inquest findings distressed us all. We’ve<br />

written to RBH requesting – as a matter of<br />

urgency – detail in terms of how they’re<br />

addressing the findings of the inquest, with<br />

specific regard to governance and internal<br />

processes. The responses we receive will<br />

help us understand RBH’s support needs<br />

and next steps.<br />

“All co-ops are different, operating with<br />

different constitutions and governing rules<br />

– and of differing sizes across all sectors<br />

within the economy. Something was<br />

clearly broken in the case of RBH. Tenants<br />

were not being heard over a fundamental<br />

issue; of safe and habitable homes. Those<br />

failings have resulted in the most horrific<br />

of outcomes. That is why we have directly<br />

approached RBH over its governance and<br />

also why we’re reaching out to all our<br />

housing members to remind them of the<br />

steps required to ensure their governance<br />

is fit for purpose. The social housing sector,<br />

in particular, requires wholesale reform.<br />

But for co-operatives, the values and<br />

principles must be front and centre when it<br />

comes to change.”<br />

Blase Lambert, CEO of the Confederation<br />

of Co-operative Housing (CCH), said:<br />

“I am saddened by the tragic death of<br />

Awaab Ishak. CCH sends its condolences<br />

to his family. CCH supports fundamental<br />

change in the social housing sector to raise<br />

standards and protect the health and safety<br />

of all residents in their homes.”<br />

There has been ongoing debate in the<br />

co-op movement over the mutualisation of<br />

local authority services, with those on the<br />

left arguing it amounts to privatisation by<br />

the back door.<br />

And within the housing co-op sector<br />

there has been discussion – not specific<br />

to RBH – of the need for improvement on<br />

representation. There were side sessions<br />

at the recent CCH conference looking for<br />

ways to improve the representation of<br />

BAME and other minorities in the sector,<br />

and how to increase tenant participation at<br />

board level, with some co-ops struggling to<br />

attract candidates.<br />

Action urged on UK social housing<br />

The tragedy has put the spotlight on the<br />

country’s wider council and housing<br />

association stock, with the government<br />

demanding improvements to ensure there<br />

are no further mould-related deaths.<br />

RBH told the inquest of the difficulty<br />

of dealing with ageing housing stock, a<br />

common problem in the social housing<br />

sector which has faced several years of<br />

austerity measures.<br />

Last week, Fiona MacGregor, CEO of<br />

the Regulator of Social Housing, wrote<br />

to all UK social housing providers<br />

reminding them of “the responsibility<br />

of all registered providers to ensure<br />

that the homes they provide are well<br />

maintained and of a decent standard”.<br />

RBH says it has been taking action<br />

to identify and remedy problems in its<br />

own stock. These include visits to “every<br />

home in Freehold to carry out a survey<br />

of each flat to check for damp or mould<br />

issues”, which is being followed up with a<br />

£1.2m programme to install positive input<br />

ventilation units and extractor fans. The<br />

work is set to take 12 months, starting on<br />

5 <strong>December</strong>.<br />

The mutual says it has also improved<br />

its IT systems and processes, which the<br />

inquest heard had contributed to the<br />

problem, keeping some staff unaware of<br />

the state of the property.<br />

Employees are being given mandatory<br />

training and video tech is being rolled<br />

out to enhance communication with<br />

people who do not speak English as a first<br />

language.<br />

It added that is trialling tech including<br />

humidity smart meters and different types<br />

of ventilation to see what is most effective<br />

in different homes, and “will share these<br />

findings with the sector going forward”.<br />

6 | DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong>

RETAIL<br />

Central England Co-op announces rebrand using the ICA’s global marque<br />

Central England Co-op has changed its<br />

name to Central Co-op under a rebrand<br />

which reflects its “development and<br />

expansion” which has seen sales approach<br />

the £1bn milestone.<br />

The society says it is rolling out a<br />

“modern and fresh branding” which uses<br />

the International Cooperative Alliance’s<br />

global marque – already used by Scotmid,<br />

Midcounties, Co-operatives UK, Co-op<br />

Credit Union and Co-op News.<br />

CEO Debbie Robinson said: “We’re<br />

continuing our journey as we set our<br />

society up for future success. We’ve<br />

adopted the globally recognised marque<br />

of co-operation to show our solidarity<br />

with the wider co-operative movement as<br />

part of our society-wide rebrand.<br />

“Key to all of this is a refresh of our<br />

identity – we want to be modern, warm,<br />

relevant and inclusive so we can welcome<br />

the next generation of co-operators.<br />

“As we look to the future with our<br />

purpose of creating a sustainable society<br />

for all, we continue to invest in our society.”<br />

The rollout of the new branding is part<br />

of the society’s regeneration plan for more<br />

than food and funeral sites.<br />

In the last 18 months the society has<br />

opened nine new stores, and regenerated<br />

p CEO Debbie Robinson (Image: Co-operatives UK) and the new branding (inset)<br />

63 of its existing sites. Last month’s<br />

openings in Eastham and Sawbridgeworth<br />

are the first food stores with the new look,<br />

alongside the revamped Kettering funeral<br />

home in Northamptonshire.<br />

Central says the rebrand complements<br />

its campaigns on the value and the<br />

benefits of co-op membership, including<br />

“Shop locally, for less”, which highlights<br />

the value of supporting local community<br />

stores. Last month, the co-op added<br />

a member discount to the campaign,<br />

which applies to more than 50 everyday<br />

essential products. Chief member and<br />

customer officer, Rajesh Gupta, said:<br />

“We’re always looking for ways to give<br />

back to our members. These offers on<br />

essential products are part of our aim<br />

to support members in our communities<br />

this winter.”<br />

Central says the rebrand also sees<br />

investment in its 7,700 colleagues, with<br />

the launch of a new cultural framework,<br />

We are the difference makers, shaped by<br />

input from over 1,000 of its staff.<br />

The society recently announced a pay<br />

rise for frontline colleagues of 30p per<br />

hour, taking basic pay to £10 per hour.<br />


Co-op brewery opens<br />

the fi st taproom in<br />

Northern Ireland<br />

An independent co-op brewery opened a<br />

taproom in east Belfast last week after a<br />

record-breaking Crowdfund campaign.<br />

Boundary Brewing’s taproom, the first<br />

ever to open in Northern Ireland, follows<br />

10 years of work by the co-op, which has<br />

grown to more than 2,000 members.<br />

The taproom is next to the brewery site<br />

and serves beers from Boundary and other<br />

breweries, alongside wines, local spirits<br />

and food from neighbouring business<br />

Flout Pizza. It also offers a meeting<br />

place for clubs, groups and community<br />

organisations and more.<br />

Its Facebook page says it offers 20 taps,<br />

fridges full of cans and Belgian beer, and<br />

an “awesome” wine list.<br />

Boundary was launched eight years<br />

ago when a Crowdfunding drive raised<br />

£100,000 from over 400 members in<br />

eight days. This was followed a few<br />

years later with another share offer that<br />

raised another £160,000 and brought in<br />

hundreds more member-owners.<br />

At the launch of the second share offer,<br />

Boundary’s co-founder Matthew Dick<br />

said: “Opening a taproom has been our<br />

dream and we can’t believe that we’re now<br />

making that dream a reality.<br />

“If you have fallen head over heels in<br />

love with Boundary, or just love beer,<br />

and have always wanted a permanent<br />

place to come to enjoy the freshest, most<br />

interesting beers in Belfast, this is the<br />

place for you.”<br />

DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong> | 7

RETAIL<br />

Pay dispute at Co-op<br />

Group coffin actory<br />

continues after second<br />

week’s strike action<br />

Trade union Unite said in early<br />

November that further industrial action<br />

will take place at the Co-op Group’s coffin<br />

factory, at the end of the second week of<br />

strike action in a row over pay.<br />

Around 50 workers at the Co-op<br />

Funeralcare site in Bogmoor Place,<br />

Glasgow, took part in the strike after voting<br />

to reject a pay offer, which the union says<br />

is below inflation. This follows an initial<br />

strike from 22-29 August.<br />

Unite then said there would be a third<br />

week of action at the site, from 14-21<br />

November, after talks at ACAS broke up<br />

without agreement. It says additional<br />

strike dates would also be confirmed at a<br />

later date, with potential disruption into<br />

the new year if there is no resolution.<br />

Unite general secretary Sharon Graham<br />

said: “Unite representatives attended<br />

ACAS in the hope of an improved offer.<br />

The employer, however, failed to come<br />

to the meeting with anything more for<br />

our members and so strike action will<br />

continue with the full support of Unite.<br />

The Co-op should be under no illusion<br />

that Unite members are up for the fight.”<br />

Willie Thomson, Unite regional officer<br />

said: “The determination of our members<br />

to win a fair wage deal remains resolute<br />

and Co-op Funeralcare must recognise<br />

this or risk a long and damaging dispute.<br />

It is totally unacceptable to ask our<br />

members to take a real term pay cut<br />

during a cost of living crisis. Our members<br />

deserve better. It’s time for the Co-op to<br />

show they are different from ‘bad bosses’<br />

and come to the negotiating table with a<br />

significant offer to end this dispute. With<br />

the full backing of Unite our members will<br />

continue to fight for a decent wage.”<br />

In response to last week’s dispute, the<br />

Group said it made a fair pay offer and said<br />

its funeral services would not be affected.<br />

Its latest statement on the dispute says:<br />

“Our colleagues at our Glasgow coffin<br />

factory are a hugely valued part of our<br />

Co-op and following ongoing discussions<br />

with Unite we are disappointed that we<br />

have not been able to reach an agreement<br />

about pay.<br />

“In spite of the difficult trading<br />

environment, we have offered all of our<br />

colleagues at the coffin factory a fair<br />

pay increase. We are confident that the<br />

combined base pay and production bonus<br />

for roles within the Coffin Factory remain<br />

highly competitive.<br />

“We would like to provide full<br />

reassurance that the strike has no impact<br />

on our ability support to bereaved families<br />

and we are able to maintain a strong<br />

supply of coffins.”<br />

Co-op Group to give all staff paid leave for fertility treatment<br />

A new policy launched by the Co-op<br />

Group will give paid leave to employees<br />

going through fertility treatment, as well<br />

as staff who are acting as surrogates.<br />

Launched during National Fertility<br />

Awareness Week, the Group’s policy offers<br />

flexible and unrestricted leave to enable<br />

staff to attend appointments necessary<br />

for fertility treatment processes, including<br />

the use of a surrogate.<br />

Employees with partners going through<br />

treatment may also take paid leave to<br />

attend up to 10 appointments per cycle,<br />

for up to three cycles of fertility treatment.<br />

All the Group’s employees are entitled<br />

to this leave, regardless of how long<br />

they have worked for the business or the<br />

number of hours they work.<br />

Staff are advised in the policy to talk<br />

to their manager as soon as treatment<br />

is approved, so that they can discuss<br />

adjustments that may need to be made.<br />

YouGov research commissioned by the<br />

Group found that 45% of people who are<br />

currently undertaking, or have previously<br />

undertaken fertility treatment whilst<br />

working, didn’t talk with their manager<br />

beforehand. The Group has produced a<br />

guide to help managers support colleagues<br />

going through fertility treatment.<br />

The Group is also offering employees<br />

going through fertility treatment access<br />

to support including counselling, lifestyle<br />

and financial wellbeing services.<br />

The new policy also includes a section<br />

covering embryo transfer and pregnancy<br />

rights, which connects to the Group’s<br />

existing pregnancy loss policy if embryo<br />

transfer is unsuccessful.<br />

CEO Shirine Khoury-Haq said: “It’s<br />

incredibly difficult to navigate through<br />

fertility treatment while balancing work<br />

and the wider impact on your life. Sadly,<br />

in some cases, there is also the need to<br />

manage the physical and emotional impact<br />

of failed cycles and even pregnancy loss.<br />

“The decision to discuss this with your<br />

employer is an incredibly difficult and<br />

personal one. However, by creating a<br />

supportive environment companies can<br />

go a long way in opening the conversation<br />

with colleagues and easing the stress that<br />

people in this situation often feel.<br />

“Having gone through all of this myself,<br />

I felt very lucky to be in a supportive<br />

professional environment; however, this<br />

isn’t always the case for so many people.<br />

I feel very proud that the Co-op is leading<br />

the way on launching a fertility policy and<br />

supporting our colleagues at a time when<br />

they need it most.”<br />

8 | DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong>

RETAIL<br />

New moves from the Group on community, environment and Fairtrade<br />

The Co-op Group has made a series of<br />

announcements of initiatives on plastic<br />

waste, community support and Fairtrade.<br />

They include a partnership with<br />

Crowdfunder to offer thousands of local<br />

causes the chance to unlock additional<br />

funding for community projects.<br />

The initiative is open to local charities<br />

and grassroots community organisations<br />

which benefit from the Group’s Local<br />

Community Fund. It means money raised<br />

by Group members now counts towards<br />

match funding on Crowdfunder.<br />

Since 2016, Co-op members have raised<br />

£117m for local communities, including<br />

funding for over 30,000 local community<br />

projects supporting an estimated 7 million<br />

people across the UK.<br />

The Group says the money “helps<br />

to build stronger and more resilient<br />

communities by tackling key issues such as<br />

access to food, mental wellbeing support<br />

and opportunities for young people”.<br />

This month, 4,500 community groups<br />

have shared the latest round of funding.<br />

Through the partnership, causes who<br />

benefit from Co-op’s Local Community<br />

Fund can apply for additional support<br />

through the +Extra Funding page on<br />

Crowdfunder, with over £10m in match<br />

funding available from Crowdfunder’s<br />

national and regional partners.<br />

Rob Love, founder and CEO at<br />

Crowdfunder, said: “We are thrilled to<br />

be working with the Co-op on this new<br />

initiative. UK charities and community<br />

causes are calling for support and this<br />

partnership will help give these projects<br />

access to a range of funds meaning they<br />

can top up their fundraising efforts with<br />

match funding from a variety of partners<br />

we work with at Crowdfunder.”<br />

David Luckin, the Group’s head of<br />

community funding and impact, said: “We<br />

know that costs are rising for local charities<br />

and community organisations across the<br />

country, while demand for the support<br />

they provide is increasing. Now than ever,<br />

causes need access to funding to maintain,<br />

build and enhance their projects.”<br />

The Group has also forgone the<br />

traditional Christmas TV ad campaign and<br />

will instead host a live stream from “Your<br />

Local Pantry”, to highlight community<br />

food initiatives.<br />

p Big Zuu (left) drops in on the Local Peckham Pantry<br />

TV chef and rapper Big Zuu will bring<br />

the Local Peckham Pantry community<br />

together, to host a live cookalong, with<br />

special guests, members and volunteers.<br />

The Group is partnering with Your<br />

Local Pantry to bring 150 more UK<br />

neighbourhoods together around food<br />

and support 32,000 households manage<br />

finances over the next three years.<br />

Big Zuu said: “Everyone deserves access<br />

to great quality food at affordable prices. I<br />

hope that by visiting the Peckham Pantry<br />

and cooking up some healthy, tasty and<br />

more affordable meals with the team, more<br />

people in need will seek out community<br />

initiatives like Your Local Pantry.”<br />

On Fairtrade, the Group has launched<br />

two new lines through Ever Ground coffee<br />

brand, first launched in 2020.<br />

Ever Ground initially offered 100%<br />

Fairtrade hot drink drinks from vending<br />

machines in Group stores. The two new<br />

coffee lines – Whole Bean and Ground<br />

Coffee – are also 100% Fairtrade and are<br />

available across Co-op and Nisa stores.<br />

They are packet coffee for home brewing<br />

rather than vending machines.<br />

Own-brand planning manager Grace<br />

Bowker said: “Our customers and<br />

members have already really resonated<br />

with our new brand as it not only makes<br />

delicious coffee, but the range is sourced<br />

on Fairtrade terms which means standing<br />

with farmers for fairness and equality,<br />

in countries such as Ethiopia, Brazil and<br />

Colombia.”<br />

The new duo follows the introduction<br />

of two chilled ready to drink Ever Ground<br />

coffee lines, which launched exclusively<br />

to festival-goers this summer before being<br />

rolled out to stores. The Ever Ground<br />

Latte (250ml) and Oat Latte (250ml) are<br />

available in selected stores across the UK.<br />

Kerrina Thorogood, commercial<br />

director, Fairtrade Foundation, said:<br />

“This new line provides the perfect<br />

blend of fairer prices and investment for<br />

hardworking coffee-growing communities<br />

so they can continue to produce quality<br />

beans and look after their natural<br />

environment.”<br />

On the issue of plastic waste, the Group<br />

is launching a trial to uncover the number<br />

of its own-brand plastic bottles that are<br />

being recycled to help benchmark future<br />

recycling rates for the industry.<br />

It is working with Polytag – a technology<br />

business that enables a circular economy<br />

for packaging – to collect recycling data<br />

that will showcase the exact number of<br />

Co-op bottles that are being sorted at<br />

recycling centres.<br />

It will add a UV invisible code to the<br />

label of one of its best-selling own-brand<br />

spring water lines, which will allow the<br />

recycling centre taking part in the trial to<br />

collect real-time data.<br />

Matt Hood, MD of Co-op Food, said:<br />

“This new trial will enable Co-op to gather<br />

valuable insight to provide guidance and<br />

measurement for future initiatives to<br />

encourage more people to recycle and it<br />

will also support the industry with true<br />

benchmarks for recycling rates in the UK<br />

for the very first time.”<br />

The Group has also committed to<br />

removing coloured milk bottle caps.<br />

Colour contamination makes it harder for<br />

materials to be recycled into food-grade<br />

packaging.<br />

DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong> | 9


Co-op Party calls for clearer growth plan after Jeremy Hunt’s budget<br />

Chancellor Jeremy Hunt unveiled his<br />

autumn statement to the House of<br />

Commons last month, after a turbulent<br />

period for the government marked by the<br />

fiasco over Kwasi Kwarteng’s financial<br />

statement and the departure of Liz Truss.<br />

Hunt (pictured) is attempting to correct<br />

the government’s course under new PM<br />

Rishi Sunak but his statement met a<br />

critical reception in the press.<br />

And the Co-op Party said it “could<br />

have been an opportunity to address<br />

the inequalities we face in our economy.<br />

However, for communities, businesses<br />

and co-operatives across the country, the<br />

chancellor’s promise of growth is still<br />

unclear and uncertain”.<br />

The chancellor announced a raft of<br />

measures including an increase in the<br />

minimum wage, state pensions and<br />

means-tested and disability benefits.<br />

Apart from in Scotland, the top 45%<br />

additional rate of income tax will be<br />

paid on earnings over £125,140, instead<br />

of £150,000. Thresholds on income tax<br />

National Insurance and inheritance<br />

tax have all been frozen for further two<br />

years, until 2028. Tax-free allowances for<br />

dividend and capital gains tax are also<br />

due to be cut next year and in 2024.<br />

Local councils in England will be able to<br />

raise council tax by up to 5% a year.<br />

The Co-op Party’s communications<br />

assistant Georgia Horsfall welcomed new<br />

funding for retrofitting and other energy<br />

efficiency initiatives, but criticised its<br />

start date of 2025. “This means families<br />

struggling to pay their bills now will not<br />

feel the benefits of this policy for another<br />

two years. We also heard the Energy Price<br />

Guarantee will be going up to £3,000<br />

from April – even more evidence that we<br />

should have an energy sector owned and<br />

controlled by us.”<br />

With regard to community energy, the<br />

Party also wants to see more clarity in<br />

Hunt’s budget to introduce a windfall tax<br />

on energy generators.<br />

“While the windfall tax will only apply to<br />

schemes larger than 100GWh per annum,<br />

which means that small community<br />

energy projects will not be affected, it is<br />

important that the principal difference is<br />

recognised between community-owned<br />

projects, where profits are reinvested in<br />

the community, and for-profit schemes,”<br />

said Horsfall. “Recently Co-operative<br />

parliamentarians pressed for immediate<br />

action to safeguard the contribution made<br />

by community and co-operatively owned<br />

energy initiatives and include exemptions<br />

for our sector in the Energy Prices Bill.<br />

“The government must go further than<br />

simply verbally committing and ensure<br />

this is enshrined into law.”<br />

The Party welcomed increases to<br />

benefits but called for the value of<br />

Healthy Start vouchers to be raised in<br />

line with soaring inflation. And Horsfall<br />

said more attention should have been<br />

paid to challenges in the childcare sector<br />

“to address the cost of childcare [which<br />

is] forcing many, mostly women, to stay<br />

at home.<br />

She also criticised Hunt’s failure to<br />

reverse the 2020 government cut to the<br />

international development budget. “Co-op<br />

Party members have applied pressure<br />

in all forms to hold the government<br />

to its commitment on international<br />

development. The announcement to not<br />

restore overseas aid spending to 0.7% of<br />

GDP for another five years is a huge blow<br />

to those countries who need it most.”<br />

She added: “We got little in terms<br />

of commitments, little in terms of<br />

clarity, little in terms of confidence, and<br />

fundamentally little for our sector. The<br />

Co-op Party will continue to campaign for<br />

action which delivers a fairer, greener and<br />

more prosperous Britain for all.”<br />

There was also criticism from Tony<br />

Armstrong, CEO of Locality, the national<br />

network for community organisations.<br />

He said: “For community organisations<br />

on the front line, there is little here to<br />

change the reality on the ground right<br />

now. Charities and local groups have<br />

been working tirelessly to support their<br />

communities with food banks, warm<br />

spaces and money advice – all while their<br />

own costs continue to skyrocket.<br />

“Uprating benefits in line with inflation<br />

and continuing the emergency Household<br />

Support Fund will provide important<br />

help for those who need it most. But to<br />

ensure people can continue to access vital<br />

local support, the government should<br />

extend energy bill relief for community<br />

organisations after April, and prioritise<br />

them in the welcome drive for energy<br />

efficiency. We need our front line local<br />

organisations now more than ever, not<br />

just to get people through this crisis, but<br />

also to build a hopeful future.”<br />

Ailbhe McNabola, director of policy and<br />

communications at community business<br />

body Power to Change, said: “With the<br />

UK now facing a recession, we know<br />

that communities – and the community<br />

businesses that serve them – will see an<br />

increased demand on services which are<br />

already under strain. Continued pressures<br />

on public services will further exacerbate<br />

this. Community businesses will continue<br />

to provide vital support in their places<br />

through the challenges of a recession<br />

and can support those furthest from the<br />

labour market to build their skills and<br />

employability ... but they need certainty<br />

and support from the government to<br />

ensure places not only survive but thrive<br />

during the current crisis.”<br />

10 | DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong>


Confederation of Co-op<br />

Housing announces<br />

annual award winners<br />

The UK Confederation of Co-operative<br />

Housing (CCH) presented its annual<br />

awards at its conference in Kenilworth.<br />

Housing Co-operator: Helen Bartlett,<br />

Rosabridge/Bunker Housing Co-op<br />

Helen is the driving force behind<br />

Rosabridge Housing Co-op, an LGBTQ+<br />

co-op in Brighton, and has been a tireless<br />

supporter of other co-ops in the city.<br />

Sustainability at Home – Edinburgh<br />

Student Housing Co-operative (ESHC)<br />

ESHC received the award for its recent<br />

renovation using renewable and reclaimed<br />

materials – with barely anything concrete<br />

or petrochemical-based.<br />

Active Membership – Belgrave<br />

Neighbourhood Co-op<br />

This Leicester housing association<br />

has introduced an Active Management<br />

Programme with regular newsletters, a<br />

website, and new social media accounts.<br />

Young Co-operators of the Year –<br />

Seasalt Student Housing Co-operative<br />

CCH says this Brighton co-op is “an<br />

inspirational group of young people who<br />

have successfully delivered their build<br />

project and while actively promoting<br />

a super exciting and inspiring housing<br />

presence on various social media”.<br />

Special Longevity Award – Theresa<br />

Lyons, Senacre Housing Co-op<br />

Theresa has lived at the Maidstone, Kent<br />

co-op since 1996, serving as treasurer,<br />

secretary, maintenance officer and is now<br />

chair. She has also served on the CCH and<br />

CDS Co-operatives’s board, and was chair<br />

of the Housing Service sub committee.<br />

Dairy co-ops First Milk and Arla sign whey protein deal<br />

UK dairy co-op First Milk has announced<br />

a partnership with Arla Foods Ingredients<br />

to produce a specialist whey protein<br />

powder at its Lake District Creamery. First<br />

Milk will manufacture Nutrilac® FO-7875,<br />

developed by Arla as an ingredient to<br />

enhance the level of protein in food and<br />

drink products while retaining texture and<br />

taste – a growing trend in the industry.<br />

Southern Co-op hosts Christmas memorial at burial site<br />

Southern Co-op colleagues at Mayfields<br />

Woodland Burial Ground, Wirral, have<br />

organised a free memorial service for<br />

anyone who wants to remember lost loved<br />

ones this Christmas.<br />

On the evening of 14 <strong>December</strong>,<br />

members of the public are invited to leave<br />

tributes on Mayfield’s Christmas tree and<br />

light candles to remember loved ones.<br />

Central Co-op sends out its festive truck for a toy appeal<br />

Central Co-op’s festive truck has<br />

completed a halfway tour of the society’s<br />

trading area collecting toys for its<br />

Christmas appeal. Donation points for<br />

the appeal – which this year will include<br />

Ukrainian children in the UK – will<br />

remain open at all the society’s outlets<br />

until 2 <strong>December</strong>.<br />

Credit unions among Consumer Credit Awards winners<br />

The UK Consumer Credit Awards <strong>2022</strong><br />

included two credit union categories in<br />

the Product Awards section. Wiltshire &<br />

Swindon Credit Union won Best Credit<br />

Union – South. Central Liverpool Credit<br />

Union (CLCU) won North, and also<br />

scooped the award for Best Loan Provider<br />

(under £2.5k). Glasgow Credit Union was<br />

highly commended in the North category.<br />

£500k needed to complete Oxford housing co-op site<br />

Oxfordshire Community Land Trust<br />

(OCLT) is looking to raise half a million<br />

pounds to finish construction on homes<br />

in west Oxford. Crofts Court will offer eight<br />

co-operatively managed apartments at<br />

affordable rents but has been hit by rising<br />

interest rates on its finance.<br />

More details at ethex.org.uk/invest/oclt<br />

DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong> | 11

RETAIL<br />

Lincolnshire Co-op<br />

names new CEO as it<br />

announces trading<br />

surplus of £16.6m<br />

Lincolnshire Co-op has appointed Alison<br />

Hands as its new chief executive officer,<br />

following the retirement this month of<br />

Ursula Lidbetter.<br />

The news comes as the retail society<br />

announced its annual results for the year<br />

to 3 September, with a 12% increase in<br />

overall sales to £399m, and the trading<br />

surplus falling 9.1% to £16.6m.<br />

The society said it was a “healthy” set<br />

of results despite the impact of rising costs<br />

including energy and food distribution<br />

which “will continue to present challenges<br />

over the next trading period”.<br />

It has shared a dividend bonus of £1.6m<br />

with members, who have already received<br />

£1.9m during the financial year.<br />

The society’s outgoing CEO Ursula<br />

Lidbetter announced her retirement in<br />

March after 37 years with the society, 18 of<br />

those as its chief executive.<br />

Hands joins in April, with Steve<br />

Galjaard, chief financial officer, filling in<br />

as acting CEO alongside his current role.<br />

Currently managing director at Wilko,<br />

Hands has more than 30 years of retail<br />

experience, including roles at Marks and<br />

Spencer, the Body Shop, Walgreens Boots<br />

Alliance and Boots Opticians.<br />

“I’m honoured to be joining this valuesdriven<br />

organisation, which continues<br />

to build on its success, while delivering<br />

its purpose to make life better in<br />

communities,” she said. “I’m excited to be<br />

charged with leading the society through<br />

the next phase of its development, as we<br />

p Ursula Lidbetter<br />

collectively tackle the challenges of the<br />

current external environment.”<br />

Chair David Cowell said the society<br />

had “flourished” under Lidbetter, who<br />

is “leaving Lincolnshire Co-op in a great<br />

position for the future”.<br />

He added: “We welcome Alison with<br />

the knowledge she will continue this<br />

good work and help us move forward. She<br />

brings a wealth of experience and insight,<br />

as well as a deep understanding of bricks<br />

and mortar retail and what that means to<br />

customers. She’s also passionate about<br />

our purpose and values.”<br />

Lidbetter joined the society in 1985 as a<br />

buyer and department manager – and as<br />

CEO, currently supports 300,000 members<br />

and 2,900 local colleagues in Lincolnshire<br />

and the surrounding counties.<br />

From November 2013 – February 2015<br />

she stepped up for a brief stint as chair<br />

of the Co-op Group, where she helped<br />

to steer it through the early stages of its<br />

rescue from its financial crisis.<br />

She has also been at the helm of major<br />

projects including the creation of the<br />

Lincoln Science and Innovation Park<br />

and the Cornhill Quarter development in<br />

p The society supported local causes through its Community Champions scheme<br />

p Alison Hands<br />

Lincoln. She received an OBE in 2019 for<br />

services to the local economy.<br />

“Now feels the right time to pass the<br />

baton on,” she said. “I’m looking forward<br />

to seeing how Lincolnshire develops under<br />

Alison’s leadership, working alongside<br />

the great team we have in place.”<br />

In its annual report, the society hailed<br />

a return to normal trading after the<br />

pandemic, with travel showing growth on<br />

pre-pandemic trading years. A quarter of<br />

clients have booked with the society for<br />

the first time, it adds, with many wanting<br />

the support of using a travel agent after<br />

the disruption caused by Covid-19.<br />

Food sales steadied, and the society’s<br />

Love Local range, which supports<br />

producers across the trading area,<br />

recorded sales of £4.8m.<br />

Pharmacies dispensed 5.9 million<br />

prescription items, a rise of 3%.<br />

Community health services saw colleagues<br />

guide 16,302 patients through the use<br />

of their medication as part of the New<br />

Medicines Service (NMS). Over 25,000 jabs<br />

were administered at the society’s Covid<br />

vaccination sites in Lincoln and Boston<br />

and 13,040 flu vaccines were delivered in<br />

branch and at community-based clinics.<br />

Funeral branches helped families with<br />

2,772 funeral arrangements in the year.<br />

Post offices “continued to provide<br />

valued services for communities, with<br />

banking services proving particularly<br />

useful in rural areas”.<br />

New food stores opened in Retford and<br />

Barnetby during <strong>2022</strong> and construction<br />

is taking place at a further five food store<br />

sites, due to open in 2023.<br />

A total of 496 groups and charities<br />

shared £680,776 raised this year through<br />

the Community Champions scheme.<br />

12 | DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong>


Rail co-op applies to run services in south-west of England<br />

Plans to launch the UK’s first cooperatively<br />

managed rail service has<br />

moved a step closer after Go-op – a coop<br />

campaigning for rail owned by its<br />

users and workers – handed in a formal<br />

application to run services in the southwest<br />

of England.<br />

Go-op has applied to the Office of Rail<br />

and Road to run services between Taunton<br />

and Westbury, starting in 2023. This will<br />

see 10 departures a day, improving the<br />

service levels in growing market towns,<br />

such as Frome and Melksham.<br />

“Go-op has taken several years of<br />

careful research and planning to ensure<br />

that our plan is both compliant with the<br />

highest standards of rail operation, and<br />

commercially viable too,” said the co-op’s<br />

vice chair Alex Lawrie.<br />

“As a co-operative, not only can Go-op<br />

improve transport links for some of our<br />

important local growing towns but we<br />

could help reduce CO2 emissions by 2.7<br />

million kg annually if people move their<br />

journeys to our railway.”<br />

Go-op has commissioned independent<br />

research which estimates that as many<br />

as 40% of passengers would be new to<br />

the rail network, which equates to some<br />

17.5 million seat miles each year, with a<br />

significant number likely to shift from<br />

travelling by car.<br />

And a Go-op study claims that towns<br />

served by Go-op could share up to £37.5m<br />

of productivity gains, and benefit from<br />

connections for services to and from<br />

Yeovil, Southampton and Exeter.<br />

The co-op will be owned and managed<br />

by members of the public and Go-op<br />

employees, with operations run by<br />

industry professionals. But unlike other<br />

train companies, Go-op will be seeking<br />

investment from passengers and the local<br />

community and, after paying all expenses<br />

(including a fair rate of interest to investors),<br />

it says all remaining profits will be devoted<br />

to further improvements to public transport.<br />

With a target of £1.1m, Go-op is to<br />

launch a funding round.<br />

Following an industry consultation,<br />

Wiltshire Council, Somerset Council,<br />

Cross Country Trains and the DfT have all<br />

expressed support for the proposal.<br />

A better way of doing boardrooms.<br />

We’re looking for Member Nominated Directors<br />

The Co-op was founded in 1844 to make a difference for local communities when times were hard. Today our purpose is more<br />

relevant than ever – we’re owned not by shareholders or wealthy individuals, but by 4.6 million members who all have a say in how<br />

our business is run.<br />

As a Member Nominated Director, you’ll be a voice for our members in the boardroom, working closely with our National<br />

Members’ Council by attending Council meetings, taking part in Q&As and listening to the views of members from across the UK.<br />

We’re committed to equality and inclusion, and we’re proud of the diversity of our Board, but we need to do more to eliminate<br />

the inequalities that currently exist within our Co-op and the wider world too. So, we’re looking for applicants who are keen to play<br />

their part in this.<br />

To be considered for the role, you’ll need to be a Co-op Member with proven board experience. It’s important you can<br />

demonstrate real commercial acumen and an appreciation of the strategic challenges that come with a large, complex business<br />

like ours. A commitment to our co-operative values is also essential.<br />

If you’re selected as a candidate, you’ll take part in an election in which our members will vote. If you’re elected, you’ll be<br />

appointed after our Annual General Meeting (AGM) in May 2023.<br />

The closing date for applications is 20 <strong>December</strong> <strong>2022</strong>. This year, we have one Member Nominated Director seat<br />

up for election.<br />

For more information about the opportunity and a confidential discussion,<br />

please contact our advisors Warren Partners at coopMND@warrenpartners.co.uk or on 0845 261 0600.<br />

To apply, please visit www.co-operative.coop/mndelection<br />

DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong> | 13


GLOBAL<br />

COP27: Fair<br />

Trade organisations<br />

launch urgent call<br />

for ‘inclusive climate<br />

solutions’<br />

As the <strong>2022</strong> United Nations Climate<br />

Change Conference (COP27) got under<br />

way in Egypt (6-18 November), fairtrade<br />

organisations called on global leaders to<br />

tackle climate change while protecting<br />

the world’s small-scale producers, most of<br />

whom are members of co-operatives.<br />

Ahead of the summit, Fairtrade<br />

International, the World Fair Trade<br />

Organization (WFTO), and the Fair<br />

Trade Advocacy Office (FTAO) launched<br />

a position paper, The Clock is Ticking,<br />

which argues that critical measures are<br />

needed to deliver fair climate solutions.<br />

These include meeting the US$100bn<br />

(£84.18bn) climate aid commitment<br />

promised by the end of <strong>2022</strong>; ensuring<br />

climate finance delivers for smallholder<br />

farmers, small and medium enterprises<br />

(SMEs), and workers by including them<br />

in the design of climate programmes;<br />

agreeing on regulations that tackle the<br />

root causes of environmental degradation,<br />

such as deforestation, by penalising noncompliance;<br />

and supporting farmers,<br />

SMEs and workers with the costs of<br />

adaptation and mitigation.<br />

The paper also calls on businesses to<br />

“pay fair prices to smallholder farmers,<br />

SMEs and workers”.<br />

“International trade today is not only<br />

one of the leading contributors to climate<br />

change, but also drives high costs of doing<br />

business that cut across supply chains,<br />

p Sandra Uwera<br />

p Prudencio Fernandez, Fairtrade producer in Honduras (Image: Fairtrade)<br />

affecting farmers’ readiness to respond to<br />

climate catastrophes,” said Sandra Uwera,<br />

global CEO at Fairtrade International.<br />

“As Fairtrade, we seek a multistakeholder<br />

partnership and collaboration<br />

approach, towards addressing efforts<br />

that strengthen producers’ resilience and<br />

capacity to manage adverse impacts of<br />

climate change.<br />

“With world leaders, international<br />

delegates, and civil society actors now<br />

gathering for COP27, Fairtrade and the<br />

Fair Trade movement are once again<br />

called upon to remind them of their duty<br />

to right the global wrongs that continue<br />

to disproportionately impact our planet’s<br />

most vulnerable communities and deliver<br />

equitable climate action once and for all.”<br />

WFTO chief executive Leida Rijnhout<br />

added: “The biggest challenge to<br />

combating climate change is eliminating<br />

the current economic system that is<br />

dependent on fossil fuels and the<br />

extraction of natural resources. Without<br />

real accountability on what the big<br />

polluters are doing, mission-led business<br />

models, including SMEs, are the only way<br />

to go.<br />

“WFTO members are showcasing that<br />

another economy is possible. They can<br />

be the driving force to achieve climate<br />

justice.”<br />

The position paper also mentions<br />

some of the challenges facing small-scale<br />

farmers, such as the lack of financial<br />

assistance to enable them to successfully<br />

mitigate and adapt to climate challenges.<br />

According to the paper, less than 2%<br />

of climate finance reaches small-scale<br />

farmers. The organisations argue that<br />

the awarding criteria and procedures of<br />

financial mechanisms must be aligned to<br />

small producers and their organisations<br />

so that they can access available funding<br />

and manage it in a non-bureaucratic way.<br />

Writing after the event, Uwera<br />

described COP27 as “an unremarkable<br />

affair, contoured by the usual parade<br />

of delegates, an increased presence of<br />

industry lobbyists, and the growing<br />

certainty that the climate targets set in the<br />

Paris Agreement will not be achieved”.<br />

She added: “Once again our planet’s<br />

most vulnerable communities will be left<br />

to the mercy of the unpredictable forces of<br />

climate change [which] imperils the very<br />

existence of our planet’s food supply.<br />

Uwera described how farmers and<br />

agricultural workers are not only on<br />

the frontline of the climate crisis; they<br />

also have the on-the-ground expertise<br />

to address it head-on, but stressed that<br />

role in combating climate change comes<br />

with a financial cost – “one that must be<br />

incorporated into market prices in a fair<br />

and equitable manner.”<br />

“It is clear that the world has missed its<br />

chance at mitigating the effects of climate<br />

change and all efforts must now focus<br />

on adaptation,” she said. “But climate<br />

adaptation requires financing and no one<br />

knows better what adaptation measures<br />

must be adopted than the farmers<br />

themselves.”<br />

“The world’s smallholder farmers and<br />

agricultural workers are ready, willing,<br />

and able to help confront climate change<br />

where it matters most, protecting their<br />

communities, preserving their livelihoods,<br />

and safeguarding our planet’s food supply.<br />

Nevertheless, the question remains: are<br />

our leaders willing to let them? That’s an<br />

answer COP27 has yet failed to provide.<br />

And it’s an answer we’re still waiting for.”<br />

14 | DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong>

GLOBAL<br />

ICA Governance Committee launches<br />

General Assembly elections enquiry<br />

The International Cooperative Alliance<br />

is conducting an enquiry into its General<br />

Assembly elections, which took place in<br />

June in Seville, Spain. Held on 20 June, the<br />

General Assembly featured elections for<br />

the ICA President position and the board<br />

at large.<br />

The enquiry was launched after several<br />

delegates expressed concerns over a range<br />

of issues including allocating only half a<br />

day for the elections, which, due to the<br />

failure of the online voting system, had to<br />

be carried manually. Another issue raised<br />

by delegates was the fact that the board<br />

at large elections began before knowing<br />

the results of the presidential election due<br />

to lack of time, despite the fact that Jean-<br />

Louis Bancel from France was standing<br />

for both the president and board at large<br />

elections. Had Bancel won the President<br />

election, he would have automatically<br />

gained a seat of the ICA board, meaning<br />

that he would not have needed to stand<br />

for election for the board-at-large.<br />

Some delegates alleged that holding the<br />

board at large election before knowing the<br />

results of the presidential election led to<br />

confusion among delegations regarding<br />

how many candidates they should vote<br />

for and there were claims that the voting<br />

instructions were misinterpreted when<br />

translated into other languages.<br />

The enquiry follows a dispute over<br />

the validity of 64 board-at-large election<br />

ballots containing votes for 16, instead of<br />

15 candidates. The Elections Committee<br />

initially declared these invalid and<br />

communicated the election results<br />

accordingly but revised the decision after<br />

receiving legal advice. This led to Ben Reid,<br />

representing the Midcounties Co-operative<br />

(UK) replacing Simona Cavazzutti from<br />

Confederación de Cooperativas Rurales<br />

del Paraguay (CONCOPAR), Paraguay.<br />

The presidential election was won<br />

by Ariel Guarco from Argentina, who<br />

received 455 votes. Melina Morrison from<br />

Australia received 164 votes while Jean-<br />

Louis Bancel from France had 160 votes.<br />

Speaking after the election in Seville,<br />

Guarco apologised on behalf of the ICA for<br />

the issues with the online voting system.<br />

“We are all victims of this failure,” he said<br />

at the time.<br />

Bancel, who did not gain a seat in the<br />

board-at-large elections, also took to the<br />

floor shortly after the elections, calling<br />

for unity, while asking the re-elected<br />

president and board to see what happened<br />

at the election and “try to find a way not to<br />

go in that type of failure again”.<br />

In the aftermath of the election, Bruno<br />

Roelants, director general of the ICA,<br />

said in a message to members on 1 July<br />

that “a number of issues” had come<br />

up during the vote, the failure of the<br />

electronic voting system forcing a switch<br />

to a manual vote. He added that the<br />

issues were caused by “a combination<br />

of different circumstances”, including<br />

disruption to language interpretation,<br />

adding that these had nothing to do with<br />

the Spanish hosts.<br />

The system had been used four times<br />

before the election “without a hitch”,<br />

added Roelants, who also thanked the<br />

ICA Elections Committee for “their very<br />

difficult task”.<br />

The ICA has been approached for a<br />

comment on the enquiry – the apex said<br />

it would wait for the results of the ongoing<br />

investigation before making further<br />

statements on the issue.<br />


Ministers announce new legislation to strengthen co-op sector<br />

Ireland’s government has agreed to start<br />

work on the drafting of a new Co-operative<br />

Societies Bill, which would aid investment<br />

in the sector and enforce the co-op ethos.<br />

Announcing the bill, the government<br />

said its general scheme provides for a<br />

specific legislative framework for co-op<br />

societies for the first time, with societies<br />

registering under the legislation being<br />

required to adhere to the co-op ethos.<br />

Ministers also hope to consolidate<br />

and modernise existing provisions and<br />

introduce modern corporate governance,<br />

financial reporting and compliance<br />

requirements, thereby making cooperatives<br />

more attractive to investors.<br />

p Ministers Dara Calleary and Leo Varadkar<br />

The general scheme also includes<br />

provisions to: make it easier to set-up and<br />

operate a co-op – for example, by reducing<br />

the minimum number of founding<br />

members (from seven to three); expand<br />

the categories of founding members to<br />

include corporate bodies; provide for audit<br />

exemptions for smaller co-ops; provide<br />

for virtual and hybrid participation at<br />

general meetings; and empower co-ops<br />

by providing them with the flexibility to<br />

reflect in their rules what best suits their<br />

own particular circumstances<br />

Leo Varadkar, tánaiste and minister for<br />

enterprise, trade and employment, said:<br />

“The [co-op] model can work particularly<br />

well for social enterprises.<br />

“However, the law governing cooperatives<br />

has not kept up with the times.<br />

This new law changes all that, responds to<br />

the needs of the co-operative movement<br />

and opens a path for a new wave of cooperative<br />

societies.”<br />

DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong> | 15

USA<br />

Electric co-ops urge government to boost<br />

domestic production of distribution transformers<br />

Rural electric co-ops in the USA are asking<br />

the federal Department of Energy (DOE) to<br />

use funding from the Inflation Reduction<br />

Act to address the shortage of distribution<br />

transformers.<br />

In a letter to energy secretary Jennifer<br />

Granholm on 19 October, the National<br />

Rural Electric Association (NRECA) and<br />

American Public Power Association urged<br />

the DOE to prioritise Inflation Reduction<br />

Act (IRA) funding to immediately boost<br />

the domestic production of distribution<br />

transformers, by using its authority under<br />

the Defense Production Act (DPA).<br />

According to the letter, the shortage<br />

“poses an unacceptable risk to the electric<br />

reliability”.<br />

“If we don’t act today, we risk being<br />

unable to recover from a storm tomorrow,”<br />

read the letter, co-signed by NRECA CEO<br />

Jim Matheson and American Public Power<br />

Association CEO Joy Ditto.<br />

DOE said it intends to use the IRA funding<br />

to make more heat pumps available but<br />

the two apexes argue the funds should<br />

go toward distribution transformers in<br />

order to fast-track domestic production of<br />

critical grid components.<br />

The letter highlights issues faced by<br />

rural electric co-ops and communityowned<br />

utilities, including procuring basic<br />

equipment for reliable service, especially<br />

in areas ravaged by disasters.<br />

It adds that labour is a key challenge for<br />

manufacturers, urging DOE to “establish<br />

a $220m wage subsidy programme that<br />

would assist manufacturers in attracting<br />

and retaining more workers, thus enabling<br />

them to move to 24/7 operations”.<br />

According to the letter, such a programme<br />

could result in increased output of<br />

approximately 30% of distribution<br />

transformers in 2023.<br />

A July report by Tiger Team, a group<br />

of co-ops, public power providers,<br />

investor-owned utilities and key federal<br />

agencies, found that the average wait<br />

for a distribution transformer is one year<br />

and that labour is the most immediate<br />

challenge to replenishing supply.<br />

Image: GettyImages/Bronwyn8<br />

“While we support long-term investment<br />

in domestic manufacturing capacity<br />

for heat pumps, we believe the current<br />

shortage of distribution transformers<br />

available to electric utilities poses an<br />

unacceptable risk to the electric reliability<br />

of our nation and urge you to alleviate this<br />

unprecedented situation by prioritising<br />

available IRA funding for transformers,”<br />

the letter warned.<br />

“In the longer term, it could mean being<br />

unable to meet the electrification goals<br />

envisioned by the Biden administration. In<br />

the meantime, the backlog for distribution<br />

transformers continues to grow.”<br />

The two apexes said they were open to<br />

discussing the issue further with DOE to<br />

address this transformer shortage.<br />

Credit unions welcome court ruling of CFPB funding as unconstitutional<br />

The 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals<br />

has ruled that the Consumer Financial<br />

Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) funding<br />

mechanism is unconstitutional.<br />

Made on 19 October, the appeals court’s<br />

ruling was welcomed by lenders including<br />

the Credit Union National Association<br />

(Cuna) and the National Association of<br />

Federally-Insured Credit Unions (Nafcu).<br />

An independent agency, CFPB was<br />

created in 2011 as part of the 2010 Dodd-<br />

Frank Act passed by Congress under the<br />

Democratic Obama administration. Its<br />

roles include writing and enforcing rules<br />

for financial institutions, including credit<br />

unions, and monitoring the market.<br />

Under the current structure, CFBP is<br />

funded directly by the Federal Reserve,<br />

bypassing Congress – a move designed to<br />

insulate it from political pressures – but<br />

the court ruled this was unconstitutional.<br />

“Congress’s decision to abdicate<br />

its appropriations power under the<br />

Constitution, i.e., to cede its power of<br />

the purse to the Bureau, violates the<br />

Constitution’s structural separation of<br />

powers,” the judges wrote. They argued<br />

this funding model provided too much<br />

authority to CFPB without it being<br />

accountable to Congress. The three judges<br />

on the panel were appointed by former<br />

Republican president Donald Trump.<br />

NAFCU president and CEO Dan Berger<br />

said: “NAFCU applauds the decision<br />

[...] We believe federal regulators need<br />

accountability and checks and balances.<br />

The CFPB should be subject to annual<br />

appropriations by Congress, as well as<br />

governed by a bi-partisan commission<br />

to ensure accountability as envisioned<br />

by the constitution. Nafcu has long<br />

advocated for increased Congressional<br />

oversight of the CFPB to ensure efficient<br />

and transparent use of taxpayer dollars,<br />

and to prevent abuse of the substantial<br />

power that Congress granted the Bureau.”<br />

The decision, which CFBP is expected<br />

to appeal, could have significant<br />

implications for the sector by overturning<br />

regulations and enforcement actions<br />

undertaken by the Bureau since its<br />

creation in 2011. The case was brought<br />

by two groups representing payday<br />

lenders: the Community Financial<br />

Services Association of America, a trade<br />

association representing the payday<br />

lending industry, and the Consumer<br />

Service Alliance of Texas.<br />

16 | DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong>

USA<br />

Worker co-ops welcome the California Employee Ownership Act<br />

New legislation gives California’s<br />

small business owners new options<br />

for succession while offering workers<br />

a chance to become co-owners of the<br />

enterprises where they work.<br />

Signed into law by governor Gavin<br />

Newsom (Democrats) on 29 September,<br />

the California Employee Ownership Act<br />

was welcomed by the US Federation of<br />

Worker Cooperatives (USFWC), whose<br />

members and policy director Mo Manklang<br />

has been campaigning state laws to grow<br />

worker ownership.<br />

Both houses approved the bill<br />

unanimously. The law was also backed<br />

by Worker-Owned Recovery California<br />

(WORC), whose members include worker<br />

co-operatives and USFWC, Project Equity,<br />

and Ownership America.<br />

The legislation will apply to worker<br />

co-ops, employee stock ownership<br />

plans (ESOPs), and employee ownership<br />

trusts. It will also establish an Employee<br />

Ownership Hub within the Governor’s<br />

Office for Business and Economic<br />

Development (GO-Biz) to provide business<br />

owners and workers with resources on<br />

employee ownership transitions, as well<br />

as support for existing worker-owned<br />

businesses.<br />

Specifically, the bill instructs the<br />

Hub to “increase awareness and<br />

understanding of employee ownership<br />

among stakeholders, assist business<br />

owners and employees in navigating<br />

available resources, and streamline and<br />

reduce barriers to employee ownership.”<br />

A provision to provide grant funding for<br />

up to US$50,000 (£42,096) for feasibility<br />

assessments, which formed part of the<br />

original bill was not included in the final<br />

version. However, the Bill sponsors intend<br />

to work to add that back in the next budget<br />

proposal from the governor.<br />

A 2017 report by the National Center<br />

for Employee Ownership found that<br />

employee-owners earn 33% more, stay<br />

in their jobs 50% longer, and have twice<br />

the household net worth of their peers in<br />

traditional businesses.<br />

“With its proven track record, employee<br />

ownership will now have a bigger role in<br />

California’s economy,” said Hilary Abell,<br />

a co-founder of Project Equity and WORC.<br />

“This could not come at a better time for<br />

business owners and workers.”<br />

The legislation is expected to help<br />

owners approaching retirement who do<br />

not yet have a formal succession plan.<br />

Around 359,000 Californian businesses<br />

are owned by people approaching their<br />

retirement – part of the ‘silver tsunami’<br />

which has caused much concern to<br />

business experts.<br />

“Employee ownership enables working<br />

people to build wealth while sustaining<br />

businesses for the long haul in their<br />

communities,” said senator Josh Becker,<br />

who introduced the bill in March <strong>2022</strong>.<br />

“Data shows that employee-owned<br />

businesses outperform their peers in<br />

profitability, productivity and resilience.<br />

p The Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco is one of the 100+ worker-owned co-ops in California<br />

p The State Capitol in Sacramento, California.<br />

(Image: GettyImages/ bbourdages<br />

Unfortunately, how to make these<br />

transitions and seize these opportunities<br />

is not widely understood. The new hub<br />

within GO-Biz will address that.”<br />

“The California Employee Ownership<br />

Act is a momentous step toward expanding<br />

employee ownership in our state and<br />

creating a resilient economy that works<br />

for working people,” said Bernadette King<br />

Fitzsimons, WORC’s coordinator. “Clearly,<br />

employee ownership is a true win-win.”<br />

California is home to more than 100<br />

worker-owned co-operatives and close to<br />

800 companies with ESOPs.<br />

“For decades we have seen worker coops<br />

thrive in California,” said Esteban<br />

Kelly, executive director of the USFWC.<br />

Businesses like Rainbow Grocery,<br />

Cheeseboard Collective, Courage Home<br />

Care and Echo Adventures illustrate the<br />

diversity of industries in which workers<br />

can succeed, build wealth, and centre<br />

their needs using co-operative models.<br />

“The California Employee Ownership<br />

Act creates dynamic support for worker<br />

ownership within Go-Biz by establishing<br />

an office that provides strategic resources<br />

toward the expansion of worker co-ops<br />

and ESOPs.<br />

“The Employee Ownership Hub is the<br />

first step in fostering the growth of durable<br />

businesses that build worker power<br />

in California.”<br />

DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong> | 17

EUROPE<br />

Co-ops respond<br />

to European<br />

consultation on<br />

developing the social<br />

economy<br />

In August the European Commission<br />

launched a public consultation to gather<br />

feedback for an upcoming Council<br />

Recommendation to help member states<br />

better adapt their policies and laws to the<br />

needs of the social economy.<br />

In its response to the consultation,<br />

Cooperatives Europe highlighted the need<br />

for a full recognition of co-operatives in<br />

all member states, calling for the ICA’s<br />

co-operative values and principles to<br />

be recognised as common features of<br />

the co-operative business model across<br />

the EU. Furthermore, argued the apex,<br />

co-operatives’ specificities must be<br />

recognised in the EU competition and<br />

taxation framework.<br />

“Their specific operating principles,<br />

management logic and other restrictions<br />

lead to different treatments across member<br />

states, which is not always fully understood<br />

in EU taxation or state-aid policies,” it<br />

said. “In that regard, the Commission’s<br />

guidelines for interpretations of cooperatives’<br />

place in EU competition laws<br />

would be very welcome.”<br />

Cooperatives Europe also called on EU<br />

member states to provide better access<br />

to finance and education on co-operative<br />

entrepreneurship.<br />

“Given the benefits they bring to<br />

their community (decent employment,<br />

social cohesion, democracy), we believe<br />

all member states should include cooperative<br />

entrepreneurship in business<br />

education as part of their national curricula<br />

for schools and tertiary education, with<br />

the help of the Commission’s coordination<br />

and stakeholders’ involvement,” it said.<br />

Cecop, the European confederation of<br />

workers’ co-ops, social co-ops and social<br />

and participative enterprises, shared<br />

some of Cooperatives Europe’s concerns,<br />

particularly around ensuring recognition<br />

of the co-op model across all policy, and<br />

the need for legislation to facilitate the<br />

creation and functioning of worker and<br />

social co-operatives. In addition, Cecop<br />

wants a legal framework for worker<br />

buyouts, and support for platform co-ops<br />

– through the removal of legal barriers, a<br />

level playing field, and the implementation<br />

of the platform work directive.<br />

Furthermore, Cecop called for<br />

legislation to support worker and social<br />

co-ops including by making fiscal rules<br />

(including VAT and tax exemptions on<br />

retained benefits) favourable to their<br />

development.<br />

Another issue raised by co-ops is the<br />

need for public private partnerships<br />

that include co-ops. The European<br />

Research Institute on Cooperative and<br />

Social Enterprises (Euricse) argued<br />

for a shared administration approach,<br />

using mechanisms of co-programming<br />

and co-design instead of tender-based<br />

procurement. “This mechanism is not<br />

based on the criterion of maximum<br />

savings for the public administration but<br />

relies on a collaborative effort to achieve<br />

maximum satisfaction in terms of results<br />

obtained,” said Euricse.<br />

This issue was also mentioned by<br />

REScoop Wallonia, an apex for renewable<br />

energy co-ops in the Walloon region<br />

of Belgium, which is also a member of<br />

REScoop.eu, the European federation of<br />

citizen energy co-operatives. REScoop<br />

Wallonia’s feedback said: “In the context<br />

of public procurement, when there is a<br />

public aid mechanism, the price criterion<br />

must at least be weighted at least 70% of<br />

the total.” It wants this cut to 50% for social<br />

economy actors in order to “devote other<br />

criteria to aspects related to the impact,<br />

the degree of citizen participation”.<br />

The consultation ran from 18 August to<br />

30 September, enabling a range of social<br />

economy actors to take part, including cooperative<br />

organisations from Spain, Italy<br />

and France.<br />

For the full list and to read all<br />

submissions, see bit.ly/3sOrjRH<br />

Image: Getty/ Jorisvo<br />

Retail co-ops criticise<br />

‘bias’ in EU consultation<br />

on new genomic<br />

techniques<br />

Retail co-op body Euro Coop has signed an<br />

open letter to the EU health commissioner<br />

criticising the European Commission’s<br />

consultation process on the impact of new<br />

genomic techniques (NGTs).<br />

NGTs include new plant breeding<br />

techniques taking into account genetically<br />

modified organisms (GMOs) now in the<br />

wider environment. The Commission<br />

sought views and evidence from citizens<br />

and stakeholders on how to best regulate<br />

plants obtained from NGTs, saying it<br />

wanted to get feedback on the topic<br />

from EU and national public authorities,<br />

breeders, farmers and other economic<br />

operators in the agri-food chain, academia<br />

and researchers and NGOs.<br />

Euro Coop – the European community<br />

of consumer co-operatives – joined 39<br />

other organisations in writing to Stella<br />

Kyriakides, raising concerns over how<br />

the Directorate-General for Health and<br />

Food Safety (DG SANTE) is organising the<br />

impact assessment.<br />

The letter says the consultation process<br />

lacks transparency and does not offer<br />

material on policy options. It argues that<br />

selected stakeholders should have been<br />

identified from the outset – including<br />

details of the sectors they come from and<br />

the criteria that led to their selection.<br />

It also called for an explanation of how<br />

the input of different stakeholders will be<br />

weighted in the survey and report.<br />

18 | DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong>

EUROPE<br />

Cecop calls for ‘ambitious’ European<br />

Commission platform work directive<br />

The European confederation of industrial<br />

and service cooperatives (Cecop) has<br />

joined a call demanding changes to the<br />

European Commission’s directive on<br />

improving working conditions in platform<br />

work, set for debate by the European<br />

Parliament’s Employment Committee.<br />

In an open letter to European<br />

institutions, Cecop, along with the<br />

European Trade Union Confederation,<br />

the European Youth Forum, and Solidar<br />

(a European and worldwide network of<br />

civil society organisations), warns that<br />

digitisation “should always provide<br />

social improvements, respect working<br />

conditions, and be developed in cooperation<br />

with workers and trade unions”.<br />

The letter points out that <strong>digital</strong> labour<br />

platforms are more than just <strong>digital</strong><br />

marketplaces that facilitate the offer<br />

and demand between an undertaking<br />

and a client. It highlights that many<br />

exert the prerogatives of employers by<br />

relying on rating systems and performing<br />

algorithm management, among other<br />

forms of control. It adds: “This group of<br />

<strong>digital</strong> labour platforms have based their<br />

business model on creating a ‘race to<br />

the bottom’ on rights, through enhancing<br />

competition among workers, putting the<br />

risks of the activity on their shoulders,<br />

and operating in a legislative vacuum to<br />

maximise the benefits.”<br />

Warning that “a business is only<br />

sustainable if labour rights are respected”,<br />

the letter argues that “rules are needed to<br />

ensure that those <strong>digital</strong> labour platforms,<br />

which do not operate with genuine selfemployed<br />

workers, do not evade their<br />

responsibility through imposing bogus<br />

self-employment”.<br />

The letter also explains that<br />

malpractices within the platform economy<br />

“erode the working conditions and quality<br />

of life of workers and also affect negatively<br />

traditional industry and public revenues”.<br />

The platform economy is not a separate<br />

silo of the economy, the letter adds, so a<br />

regulatory instrument at EU level should<br />

set minimum standards of protection to<br />

safeguard workers’ rights.<br />

The signatories also argue that<br />

platform workers must have access to<br />

social protection, as acknowledged in<br />

the European Pillar of Social Rights. It<br />

adds that the proposed directive should<br />

prevent <strong>digital</strong> work platforms from<br />

developing their own unilateral private<br />

protection schemes. “Such private and<br />

non-transferable schemes can create<br />

a lock-in effect by providing for social<br />

dependence on the <strong>digital</strong> work platform<br />

and therefore produce a dumping with<br />

traditional companies,” it says.<br />

The signatories also express reservations<br />

with regards to the methodology used for<br />

the Commission’s impact assessment<br />

and warns that “the number of bogus<br />

self-employed workers in <strong>digital</strong> labour<br />

platforms exceeds extensively the<br />

estimate of 5.51 million.” The Commission<br />

estimates that the number of platform<br />

workers will grow to 42.7 million in the<br />

EU-27 by 2030.<br />

“Hoping that you share our ambition<br />

for an economy that works for people and<br />

supports European companies, we urge<br />

you to take the steps that will make the<br />

current proposal stronger,” says the letter.<br />

The letter says the survey on NGT –<br />

which invited Euro Coop and the other<br />

organisations to contribute – “was already<br />

characterised by strong bias regarding the<br />

tone, content, and questions and response<br />

options, which together appeared to<br />

be formulated to weaken the existing<br />

Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)<br />

regulation.”<br />

The signatories claim the survey<br />

was “biased in favour of far-reaching<br />

deregulation of GMOs in agriculture<br />

and food” and, as such, “answering the<br />

targeted survey was impossible for many<br />

stakeholders.” They add that the policy<br />

scenarios for new GMOs should have<br />

been made public and that “sustainability<br />

must be assessed separately from the<br />

genetic modification regulation and the<br />

assessment must be based on evidence<br />

and clear objectives and be reviewed by<br />

independent authorities”.<br />

The letter urges the Commission<br />

“to repeat those parts of the impact<br />

assessment on NGTs that fall short of the<br />

required standards”.<br />

“More broadly,” it adds, “we ask the<br />

EU Commission to follow the ECJ decision<br />

that NGTs products must be considered<br />

GMOs and regulated as such. Possible<br />

NGTs deregulation would put at risk the<br />

environment, food safety, consumers’<br />

and farmers’ right to choose, as well as<br />

the organic, conventional, and non-GMO<br />

sectors.”<br />

A spokesperson from the European<br />

Commission’s DG SANTE said: “The<br />

Commission consults in full transparency<br />

with stakeholders having various scientific<br />

expertise. Their feedback and views will<br />

be taken into account by the Commission<br />

in the policy process. Since the start<br />

of this process we have encouraged all<br />

stakeholders to be as active as possible<br />

and provide us with their views and expert<br />

advice. We are confident all the different<br />

views within the scientific community are<br />

covered by this broad consultation.”<br />

DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong> | 19


Credit union numbers fall as Russian shelling worsens<br />

The number of Ukrainian credit unions,<br />

members and assets is declining due to<br />

ongoing Russian attacks on the country.<br />

Membership of the All-Ukrainian<br />

Credit Union Association (AUCUA) has<br />

dropped from 63 active credit unions on<br />

31 <strong>December</strong>, 2021 to 53 by 30 June, <strong>2022</strong>.<br />

In the same timespan, membership of the<br />

Ukrainian National Association of Savings<br />

and Credit Unions (UNASCU) dropped<br />

from 53 to 40 member credit unions.<br />

Ukrainian membership of credit unions<br />

also dropped by 16% and the sector’s<br />

assets have declined by 28%.<br />

During October, Russia launched its<br />

most extensive attacks on Ukraine in<br />

months, with a focus on energy facilities.<br />

Many of Ukraine’s credit unions are located<br />

in areas where energy infrastructure has<br />

been destroyed, meaning they can only<br />

operate for a few hours each day due to<br />

rolling blackouts.<br />

Last month the World Council of Credit<br />

Unions (Woccu) reported that the houses<br />

of more than 10 credit union members<br />

and employees in the Zaporizhzhia region<br />

of Ukraine were damaged or destroyed by<br />

Russian shelling, and one credit union in<br />

the Dnipro Region has had to reduce its<br />

opening hours to conserve energy.<br />

Occurrences like this have become<br />

commonplace since Russia began<br />

ramping up attacks across Ukraine, says<br />

Woccu.<br />

AUCUA and UNASCU are working with<br />

the National Bank of Ukraine, which<br />

regulates the country’s credit unions,<br />

to support credit unions that are still<br />

operating.<br />

Woccu is continuing its support for<br />

AUCUA and UNASCU. The global trade<br />

association and development platform for<br />

credit unions is offering advice to both of<br />

its member credit union associations on<br />

how to handle the crisis they are facing,<br />

through its International Advocacy<br />

team and the USAID-funded Credit for<br />

Agriculture Producers (CAP) Project.<br />


17,000 gallons of fuel donated to Ukrainian credit union member farmers<br />

As the scarcity and price of fuel in Ukraine<br />

increases, over 17,000 gallons of diesel<br />

fuel is being distributed to farmers via the<br />

country’s credit unions, just in time for<br />

the autumn harvest.<br />

Through its Fuel Disbursement Program,<br />

the World Council of Credit Unions’<br />

(WOCCU) charitable arm, the Worldwide<br />

Foundation for Credit Unions (WFCU), has<br />

provided 1,329 free fuel coupons to 163<br />

farmers who took out agricultural loans<br />

at credit unions as part of the USAID/<br />

WOCCU Credit for Agriculture Producers<br />

(CAP) project.<br />

The CAP project, which started in 2016,<br />

aims to strengthen the Ukrainian credit<br />

union sector enabling better access to<br />

credit for farmers in the country.<br />

“In these difficult times for our country,<br />

even under Russia’s constant shelling,<br />

Ukrainian farmers continue to operate<br />

and care about our food security.<br />

“As credit unions, we are happy we<br />

can support them, not only through the<br />

needed finance, but also—thanks to our<br />

international partners and friends—to<br />

p Credit Union Anisia CEO (left) presenting fuel coupons to a member farmer<br />

ensure they have diesel for the autumn<br />

harvest season,” said Volodymyr<br />

Sidorovsky, CEO of Credit Union<br />

Anisia, who provided fuel coupons to<br />

27 farmers.<br />

The Fuel Disbursement program is<br />

part of a wider set of activities being<br />

undertaken by WFCU, called the<br />

Ukrainian Credit Union Displacement<br />

Fund. The Displacement Fund has also<br />

provided USD $100,000 of assistance to<br />

eligible CAP-partner credit union member<br />

farmers in the form of partial loan<br />

reimbursements, as well as a $50,000<br />

grant to a Ukrainian NGO working to<br />

support refugees in the Vinnytsia region of<br />

western Ukraine.<br />

To donate to the Ukrainian Credit Union<br />

Displacement Fund, visit bit.ly/3UgmhJj.<br />

20 | DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong>

CANADA<br />

Housing co-ops<br />

beat the market on<br />

affordability, report shows<br />

A report comparing rents in five Canadian<br />

cities found that co-op apartment rents<br />

were consistently lower than market<br />

apartment rents over the 2006-2021 study<br />

period.<br />

The study, commissioned by the<br />

Co-operative Housing Federation of<br />

Canada (CHFC), compared the housing<br />

rents in Victoria, Vancouver, Edmonton,<br />

Toronto and Ottawa. It comes at a time of<br />

renewed government interest in the sector,<br />

with federal plans for a CA$500m (£315m)<br />

investment in co-op house building.<br />

One of the report’s main findings was<br />

that for one and two-bedroom apartments,<br />

co-op rents were about 25% lower than<br />

market early in the period (75% of market<br />

rents), declining by the end to one third<br />

lower than market (67% of market).<br />

It says the widening gap between coop<br />

and market rents was driven by the<br />

greater rate of annual increase in market<br />

rents (3% to 4% annually versus 2% to 3%<br />

in co-ops); this applied in most cities and<br />

sub-periods and was most pronounced<br />

as market rents escalated in 2016-2021.<br />

As such, the rent gap between co-op and<br />

private sector one- and two-bedroom<br />

apartments was mostly between CA$150<br />

(£94) and $250 (£157) per month in the<br />

early years, increasing to $400 (£258) to<br />

$500 (£315) monthly by the later years.<br />

Figures varied across the cities and<br />

among accommodation types, the report<br />

adds, while Canadian housing cooperatives<br />

also tend to provide homes<br />

for disadvantaged communities, such as<br />

lone parent households or ethnic minority<br />

residents.<br />

In light of the report’s findings, CHFC<br />

argues that public investment which<br />

supported the construction and operation<br />

of housing co-ops in their early years<br />

provided a “long term payoff”.<br />

NCBA CLUSA leads project for climate-smart agriculture<br />

US national co-op apex NCBA CLUSA<br />

has announced a US$15m (£12.6m) pilot<br />

project to build climate-smart markets<br />

in Puerto Rican agriculture. Funded<br />

by the US Department of Agriculture<br />

(USDA), the programme will help coffee,<br />

citrus fruits, plantains, bananas, cacao<br />

and lumber growers adopt climatesmart<br />

agriculture.<br />

Five Nepalese co-ops accused of embezzlement<br />

Kathmandu Metropolitan City’s<br />

Department of Cooperatives has received<br />

complaints from 633 member depositors<br />

who claim their co-ops embezzled Rs<br />

40.05m (£270,000). According to a<br />

report in local paper My Republica, the<br />

complaints were filed in the first three<br />

months of the current fiscal year.<br />

Co-ops among the world’s top female-friendly companies<br />

Forbes magazine has published a list of the<br />

world’s most female-friendly companies,<br />

identifying 400 enterprises that excel in<br />

championing women at work. It features<br />

four co-operatives, one employee owned<br />

enterprise and four mutual insurers,<br />

including Desjardins Group, John Lewis<br />

Partnership, Unipol Group, Crédit Agricole<br />

and Crédit Mutuel.<br />

Coop Italia removes 42 tons of plastic from the sea<br />

Retailer Coop Italia is helping to clear the<br />

Italian seas of plastic by installing trasheating<br />

devices, using offshore drones<br />

and employing scuba diving teams. The<br />

co-op presented an update on its A sea<br />

of ideas for our waters project at the<br />

Barcolana Sea Summit, held in Trieste on<br />

5-7 October.<br />

UAE’s new co-op law comes into effect in <strong>December</strong><br />

The UAE Ministry of Economy says its<br />

new law for co-operatives will come into<br />

effect in <strong>December</strong>. Designed to boost<br />

the sector’s contribution to national GDP<br />

from 1% to 5%, the law introduces a series<br />

of provisions to help co-ops grow. These<br />

include allowing co-operatives operating<br />

in one emirate to expand activity to<br />

other emirates with the approval of the<br />

local authorities.<br />

DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong> | 21

MEET<br />

Tim Coomer<br />

Co-operative and Community<br />

Finance<br />

This month we speak to Tim Coomer, business development manager<br />

at Co-operative and Community Finance (CCF). CCF is the trading<br />

name of the Industrial Common Ownership Finance Ltd (ICOF) family<br />

of businesses, which was set up in 1973, and remains democratically<br />

owned and controlled by the members. CCF exclusively serves the<br />

co-operative and social enterprise sector, and for nearly 50 years has<br />

supported hundreds of businesses ranging from small community‐run<br />

enterprises to large award‐winning organisations.<br />



My background is in retail. I was working for the<br />

Rural Community Council in Wiltshire, and I<br />

ran a project in the southwest partly supporting<br />

community shops – and found the Plunkett<br />

Foundation. I managed a couple of different<br />

community and rural economy programmes<br />

over the years, including a Good Neighbours<br />

Scheme and a small loan fund. Co-operative and<br />

Community Finance (CCF) was lending to a lot<br />

of community shops at the time, through what<br />

was called the Village Core Programme with the<br />

Plunkett Foundation. Through that scheme I got to<br />

know the CCF team and so when a job came up with<br />

them, I applied, and that was that!<br />


We’re basically a lender, a finance company. We<br />

lend about a million pounds a year, but we only<br />

lend to co-operatives, so we’re quite niche in the<br />

We were born out of the need to<br />

finance the co-op sector because<br />

the mainstream banks weren’t really<br />

supporting them.<br />

wider social investment sector. We lend anything<br />

from £10,000 to £150,000 to community businesses<br />

and co-ops of different sizes in different sectors,<br />

including traditional worker co-ops and employeeowned<br />

businesses, as well as more commonly<br />

community hubs, pubs and all sorts of community<br />

led co-ops.<br />

We have a slightly complicated structure because<br />

over the years we have created a portfolio of different<br />

companies to raise and lend funds underneath the<br />

CCF banner, and we also manage, loan funds and<br />

back-office functions for other people. We provide<br />

loan management for organisations like the Coop<br />

Foundation, and have previously provided<br />

services to social investors like Big Issue Invest.<br />

That’s something we’re also going to build on in the<br />

next few years as we have invested in a new loan<br />

management system and will be looking for new<br />

clients. It’s going to be busy.<br />


STORIES?<br />

The pubs programme has been very successful;<br />

in the last six years, the number of communityowned<br />

pubs has gone from a few to over a<br />

hundred, now. We also love to see worker co-ops<br />

come through. I think it’s been difficult in recent<br />

years for worker co-ops, but that’s what we were<br />

originally set up to support and what we want to<br />

do more of. Community Shares is another thing<br />

that’s really taken off for us, and we also manage<br />

funds; we have a small pot community share<br />

investment funding, and next year, we’re going into<br />

a partnership with Co-operatives UK to invest more<br />

22 | DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong>

into the community shares sector; so we’ll see how<br />

that goes.<br />



We’re in the planning stage at the moment, but<br />

we’re working on a new strategy for CCF for the next<br />

50 years. We also want to look back a little bit as we<br />

have always been part of the movement – we were<br />

part of ICOM (which merged with the Co-op Union<br />

to become Co-operatives UK). We were born out of<br />

the need to finance the co-op sector because the<br />

mainstream banks weren’t really supporting them.<br />

We’ll hold events throughout the year, including a<br />

gala dinner at some point, and raise the profile of<br />

what we do.<br />



Prior to Covid-19, things were pretty good and fairly<br />

steady. We were lending a good amount of money<br />

and there was a good pipeline of deals coming<br />

through. But Covid struck us totally, the pipeline<br />

disappeared, and we went into ‘protect-theportfolio’<br />

mode. We were supporting our borrowers<br />

as much as we could through that period, staying<br />

in close contact, listening to them and reducing<br />

repayment amounts.<br />

After Covid, everything started to unlock again,<br />

and there was a lot of enthusiasm in the sector to<br />

get things going. But with the economy and cost of<br />

living crisis now, it’s going to be a real challenge<br />

again. We’re seeing some borrowers starting to<br />

have real cashflow problems, and are looking<br />

again at how we can support them into next year,<br />

which is going to be uncomfortable for everybody,<br />

obviously, but hopefully there will be some shining<br />

lights within all that.<br />


OVER THE NEXT 20-50 YEARS?<br />

It will be interesting to see how the new worker coop<br />

federal works and how they can then support<br />

more worker co-ops into the sector. The Barefoot<br />

Practitioner Network is also really exciting because,<br />

as we know, the practitioner network is ageing,<br />

and there are fewer people who understand about<br />

co-ops and the development of the community<br />

business world. Despite the short term issues<br />

there’s a lot to be excited about for the future.<br />

150 years of independent, co-operative journalism<br />

150 years of independent, co-operative journalism<br />

150 years of independent, co-opera 15<br />

FEBRUARY 2021<br />




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Full coverage of the ICA’s 33rd<br />

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Plus … Launch of the 10th<br />

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Interview<br />

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COOPERATIVE author of The IDENTITY’<br />

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Full coverage MPs of debate the debate ICA’s the 33rd<br />

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Plus … Launch of the 10th<br />

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Interview with Rob Harrison,<br />

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MPs debate debate the<br />

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DECEMBER 2021<br />


The strength of co-ops<br />

learning together<br />

Plus … Lessons co-op<br />

organising from Cincinnati …<br />

A co-operative future DECEMBER for the 2021<br />

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the Co-ops: a review … and<br />

Part 2 of our Co-op Christmas<br />

Gift Guide PEER LEARNING<br />

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learning strength together<br />

of co-ops<br />

ISSN 0009-9821<br />

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news news Issue #7334 AUGUST 2021<br />

Connecting, Connecting, c<br />

JANUARY 2021<br />

WHY AREN’T<br />


JANUARY 2021<br />

CO-OPS?<br />

WHY AREN’T<br />

THERE MORE Plus … New international<br />

CO-OPS? working group for UK co-ops<br />

... Kay Johnson’s work on food<br />

fairness in Preston ... New York<br />

Plus … New international<br />

working group for taxi UK drivers co-ops launch fundraiser<br />

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for platform co-op ISSN 0009-9821<br />

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Plus … How Brexit will<br />

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news news Issue #7332 JUNE 2021<br />

Conn Conn<br />

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A co-operative future for the<br />

waterways? … How Blair Killed<br />

the Co-ops: a review … and<br />

Part 2 of our Co-op Christmas<br />

Gift Guide<br />

Plus … Lessons in co-op<br />

DECEMBER 2021<br />


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learning together<br />

Plus … The co-ops tackling<br />

global deforestation ... Mark<br />

Drakeford Robert Owen at<br />

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groups, past, present<br />

and future ... the schools<br />

teaching co-operation by<br />

doing ... the 16-year-old on<br />

a mission to make co-ops<br />

fairer for young people<br />

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MAY 2021 Connecting, championing, cha lenging<br />

Connecting, championing, cha lenging<br />

AUGUST 2021<br />

MAY 2021<br />

HOW CO-OP<br />



Plus … Credit unions<br />

consider the merger question<br />

... A globa look at youth<br />

empowerment ... Robert Owen:<br />

anniversary of a co-op icon ...<br />

Nigel Todd: A tribute<br />

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news news<br />

APRIL 2021<br />



CO-OP<br />



Tributes paid as Sewa founder Ela Bhatt dies at 89<br />

Tributes from around the world poured<br />

in on social media following the death of<br />

Indian co-operative organiser and activist<br />

Ela Bhatt.<br />

Born on 7 September 1933 in<br />

Ahmedabad, Bhatt grew up in the city of<br />

Surat before attending the Sir L.A. Shah<br />

Law College in Ahmedabad. She obtained<br />

a BA in English from M.T.B. College before<br />

taking a law degree at the Sir L.A. Shah<br />

Law College in Ahmedabad.<br />

In 1955 she joined the Textile Labour<br />

Association (TLA), the country’s largest<br />

union of textile workers where, alongside<br />

Arvind Buch, she worked to empower selfemployed<br />

women in the textile industry.<br />

During her time there, she studied at<br />

the Afro-Asian Institute of Labour and<br />

Cooperation in Tel Aviv, obtaining an<br />

International Diploma of Labour and<br />

Cooperatives in 1971.<br />

Her efforts to empower women<br />

culminated with the creation of the Self<br />

Employed Women’s Association of India<br />

(SEWA) in 1972, with Buch as its president<br />

and Bhatt as general secretary, a role she<br />

held until 1996. During this time, she also<br />

helped to set up India’s first women’s<br />

bank, the Cooperative Bank of SEWA.<br />

In addition to her involvement in SEWA<br />

and TLA, she founded and served as chair<br />

of Women’s World Banking (WWB), the<br />

International Alliance of Home-based<br />

Workers (HomeNet), Street Vendors<br />

(StreetNet) and Women in Informal<br />

Employment: Globalizing, Organizing.<br />

Bhatt was chair of Sabarmati<br />

Ashram Trust and chancellor of the<br />

Gujarat Vidyapith university, recently<br />

giving up the latter role due to health<br />

considerations. She had also served as<br />

trustee of the Rockefeller Foundation<br />

and was a member of the Council of<br />

The Elders, formed by Nelson Mandela,<br />

since 2007.<br />

Her work gained her various accolades,<br />

including the Indira Gandhi International<br />

Prize for Peace, Disarmament and<br />

Development, the CGAE Human Rights<br />

Award and the Freedom from Want Medal<br />

by Roosevelt Institute of Netherlands.<br />

Known as the “gentle revolutionary”,<br />

Bhatt was a keynote speaker at the World<br />

Cooperative Congress in 2021, where she<br />

reaffirmed her lifelong commitment to the<br />

co-operative identity. “The co-operative is<br />

an answer to poverty in any country,” she<br />

said at the time.<br />

SEWA Federation confirmed the death<br />

of its founder via a social media post. “It is<br />

with profound grief that we announce the<br />

passing away of our beloved and respected<br />

founder, Smt. Elaben Bhatt. A pioneer in<br />

advocating for women workers’ rights, we<br />

strive to carry her legacy forward,” it said.<br />

“Many an epithet has been used to<br />

celebrate her — the gentle revolutionary,<br />

the Mahatma of “shramjeevi” (working)<br />

women, and more,” said Mirai Chatterjee,<br />

Sewa chair. “For us, her Sewa sisters, and<br />

thousands across India and the globe, Ela<br />

Bhatt was simply “ben” (sister).”<br />

Several co-operative apexes and<br />

individual co-operators paid tribute to<br />

Bhatt on social media.<br />

“We are saddened to hear about the<br />

demise of Ms Elaben Bhatt, the visionary<br />

founder of SEWA Federation, India. She<br />

was a co-operator by thought and action<br />

and a pioneer in advocating for women<br />

workers’ rights. Our thoughts and prayers<br />

are with her family, SEWA workers, and<br />

staff!” said the International Co-operative<br />

Alliance’s Asia-Pacific office.<br />

ICA-AP regional director Balu Iyer<br />

added: “We are saddened to hear about<br />

the passing of Ela Bhatt. She was a pioneer<br />

in the field of co-operatives who was at<br />

24 | DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong>

the fore promoting rights of women,<br />

empowering informal workers, and<br />

building solid institutions. Thoughts and<br />

prayers to her family and staff at SEWA.”<br />

Bruno Roelants, director general of<br />

the ICA, said: “Ela Bhatt will remain in<br />

history as one of the key co-operative<br />

thinkers and pioneers.<br />

“I am happy that we could all hear<br />

her at the ICA 33rd World Co-operative<br />

Congress, where her speech was very<br />

much listened to and had a strong echo.<br />

She has been a strong source of inspiration<br />

for decades, I will keep treasuring<br />

her memory”<br />

Speaking on behalf of the UK’s<br />

International Co-operative Working<br />

Group, Co-operatives UK CEO Rose<br />

Marley said: “We would like to express<br />

our deepest condolences for the loss of<br />

Elaben Bhatt.<br />

“As the Founder and visionary in<br />

finding practical ways to collectively lift<br />

women out of poverty with dignity, we<br />

understand the significance this loss<br />

will have on SEWA. Visionary leadership<br />

is crucial in today’s troubled world,<br />

and we’re certain the women of SEWA<br />

will continue to lead from that shared<br />

heart of social justice (love in action).”<br />

John Anderson (1943-<strong>2022</strong>)<br />

The UK movement is mourning the loss<br />

of Scottish co-operator John Anderson,<br />

who has died aged 79. He served he cooperatives<br />

for 52 years, having started his<br />

working career at Invicta Co-op.<br />

As his career progressed, John worked<br />

in the Royal Arsenal Co-op as assistant<br />

non-food manager, before joining the<br />

Scottish Wholesale Society in Glasgow as<br />

a development manager in 1971. Following<br />

this position, he undertook the role of chief<br />

executive officer and secretary of North<br />

Tayside, Kilwinning and Strathaven, until<br />

the society transferred engagements to<br />

Scotmid in 1998. He then served on the<br />

Scotmid Board and represented members<br />

from the North of Scotland’s Regional<br />

Committee.<br />

John acted as a director of Co-operatives<br />

UK for more than 30 years and served on<br />

the Boards of Trafford Press, Co-operative<br />

Wholesale Society and Co-operative<br />

Press (which publishes Co-op News).<br />

In addition, he was a member of – and<br />

served on – the Central Executive Co-op<br />

Union and Co-op Party NEC.<br />

Born in Prestonpans, the son of Jimmy<br />

and Bel, John was the middle of five<br />

children. After studying Economics in<br />

Edinburgh, he went on to study at the<br />

Co-operative college in Loughborough.<br />

Shortly after graduating, he married<br />

Aileen, his childhood sweetheart. In 1974,<br />

his career took them to Montrose; the town<br />

the Andersons made their forever home.<br />

John was heavily involved in his local<br />

community. He was a founding director<br />

of Radio Tay, and took on several roles on<br />

local boards, including: chair of Montrose<br />

Academy Board; member of the Board<br />

of Governors for the Rossie Approved<br />

School; non-executive director of Angus<br />

NHS Trust; chair of Montrose Community<br />

Council; vice-chair of the Montrose Port<br />

Authority; and a director of children’s<br />

charity, Total Golf. He was president<br />

and secretary of Montrose Rotary Club,<br />

and was awarded the Paul Harris trophy.<br />

He was captain, then match secretary of<br />

Royal Montrose Golf Club.<br />

John regularly returned to Midlothian<br />

to watch his beloved football team,<br />

Hearts FC, and to enjoy theatrical shows,<br />

especially enjoying the Edinburgh Fringe<br />

Festival. He leaves behind his dearly<br />

loved wife, Aileen, his children, Jennifer<br />

and Jeremy, son-in-law of Mark and<br />

grandchildren, Ruaraidh, Finlay, Verity,<br />

Toby, Ethan and Jason.<br />

DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong> | 25

Practical<br />

co-operation<br />


FORUM<br />

p Osaro Otobo and Ali Wilson (seated) speaking at the Practitioners Forum (Images: Cooperatives<br />

UK / Chris Foster Photography)<br />

Co-operatives UK’s annual Practitioners<br />

Forum took place in Manchester at the<br />

end of November, bringing together<br />

people working in co-op businesses<br />

for a day of training and development.<br />

Twenty different sessions took place<br />

across five specialist forums, covering<br />

membership, governance, finance, HR<br />

and communications.<br />

With impacts from Brexit, Covid-19<br />

and the cost of living crises still buffeting<br />

businesses, many of the sessions looked<br />

at how co-ops can support and engage<br />

members, colleagues and communities<br />

at a time when they may be facing huge<br />

financial, social and health challenges.<br />

Trainer and consultant Sue Froggatt<br />

looked at how to go beyond transactional<br />

relationships with members, to engage<br />

them as owners of their co-operative<br />

and encourage them to be involved in<br />

governance activities. And attendees<br />

heard updates on data protection,<br />

employment law and accounts and<br />

financial reporting, plus legal updates<br />

from Anthony Collins Solicitors.<br />

In a very practical communications<br />

forum, Tony Ball (Co-op Group) looked<br />

into the art of creating successful email<br />

campaigns, while former journalist Dan<br />

Slee walked through how to produce<br />

successful marketing campaigns – and<br />

navigate the social media maze.<br />

Slee stressed the importance of data<br />

when planning social media strategies,<br />

quoting W Edwards Denning: “Without<br />

data, you’re just another person with an<br />

opinion”. And he highlighted how social<br />

media “isn’t just a young person’s game,<br />

it’s a majority pastime”, although where<br />

you find different people changes.<br />

“Over 55s will be on platforms like<br />

Facebook and Nextdoor,” he said, adding<br />

that it is a misconception that Tiktok is<br />

only used by young people, evidenced<br />

by the platform’s sponsoring of events<br />

such as the Euros and Six Nations, mostly<br />

attended by over 25s.<br />

There is also a difference in why<br />

platforms are used, he said. “There’s<br />

a public versus private split. Facebook<br />

vs Messenger. Instagram vs Instagram<br />

messenger. Younger people use social<br />

media to talk to friends and communicate<br />

in the same way people born in the 70s<br />

and earlier would use the landline.”<br />

He advised co-ops to think about what<br />

will trigger people to engage with content,<br />

highlighting marketing expert Prof.<br />

Jonah Berger’s six reasons that people<br />

share content: social currency (they’ll<br />

look good); triggers (it’s every day);<br />

emotional performance (does it make<br />

you feel something?); public (is it open<br />

and accessible?); practical value (does it<br />

help?); and storytelling. Storytelling is the<br />

key, he added. Successful campaigns have<br />

an 80/20 split between storytelling and<br />

calls to action.<br />

“The secret sauce to all this is algorithms<br />

and good content,” Slee said, “and<br />

algorithms don’t like links that take you<br />

off a site – so they’ll show it less often.”<br />

A workaround for this, he said, is to put<br />

any link as the first comment under a post.<br />

“Vary the content, don’t repeat things,<br />

even images. And include video content<br />

as much as you can. Universal content<br />

is over. Make something bespoke for<br />

different platforms.”<br />

Diversity in the boardroom was another<br />

key theme. The lack of young people in<br />

boardrooms is an issue plaguing most coops<br />

– but there is a clear business case for<br />

including people under 30 in governance,<br />

according to Ali Wilson.<br />

Wilson is a comedian, producer and<br />

artist, currently working as an assistant<br />

producer at the BBC. She is also vicechair<br />

of Manchester’s Contact Theatre,<br />

which has a commitment to having 50%<br />

of people on the board aged under 30. The<br />

chair is Junior Akinola, who, when he was<br />

elected, became the youngest chair of any<br />

major performing arts venue in the UK.<br />

The organisation made the decision to<br />

actively include young people because<br />

Contact has a focus on skill building,<br />

and “if they are everywhere in the<br />

building, they need to be everywhere<br />

in the organisation, including being<br />

present at highest levels of governance,”<br />

Wilson said. “But young people are also<br />

on the board because they are the future.<br />

Whether or not your co-op works with<br />

young people, youth culture is culture,<br />

not a group to be kept at arm’s length.”<br />

Young people seeing themselves<br />

represented at board level has resulted in<br />

a culture where young people feel valued<br />

and their voices are heard, Wilson added.<br />

“Our lives are most similar to those of the<br />

youth we serve. And because young board<br />

members don’t come from a corporate<br />

background, they don’t have jargon to<br />

hand, and ask questions directly. We’re<br />

not interested in leaving people out of the<br />

discussions just because they don’t know<br />

the lingo.”<br />

At contact, everyone who joins the<br />

board receives training, regardless of age,<br />

and there is a mentoring budget available<br />

to trustees. The organisation has also<br />

adapted its understanding of ‘expertise’:<br />

“Young people are experts in other areas,<br />

like resilience on a low income, freelance<br />

pay, how to juggle multiple jobs and<br />

different time pressures,” Wilson said.<br />

“If your co-op isn’t willing to bring young<br />

26 | DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong>

people onto your board, ask yourself<br />

why. Look at your board. The majority<br />

of directors, even in co-ops, are white,<br />

middle-aged and middle-class. Nothing<br />

will change if nothing is done.”<br />

Osaro Otobo, deputy chair of the<br />

British Youth Council shared how the<br />

organisation brings young people together<br />

to find their voice and improve the lives of<br />

young people. She shared her own early<br />

board experiences – “some good, some<br />

bad” – as a postgraduate trustee at her<br />

university.<br />

“I experienced racism at board level<br />

from another trustee, and also felt young<br />

people’s voices were not supported. They<br />

weren’t asked to write board papers,<br />

and weren’t trained.” In comparison,<br />

the British youth council is “truly youth<br />

led. Everyone is 16-25 when elected or<br />

appointed, and equality, diversity and<br />

inclusion is a top priority.”<br />

She advised co-ops to “use clear<br />

and simple language through various<br />

mediums” when recruiting young board<br />

members and work with specialised<br />

charities, networks and groups that<br />

work with young people, including the<br />

British Youth Council and the Young<br />

Trustees movement. “Boards improve<br />

their decision making from having diverse<br />

perspectives, skills and experience in the<br />

room - this includes young people.”<br />

This was echoed by Sue Johnson<br />

(Berwick Partners), who explored the<br />

steps co-operatives can take to ensure<br />

board diversity. “We are all unique,” she<br />

said, “and often it’s the hidden things that<br />

are the most interesting. The unique skills,<br />

knowledge, experiences and perspectives<br />

– that’s where the richness is in terms of<br />

diversity.”<br />


Rochdale Boroughwide<br />

Housing under fi e over<br />

child’s death<br />

The Coroner and the parents have<br />

done the right thing, releasing the<br />

name, age and photo of the child<br />

to the public. I would be surprised<br />

if more mould deaths coroner’s<br />

proceedings don’t become public in<br />

the next month’s and year. Design,<br />

heating and ventilation across the<br />

sector is going to get worse with<br />

the impacts of more expensive<br />

association borrowing, inflation in<br />

buildings management and energy<br />

costs , before we see it get better.<br />

The families, friends and<br />

neighbours won’t be trusting RBH,<br />

their current estate rep and cooperation<br />

for some time, I should<br />

think.<br />

Luke Blakey, via website<br />

This is not a learning exercise – how<br />

dare they say this about the death of<br />

this little boy. RBH and Swarbrick<br />

should be ashamed of themselves<br />

and more people need to be sacked<br />

over the total disregard of this family.<br />

I hope other councils take note.<br />

Lisa Kearney, Via Twitter<br />

Ela Bhatt, 1933-<strong>2022</strong><br />

Oh no. A legendary #coops figure<br />

and representative of Sewa. Our own<br />

Midcounties Co-operative Childcare<br />

have Ella, one of the Little Pioneers,<br />

named after her as a true inspiration<br />

for future generations.<br />

Pete Westall, Coop Midcounties<br />

Have your say<br />

Add your comments to our stories<br />

online at thenews.coop, get in<br />

touch via social media, or send us<br />

a letter. If sending a letter, please<br />

include your address and contact<br />

number. Letters may be edited and<br />

no longer than 350 words.<br />

Co-ops pay tribute to<br />

Queen Elizabeth II<br />

Unlike some bigger co-ops, the<br />

Tamworth Society completely closed<br />

its 12 food stores on the day of the<br />

Queen’s funeral (September 19) and<br />

none of the premises were manned,<br />

although the 24-hour service provided<br />

by Tamworth Co-op funeral homes<br />

remained in operation as usual.<br />

It is highly unusual for us to close<br />

our food stores for an entire day – in<br />

fact it normally only ever happens<br />

on Christmas Day. I understand that<br />

some retailers opened later in the<br />

day, but we did not wish to do that.<br />

We appreciate the tremendous<br />

significance of the occasion and<br />

the esteem in which the late Queen<br />

Elizabeth II is held. We felt we had<br />

to make a meaningful and heartfelt<br />

tribute to her. This is our way of<br />

acknowledging her extraordinary 70-<br />

year reign and the love and affection<br />

that we have for her.<br />

We are confident that our shoppers<br />

and members supported the decision<br />

to close all our convenience stores<br />

and understand the reasons for it.<br />

This also gave them the time and<br />

opportunity to pay their own respects.<br />

Julian Coles<br />

CEO, Tamworth Co-operative<br />

Correction:<br />

In the article ‘Co-op Insurance and LV=<br />

partner with Amazon on its comparison<br />

site’ (Co-op News, November), we<br />

stated that LV= mutual was partnering<br />

with Amazon. This is not the case; it<br />

is the separate business LV= General<br />

Insurance – now part of Allianz –<br />

which is entering the arrangement.<br />

Co-operative News, Holyoake House,<br />

Hanover Street, Manchester M60 0AS<br />

letters@thenews.coop<br />

@coopnews<br />

Co-operative News<br />

DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong> | 27

Co-op councils mark<br />

their tenth anniversary<br />


By Miles Hadfiel<br />

The Co-operative Councils Innovation Network<br />

held its tenth anniversary conference in<br />

Telford in November, looking at ways to embed<br />

grassroots co-op ideas in communities.<br />

Steve Reed, Labour Co-op MP, shadow justice<br />

secretary and honorary president of CCIN, said<br />

Labour is finally facing the prospect of national<br />

power – but warned that the party still has to<br />

make a positive offer to inspire voters.<br />

This positive offer can be found in co-op<br />

councils, he suggested. “While Labour nationally<br />

needed to rebuild trust, our best Labour councils<br />

were already doing it and also forging a new way<br />

to run public services … Our public services work<br />

better when we do things with people rather<br />

than to people.”<br />

Reed said politicians can regain public trust<br />

by showing trust in the public; building on<br />

this idea, the CCIN has created the biggest, and<br />

fastest-growing, network in local government.<br />

CCIN’s ideas are also being fed up to national<br />

level, he added, citing Keir Starmer’s recent<br />

pledge for a National Wealth Fund, building<br />

on the ideas of community wealth building<br />

introduced to the UK by Preston Council.<br />

Noting that CCIN is a non-partisan<br />

organisation, Reed said it was “really important<br />

that this network has members from all parties<br />

that believe in this direction”. There is a split<br />

in politics that is not left / right but about<br />

localisation or centralisation of power”, he<br />

argued; this makes devolution more important<br />

than electoral reform, he believes.<br />

Reed was followed by a panel presenting<br />

examples of co-op thinking. Cllr Steve Foster,<br />

leader of South Ribble Council, gave a<br />

presentation on the recent CCIN fact-finding<br />

trip to the Mondragon Co-op Federation in the<br />

Basque Country, Spain. Mondragon’s successes<br />

are well documented but Cllr Foster fears the<br />

model would be hard to replicate in the UK,<br />

thanks to the “cultural challenges we face<br />

around collective action, shared prosperity, the<br />

loss of hope and individualism”. But, he added,<br />

“we do have the political will to encourage food<br />

bank co-operatives, small business start-ups as<br />

co-operatives, and then provide the critical seed<br />

funding to support them”. His cabinet has just<br />

awarded its first procurement contract to a coop,<br />

he said.<br />

Marc Hooper from Banc Cambria – a Welsh<br />

community bank which is in the planning stage,<br />

with cross-party support in the Senedd – said<br />

mutuals can offer an alternative to “extractive”<br />

28 | DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong>

high street banks. The five big UK banks<br />

handle 92% personal accounts but are closing<br />

branches, taking capital out of communities and<br />

sometimes using customers’ money for unethical<br />

investments such as fossil fuels. Compared to<br />

Germany, where two-fifths of banks are small,<br />

regional or co-operative banks, or the US, where<br />

credit unions enjoy substantial market share,<br />

the UK is “an outlier”, said Hooper. “We are<br />

doing it wrong.”<br />

Derek Walker, CEO of Welsh co-operative<br />

development agency Cwmpas, highlighted his<br />

organisation’s work developing co-op models<br />

in sectors such as housing and care; he urged<br />

councils in England to create co-operative<br />

development agencies, or support existing ones,<br />

so they can replicate such projects.<br />

“We need to create a fairer, more co-operative<br />

economy in your local areas,” he said. “You<br />

do require the support of experts and co-op<br />

development agencies and they don’t exist in<br />

every part of the country and sometimes are not<br />

very well resourced.”<br />

Walker suggested means to remedy this,<br />

including using money from the Shared<br />

Prosperity Fund.<br />

Rose Marley, CEO of Co-operatives UK, gave an<br />

overview of the UK sector, with examples of new<br />

start-ups including a co-op of GP surgeries in<br />

Dundee, set up to attract practitioners who had<br />

been reluctant to come to the area. She pointed<br />

councils towards funding mechanisms such as<br />

community share offers, and to the support that<br />

Co-operatives UK itself can offer.<br />

Shabir Pandor, leader of Kirklees Council,<br />

discussed efforts to build a more inclusive<br />

economy in an area whose 433,000 residents<br />

are spread across a mix of towns and villages,<br />

with high levels of inequality that leave 36% of<br />

children in poverty. In response the council is<br />

directing its £1bn public spend to deliver social<br />

value in procurement, trying to ensure that it<br />

is itself an inclusive employer, and using asset<br />

transfers to the community to ensure the flexible<br />

use of town centre spaces.<br />

Side events included a presentation by Mark<br />

Cook, from Anthony Collins Solicitors, on<br />

coming changes to the law which will affect<br />

councils’ ability to deliver community wealth<br />

building through procurement.<br />

The Procurement Bill going through<br />

Parliament “offers less flexibility in my view”,<br />

said Cook, before setting out ways councils can<br />

“work harder to get what they want out of it”.<br />

This includes “checking your powers”,<br />

identifying the short and long-term policy basis<br />

for action, and including these details in the<br />

business case for a project.<br />

Project management is important, he added,<br />

so that if a large firm loses out on a contract to<br />

a group of SMEs, they can be satisfied that the<br />

terms of the deal were met and that the process<br />

was fairly conducted. And it is vital that the<br />

subject matter of a contract reflects the desired<br />

policy behind it.<br />

Cook suggested the process of delivering<br />

social value could be facilitated by creating<br />

co-operatives of councils, businesses and<br />

deliverers to run contracts.<br />

In another side session, Mark Simmonds, an<br />

advisor at Co-op Culture, looked at how councils<br />

can offer business support to co-ops, and at<br />

the issue of training for development workers.<br />

He is working with Stir To Action to set up a<br />

development course, the Co-operative Option.<br />

He said the onus is not just on councils to reach<br />

out to co-ops to offer development support; coops<br />

also need to be more proactive in accessing<br />

the support that councils already offer. They can<br />

miss out on this help because it is often couched<br />

in terms suitable to solo entrepreneurs and<br />

other conventional business models; but these<br />

schemes can still be beneficial, said Simmonds,<br />

as they offer capital grants and funds for<br />

sustainability and innovation.<br />

There are around 50 co-op development<br />

bodies around the UK which would benefit<br />

from local authority support, he added. And<br />

as an example of how local authorities can get<br />

involved in specific projects, he discussed a co-op<br />

he is helping to set up in Calderdale, west<br />

Yorkshire. This related to the Biodiversity Net<br />

Gain requirement, which means developers<br />

must more than make up for loss of biodiversity<br />

from a project by buying biodiversity units<br />

elsewhere. Simmonds is working with farmers<br />

to create a multi-stakeholder co-op which could<br />

offer these units.<br />

Highlighting the power of cross-party<br />

working, Green peer Baroness Bennett of<br />

Manor Castle gave a speech stressing the need<br />

to engage communities to deliver innovation in<br />

sustainability. Options for councils could be as<br />

simple as planting verges with wildflowers.<br />

She said grassroots working could help build<br />

a model of democracy where parties work<br />

together, ending the seesaw of policy where<br />

successive governments overturn the work of<br />

their predecessors. “I’m happy to work with<br />

councillors from any party,” she said. “If you<br />

have an issue I am happy to table a question<br />

about it.”<br />

“<br />

“Mutuals<br />

can offer an<br />

alternative to<br />

'extractive' high<br />

street banks”<br />

– Marc Hooper<br />

DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong> | 29

ICMIF celebrates its centenary<br />


By Anca Voinea<br />

q Rob Wesseling, the<br />

new chair of Icmif<br />

The International Cooperative and Mutual<br />

Insurance Federation (Icmif) held its centenary<br />

conference in Rome last week, with a series of<br />

events looking at issues such as sustainability,<br />

risk reduction and increasing access to insurance<br />

in vulnerable parts of the world.<br />

Drawing in over 400 delegates from more<br />

than 139 organisations across 41 countries, the<br />

event was hosted by the Unipol Group, a founder<br />

member of Icmif and one of the biggest insurance<br />

groups in Europe.<br />

Icmif chair Hilde Vernaillen said the<br />

organisation was launched as platform co-op<br />

and mutual insurers could share ideas in a noncompetitive<br />

environment.<br />

“Fast forward 100 years,” she added, “and<br />

that vision and purpose remains as true today.<br />

Icmif’s members have collectively achieved so<br />

much for the insurance sector through their<br />

willingness to share strategies and support each<br />

other and by focusing on the long-term needs of<br />

the people they serve.”<br />

The celebration comes at a time of progress for<br />

the sector, which has grown by 39% since 2007,<br />

exceeding the total worldwide insurance market<br />

growth (27.1%) by 11.9 percentage points, and<br />

grown its share of the total insurance market<br />

from 24% to 26.3% within the same period.<br />

Furthermore, according to Icmif’s latest Global<br />

Mutual Market Share <strong>2022</strong> report, over 70%<br />

of its members last year outperformed their<br />

local market’s annual growth. Icmif includes<br />

197 organisations across 60 countries, serves<br />

over 350 million members/policyholders and<br />

employs over 226 thousand people.<br />

Rob Wesseling appointed chair<br />

On 27 October, Icmif elected Rob Wesseling,<br />

president and CEO of Co-operators (Canada) as<br />

its chair for a four-year term.<br />

He said: “I’m delighted to take on this role<br />

at what is an important time in our sector.<br />

Through our work at Icmif we’ve demonstrated<br />

that the co-operative and mutual insurance<br />

sector is critical to building a better future.<br />

Together, we’re actively working towards a<br />

resilient, sustainable, and equitable future and<br />

I believe that, by working towards ambitious<br />

and aggressive targets in areas such as disaster<br />

risk reduction, sustainable development, and<br />

responsible investing, we will have a catalytic<br />

impact on the global insurance industry and,<br />

eventually, the economy as a whole.”<br />

CEO Shaun Tarbuck said: “I am delighted that<br />

Rob has accepted the position of Icmif chair. This<br />

is a very exciting time for the federation and its<br />

members. Under the leadership of our retiring<br />

chair Hilde Vernaillen, we have transformed<br />

Icmif into an organisation focused on helping our<br />

member companies achieve their strategic goals<br />

and sustainably grow in their local markets. We<br />

are very grateful to Hilde for her great support<br />

and commitment.”<br />

30 | DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong>

Focus on research<br />

As pre-event in Rome, the Mutual Research<br />

Network held its Mutual Insurance Conference,<br />

bringing together academics, students and<br />

insurance leaders to look at the meanings<br />

of mutuality in a post-Covid world, and to<br />

investigate and role of locally owned insurers<br />

and financial companies in a global economy.<br />

Luciano Dragonetti, president of Mutua MBA,<br />

talked about the ethos of mutuals in Italy, which<br />

remains the same: anyone can join and members<br />

are at the heart of the organisation.<br />

Roberto Anzanello, president of Health Italia,<br />

argued that a key challenge for insurers in the<br />

sector is to find the right balance between<br />

their mutual values and a focus on capital,<br />

investment, professionalism and management –<br />

areas where some for-profit insurers excel.<br />

Jacupo Cirio, welfare development manager<br />

at Hiwelfare, agreed that a complex modern<br />

world means co-op and mutual insurers need<br />

a stronger link with for-profit enterprises, and<br />

draw on the experience of different organisations<br />

to drive innovation.<br />

Luca Gaburro, president of trade union body<br />

Osservatorio Enbic, described the challenges<br />

faced by freelance workers in Italy, who are<br />

mostly under 35 and make up 13.8% of the<br />

population. Co-operative and mutual insurers<br />

have to consider how to best serve them, he said.<br />

Meanwhile in Africa, poverty and ill health<br />

are increasing the vulnerability of workers and<br />

affecting productivity. Nelson Kuria, chair of the<br />

CIC insurance group in Kenya, said co-ops and<br />

mutuals should do more to harness the power of<br />

co-operation in addressing these challenges in.<br />

The final session of the research conference<br />

presented the findings of a study by students,<br />

into how millennials and Gen Z see the mutual<br />

and co-operative sector.<br />

Younger generations are not familiar with<br />

mutual and co-op insurers, the survey found, but<br />

they are <strong>digital</strong>ly oriented, which means there is<br />

potential for mutual and co-ops to reach out to<br />

them by working with the insurtech industry.<br />

The main conference, which began on 27<br />

October, featured keynote addresses by Ulrika<br />

Modéer, UN assistant secretary-general and<br />

director of the Bureau of External Relations<br />

and Advocacy, United Nations Development<br />

Programme (UNDP); and Mami Mizutori, special<br />

representative of the secretary-general at the UN<br />

Office for Disaster Risk Reduction (Undrr), who<br />

discussed the role of co-op and mutual insurers<br />

in addressing global challenges.<br />

Innovation fund launched<br />

Ahead of the main conference, UNDP and the<br />

Icmif Foundation, a charitable organisation,<br />

announced the launch of a new mechanism to<br />

promote innovative mutual insurance schemes<br />

to better protect the most vulnerable people in<br />

developing countries.<br />

The US$600,000 Innovation Challenge Fund<br />

will be overseen by UNDP’s Insurance and Risk<br />

Finance Facility and administered by the Icmif<br />

Foundation, and will support a minimum of four<br />

organisations over two to three years to scale<br />

their existing microinsurance programmes to<br />

reach new customers and markets in developing<br />

countries, with plans to significantly scale up<br />

the work into the future.<br />

“Expanding access to affordable insurance<br />

solutions specifically tailored to the needs of<br />

the poorest in developing countries is a priority<br />

to strengthen how they manage to cope through<br />

compounding crisis,” said Modéer.<br />

“When the worst happens, these communities<br />

are often the most affected and the least able to<br />

recover. Insurance is one of the key tools to avoid<br />

a downward spiral of debt and poverty.”<br />

Wesseling added: “Icmif is excited about this<br />

new joint endeavour with UNDP to support<br />

the world’s poorest communities and build<br />

resilience in the face of climate, health and other<br />

shocks. Mutual and co-operative insurers work<br />

with grassroots communities to co-create risk<br />

models and build education programmes that<br />

support risk mitigation and adaption.<br />

“This partnership will help scale access to<br />

affordable insurance for the people who need<br />

it most, building on the Icmif Foundation’s 5-5-<br />

5 Mutual Microinsurance Strategy which has<br />

reached 15 million people over the last five years.”<br />

p Ulrika Modéer and<br />

Rob Wesseling signing<br />

the agreement in<br />

Rome (image: Icmif)<br />

“ The conference<br />

was the<br />

largest global<br />

gathering of<br />

mutual and<br />

co-operative<br />

insurance<br />

leaders,<br />

featuring<br />

delegates from<br />

more than 139<br />

organisations<br />

across 41<br />

countries<br />

DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong> | 31

Exchanging knowledge<br />

and experience:<br />


FROM BRAZIL’S WCM <strong>2022</strong> EVENT<br />

By Anca Voinea<br />

In October, Rose Marley, secretary general of<br />

Co-operatives UK, and Sarah Alldred, head of<br />

international partnerships at the Co-operative<br />

College, attended the World Coop Management<br />

conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.<br />

Organised by the Organization of Brazilian<br />

Cooperatives (OCB), the event looked at the role<br />

of technology and innovation in shaping the<br />

way co-operatives form and engage with their<br />

members and the wider world.<br />

“The timing of the conference was right in<br />

the middle of Brazil’s national elections,” says<br />

Alldred, “so I was curious how things would feel.<br />

There had been a clear rise in populism since<br />

Bolsanaro took power, the runoffs were close,<br />

and I wondered how the co-operative movement<br />

was responding to this (it was mixed).”<br />

She adds: “The event itself was impressive<br />

in scale and numbers attending. Brazil has a<br />

strong co-operative history – its movement<br />

was founded in 1889 in Minas Gerais.<br />

Currently, they have just under 7,000 co-ops<br />

covering a membership of 14.5 million. It<br />

was impressive to be in the middle of this –<br />

Brazil is a huge country, and the movement is<br />

equally huge.<br />

“As part of the conference mix, it was great<br />

to formally meet with OCB, Brazil’s national<br />

co-op apex body, as the Co-op College has been<br />

working with them over the past year to develop<br />

a series of study tours and work with their<br />

network of co-operative colleges. We also got<br />

to meet Carolina Torres, the chair of a brilliant<br />

co-operative school called Escola Favoo. They<br />

are keen to hook into the College’s Youth<br />

Co-operative Action programme, so we started to<br />

explore options.”<br />

Alldred and Marley, who are members of<br />

Co-operatives UK's International Working Group<br />

(IWG), also engaged with other conference<br />

delegates, highlighting case studies from the UK<br />

co-operative movement.<br />

“One of the key learning insights I took<br />

away was about how crucial embedding the<br />

co-operative values and principles are in the<br />

booming platform co-operative sector,” said<br />

Alldred, “and therefore the unique position<br />

the co-op movement has in shaping ethics and<br />

values in the online space. I also learned a lot<br />

about the principles of the circular economy and<br />

how crucial this thinking will be as we move<br />

towards a net zero world.”<br />

For Marley, the key takeaway was the<br />

“affirmation of how co-operatives really do<br />

enable effective community wealth building and<br />

innovation when strategic thinking is applied”.<br />

In addition to delivering a keynote speech, she<br />

participated in a panel on the circular economy.<br />

32 | DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong>

“It’s critically important to a sustainable<br />

future,” she says, “and co-operatives have been<br />

referenced by both the UN and Europe as an<br />

effective model to achieving impact in this way.<br />

“I was also delighted to share the work of<br />

Midcounties Co-op – particularly its work with<br />

Fairphone and how that delivers against the key<br />

elements of the circular economy.”<br />

She adds that she was “particularly struck”<br />

by a speaker from a concrete manufacturer<br />

in Sao Paulo. “Although not a co-op itself,<br />

the organisation has reduced its fossil fuel<br />

consumption by 45% by creating an ‘acai’<br />

collecting co-op. Acai berries are turned into bio<br />

fuel and used to fuel the manufacturing plant,<br />

so alongside fossil fuel reduction there’s work<br />

and opportunities created locally. It was a truly<br />

inspiring story.”<br />

Also on the conference agenda was<br />

revolutionary work being done by co-ops in<br />

the platform economy. Marley feels that the UK<br />

is leading in terms of stimulating work around<br />

co-op platforms and co-ops in tech. “I opened<br />

the Coop Tech element of the conference with<br />

a keynote speech – on the invite of Gusativo<br />

Mendes Nascimento. I felt, to an extent, that I<br />

was ‘stating the obvious’, but I really wasn’t.<br />

We are ahead of the game here in the UK in<br />

terms of innovation and acceleration of platform<br />

co-ops – and understanding the relevance to<br />

tech, generally.<br />

“I shared the thinking behind a theme of our<br />

current strategy at Co-operatives UK: to enable<br />

tech to disrupt like our pioneers – and it is<br />

pioneering.”<br />

Both the College and Co-operatives UK<br />

intend to continue their engagment with cooperatives<br />

in Brazil. Earlier in the year, the<br />

two organisations welcomed a group of dentist<br />

members of Brazilian health co-ops.<br />

“As always with international conferences, it’s<br />

the people from around the world you meet that<br />

enrich the whole experience and provide real<br />

insight,” says Marley.<br />

“I was especially delighted to spend time with<br />

Sara Vicari, from Aroundtheworld.coop, who<br />

shared so much of her international experience<br />

of co-operatives and her incredible films.<br />

Likewise, it was particularly enjoyable to meet<br />

up with Christina Procopio, from the Global<br />

Innovation Summit, to progress discussions<br />

around a worldwide tech infrastructure and the<br />

opportunities that presents.”<br />

Set up in 2019, the ICWG supports the<br />

planning, co-ordination and delivery of the UK<br />

co-operative movement’s international activity.<br />

“ICWG is member based so the international<br />

reach across the group is significant,” says<br />

Alldred. “For example, Central Co-operative<br />

is working in Malawi through its Our Malawi<br />

Partnership, alongside the Co-operative College.<br />

“Through the UK Co-operative Relief funds<br />

raised across the movement, we are currently<br />

work with partners such as SEWA and ICA<br />

America’s in Mexico to deliver projects. We have<br />

Ben Reid sitting on the ICA’s board and Pete<br />

Westall sitting on the influential International<br />

Cooperative Entrepreneurship Think Tank<br />

(ICETT). We have Debbie Robinson sitting on the<br />

board of Eurocoop and Vivian Woodell on the<br />

board of Cooperatives Europe.<br />

“Finally – through the ICWG, we host a range<br />

of international co-operative study tours, to<br />

showcase the UK co-operative movement.<br />

This year alone, we have hosted visitors from<br />

the Philippines, Brazil, Vietnam, Zambia and<br />

Egypt. So yes, it’s a great reach, and a brilliantly<br />

networked group.”<br />

As to what’s next for IWG, Marley says the<br />

2023 UK Co-op Congress will feature panels and<br />

talks from international visitors, building on<br />

this year’s Co-op Congress international dinner,<br />

which featured Preet Kour Gill, Labour/Co-op<br />

MP for Birmingham, Edgbaston and shadow<br />

secretary for international development.<br />

“ Co-operatives<br />

really do<br />

enable<br />

effective<br />

community<br />

wealth-building<br />

and innovation<br />

when strategic<br />

thinking is<br />

applied”<br />

q Rose Marley (left)<br />

and Sarah Alldred<br />

(right) with Onofre<br />

Cezário Filho, director<br />

of OCB, and Carolina<br />

Torres, chair of a<br />

co-operative college in<br />

northern Brazil<br />

DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong> | 33

ICBA celebrates centenary<br />

anniversary<br />


By Anca Voinea<br />

The global apex for the co-op banking sector met<br />

last month for its centenary conference, which<br />

looked at pressing issues such as efficiency,<br />

digitisation, sustainable development and<br />

regulatory compliance.<br />

Held in Brussels from 17-19 November, the<br />

International Cooperative Banking Association<br />

(ICBA), a sectoral organisation of ICA, also<br />

celebrated its landmark anniversary with a look<br />

at its legacy and future plans.<br />

ICBA grew out of the International Cooperative<br />

Banking Committee set up in 1922.<br />

The committee’s founding members were<br />

seven European consumer co-operative banks.<br />

In 1964 membership was opened to all coop<br />

banks and central co-operative credit<br />

organisations directly or indirectly affiliated to<br />

International Co-operative Alliance (ICA). In<br />

1984 ICBC became an international specialised<br />

organisation of ICA, switching to its current<br />

name in 1992. Its membership now includes<br />

over 50 member institutions around the world.<br />

In a message of congratulations, Simel Esim,<br />

Cooperatives Unit manager at the International<br />

Labour Organization, said: “We understand the<br />

responsibility for such a strong and long legacy.<br />

Our historical commitment to the international<br />

co-operative movement is unaltered.”<br />

ICA president Ariel Guarco also congratulated<br />

the ICBA. “This is a milestone that deserves to be<br />

celebrated and valued in front of the entire world<br />

co-operative movement,” he said.<br />

During one of the sessions Toshiaki Ono,<br />

financial sector specialist at the World Bank<br />

Group, explored his organisation’s role in<br />

supporting co-operative financial institutions<br />

through its Center of Excellence on Cooperative<br />

Financial Institutions. The centre works with the<br />

34 | DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong>

ICBA to organise webinars, hold international<br />

symposia and produce podcasts.<br />

Digitisation was also on the agenda. Sylvia<br />

Okinlay-Paraguya, CEO of the National<br />

Confederation of Cooperatives (Natcco),<br />

described her organisation’s experience with<br />

Kaya, a co-operatively owned, led, and governed<br />

payment platform launched in 2016. In 2021<br />

Natcco launched an improved version of the<br />

platform, along with an app that enables users<br />

to make and receive payments.<br />

“Digitisation is not just about technology,<br />

it is also about mindset,” she said. “This<br />

highlights the importance of shared services<br />

within the Federation and its members to<br />

invest in technology, which individually and<br />

especially the smaller and even the large<br />

co-operatives cannot afford. The technology<br />

should be shared among the co-operative so it<br />

can be afforded.”<br />

Badri Kumar Guragain, CEO of the National<br />

Cooperative Bank of Nepal, talked about cooperative<br />

financial institutions in his country,<br />

which has a long history of informal saving and<br />

credit community groups. Nepal’s constitution<br />

recognises co-ops as an important pillar of the<br />

national economy, and the bank is working<br />

with members to address challenges around<br />

digitisation, youth engagement, prudential<br />

regulation and improving staff members’<br />

competency.<br />

In Israel, where five major banks hold 93%<br />

of the national market share, the co-operative<br />

banking sector is only beginning to emerge.<br />

Yifat Solel, board member of OFEK Credit Union<br />

and Israeli Cooperatives Alliance for Social,<br />

Economic and Environmental Justice, described<br />

the hurdles facing activists in her country as<br />

they try to establish co-op financial institutions.<br />

Registered in 2012, OFEK gained 3,000<br />

members within a year – but meeting the €25m<br />

(£21.48m) capital requirement to operate as a<br />

financial provider proved difficult.<br />

Other regulatory challenges meant that a<br />

preliminary licence for the bank was obtained<br />

only in 2021. But OFEK has grown – it now has<br />

12,750 members and its services include loans,<br />

credit card and collective health insurance. It is<br />

planning to work with a correspondent bank to<br />

deal with international money transfers, invest<br />

in IT, start a fund for loans and investment for<br />

the Arab Israeli communities, and start a fund<br />

for environmental investments.<br />

Challenges around<br />

digitisation<br />

and<br />

regulation were also<br />

discussed by Dr K<br />

Ravinder Rao, board<br />

member, ICBA and<br />

president of Telangana<br />

Apex Cooperative Bank,<br />

India. In his presentation,<br />

he described the difficulty<br />

of digitising while<br />

continuing to serve older<br />

members, who mostly<br />

lack the technology to<br />

get loans online. The<br />

new Indian ministry<br />

for co-operatives sees<br />

digitisation as a priority,<br />

which could be an<br />

opportunity for the country’s financial co-ops.<br />

Other challenges, he added, include cyber<br />

security and allowing the regulator to do its job<br />

without compromising the co-op spirit.<br />

For financial co-ops in the Caribbean,<br />

one major challenge is meeting regulatory<br />

requirements while competing with fintechs,<br />

which face no such constrains. Denise Garfield,<br />

general manager of the Caribbean Confederation<br />

p ICBA<br />

president Bhima<br />

Subrahmanyam<br />

addressing the<br />

conference<br />

“ We understand the<br />

responsibility for such a<br />

strong and long legacy.<br />

Our historical commitment<br />

to the international cooperative<br />

movement is<br />

unaltered” – Simel Esim<br />

DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong> | 35

“<br />

The country is now home<br />

to 971 registered primary<br />

credit unions, many of<br />

these represented by<br />

the Bangladesh Jatiya<br />

Samabaya Union<br />

of Credit Unions, said her organisation is<br />

working on producing governance guidelines for<br />

the sector (more details on p40-41). The region’s<br />

credit unions are excluded from the payments<br />

system but have signed a memorandum of<br />

understanding with central banks and hope to<br />

be included in the future.<br />

The establishment of the Eastern Caribbean<br />

currency union could be an opportunity for<br />

credit unions, she added.<br />

In Poland, the number of co-op banks and<br />

credit unions is decreasing due to mergers.<br />

One of the organisations serving credit unions<br />

is National Cooperative Council (NCC), which<br />

plays a key role in promoting co-operative<br />

financial institutions. NCC president Dr Eng<br />

Mieczysław Grodzki<br />

described the council’s<br />

areas of work, including<br />

adopting an code of<br />

ethics for auditing unions<br />

set up by co-operative<br />

banks and other financial<br />

co-op apexes.<br />

NCC also supports all<br />

co-op banks and credit<br />

unions looking to change<br />

their organisational<br />

structure through vertical<br />

or horizontal integration<br />

and represents the sector<br />

in consultations when<br />

new laws are being<br />

discussed.<br />

In Bangladesh, missionaries set up the Cooperative<br />

Credit Union League in 1979. The<br />

sector had a presence on the land before the<br />

creation of the state – with over 26,000 credit coops<br />

in existence at the time on the 1947 partition<br />

– but most of these were insolvent.<br />

The country is now home to 971 registered<br />

primary credit unions, many of which are<br />

represented by the Bangladesh Jatiya Samabaya<br />

Union (BJSU), an apex body whose support<br />

for the sector includes leading on government<br />

consultations over new legislation.<br />

The national sector holds 3,503 crore<br />

Bangladesh taka (£28.11m) in savings and 4,103<br />

crore (£33.08m) in loans.<br />

The conference also examined how ICBA can<br />

further advance co-op financial institutions at<br />

the international level. Dr Hans Groeneveld,<br />

director of International Cooperative Affairs<br />

at Rabobank, argued that all ICBA members<br />

should share data to get a global perspective and<br />

learn from each other.<br />

“It is important to have someone tell the world<br />

what they mean and what impact they have,”<br />

he said. He suggested the ICBA ask its members<br />

what they deem to be the key issue going<br />

forward, and have them vote on the top three<br />

priorities for the apex.<br />

Robby Tulus, former regional director for ICA-<br />

Asia Pacific, thinks the ICBA can have a dual<br />

role. Firstly, it should be lobbying governments –<br />

especially in the global south – for a level<br />

playing field for the sector and to enact separate<br />

laws for financial co-ops, supervised by a<br />

special government agency with full knowledge<br />

of the model.<br />

Secondly it should promote the crucial role of<br />

the co-operative values and principles, this is an<br />

issue if the co-ops are big and leadership aspired<br />

to companies style, he said.<br />

ICA director general Bruno Roelants praised<br />

the ICBA for doubling its membership over the<br />

past three years while doing valuable work<br />

– such as making contacts with the World<br />

Bank and other institutions, and conducting<br />

research on financial co-ops and the Sustainable<br />

Development Goal .<br />

“This calls for more work,” he said. He thinks<br />

a key area of work will be to reinforce the link<br />

between the co-operative identity, legislation<br />

and practice from the point of view of co-op<br />

banks and financial institutions.<br />

“Increasingly we suffer from pressure from<br />

regulators around the world”, he said, adding<br />

that a narrative is needed to counter the<br />

arguments that one side fits all and do a lot of<br />

advocacy. The ICA will need the ICBA’s help so<br />

that it can do the advocacy required, he added.<br />

The ICA is also working with UNDESA on<br />

voluntary national reports on the SDGs; Roelants<br />

thinks this is another area where ICBA members<br />

can help in making sure that co-op finance is<br />

included.<br />

In terms of funding the ICBA, he said the ICA<br />

had reached the limits of what it can allocate to<br />

the sectoral organisation, but that alternative<br />

sources of funding could be found among ICBA<br />

members.<br />

ICBA president Bhima Subrahmanyam<br />

promised that his organisation will continue to<br />

support members in addressing regulatory and<br />

governance issues while seeking to create an<br />

environment where financial co-operatives and<br />

noted and recognised.<br />

36 | DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong>

Serving members and<br />

surviving the storm<br />


By Miles Hadfiel<br />

“<br />

“Bottomup<br />

change<br />

is better<br />

than change<br />

dictated by<br />

government”<br />

– Andy Burnham<br />

UK credit unions are in the frontline of the cost of<br />

living crisis and the looming recession, and last<br />

week the sector met to discuss ways to support<br />

people struggling on the margins of the economy.<br />

The Swoboda Credit Union Conference, held<br />

in Manchester on 11 November, saw delegates<br />

face up to this stark economic outlook – and<br />

look for opportunities for the sector to lead the<br />

way through the crisis.<br />

They will have to do this while coming under<br />

pressure themselves. Dr Paul Jones, director of<br />

research at Swoboda Research Centre, warned<br />

that “the landscape is changing for many of our<br />

credit unions”, with savings being withdrawn,<br />

loan applications on the rise and increased<br />

distribution of foodbank and fuel vouchers.<br />

Andy Burnham, metro mayor of Greater<br />

Manchester (pictured), repeated this warning<br />

in his opening address. He said the situation is<br />

“extraordinarily difficult and likely to get worse<br />

– but crisis brings opportunity and a chance for<br />

credit unions to come to the fore.”<br />

Credit unions are doing great work in their<br />

communities and are needed now more than<br />

ever, he added. In Greater Manchester, many<br />

residents are experiencing “huge insecurity”<br />

when it comes to essentials like food, but credit<br />

unions are responding with initiatives like<br />

Sound Pound consortium and the launch next<br />

month of the government-backed no-interest<br />

loan scheme.<br />

“We need to rethink things and collaborate in<br />

a different way,” said Burnham, who suggested<br />

an increase in payroll giving, or having a credit<br />

union presence at the 306 warm banks being<br />

opened across the region to help people survive<br />

the winter.<br />

He said successful ideas could be rolled out<br />

to other regions, and repeated his call for more<br />

devolution to allow regions to work with sectors<br />

such as credit unions to find solutions.<br />

“Bottom-up change is better than change<br />

dictated by government,” he said, calling on<br />

ministers to decentralise power and “let a city<br />

like this control its destiny”.<br />

Niall Alexander, from financial inclusion body<br />

Fair4All Finance, said personal debt would soon<br />

become an “unmanageable” problem with many<br />

people already running up credit card bills to<br />

pay for essentials. Soaring living costs will hit<br />

disadvantaged people – including social tenants,<br />

minorities and single mothers – hardest.<br />

He said he was not sure credit unions can fill<br />

the gap left by the fall in payday lending, and<br />

warned the sector would come under pressure<br />

with a rise in defaults, increased loan referrals<br />

from the DWP.<br />

And in the communities credit unions serve,<br />

there will be a “huge rise” in people borrowing<br />

from friends and family – and also from illegal<br />

doorstep lenders.<br />

This situation will put credit union staff under<br />

strain, and they will need support, said Erik<br />

Porter, CEO of Cheddr – a social enterprise which<br />

helps organisations deliver financial wellbeing<br />

for their customers.<br />

DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong> | 37

“<br />

“Last year<br />

compared to<br />

high-interest<br />

lenders we<br />

saved our<br />

communities<br />

£20m in<br />

interest”<br />

– Kathryn Fogg<br />

He said many credit unions offer valuable<br />

supports around financial education, workplace<br />

savings and mental health support which should<br />

be mentioned in recruitment ads “because you<br />

are hiring people into a really difficult job”.<br />

Employees with poor financial wellbeing can<br />

hamper a business, he added, putting them<br />

under stress which increases levels of sick leave<br />

and staff turnover, and lowers productivity and<br />

work quality.<br />

It is often impossible for credit unions to<br />

match higher salaries in the finance industry,<br />

so what else can they do? “Solutions don’t have<br />

to cost a ton of money,” said Porter: there are<br />

other ways to offer support – offering remote<br />

working, mental health first aiders, low or no<br />

interest loans, money coaching and cycle-towork<br />

schemes.<br />

The conference also featured a panel on “the<br />

credit union experience”.<br />

Tony Denny from Enterprise CU, Merseyside,<br />

said the credit union mission is to provide ethical<br />

financial support for members all through their<br />

lives. “If we can’t do it now, of all times, then we<br />

aren’t meeting our mission,” he warned.<br />

The right measures have to be in place, he<br />

added: that means a strong organisation, with<br />

well-supported, properly paid staff; credible<br />

succession plans for all key roles, and a simple<br />

range of products.<br />

And staff need to be empowered with the<br />

tools to make the right decisions for members,<br />

enabling them to offer payment breaks, interest<br />

reductions, product flipping.<br />

Crucially, credit unions need to protect their<br />

own financial stability. “Who gives top-up<br />

loans?” asked Denny. “Do you actually think you<br />

are going to get that money back?”<br />

He warned against creating “a vicious cycle”<br />

of unsustainable debt for members; instead<br />

there must be ways to help members “meet their<br />

debts in a sustainable way so they can go on to<br />

support themselves and their families”.<br />

But credit unions “don’t need to be scared of<br />

poor credit”, said Kathryn Fogg from Pennine<br />

Community CU. “We can work on it. If we don’t<br />

lend to people they will go elsewhere and we will<br />

undo the good work we’ve done over 40 years.<br />

We need to find a way to lend to people who are<br />

going through difficult times.”<br />

Mechanisms include payroll deductions, or<br />

family loans where repayments to the credit<br />

union come directly from child benefit. “It’s a<br />

fantastic product,” said Fogg, who stressed the<br />

value of the financial education that comes with<br />

the loans.<br />

Pennine has also looked at how the cost of<br />

living crisis is affecting its staff. It increased<br />

junior wages, paid a bonus at end of year, and<br />

offered low-interest loans; it has also increased<br />

its community donations.<br />

This work is paying off, she said. “Last year,<br />

compared to high-interest lenders, we saved our<br />

communities £20m in interest”. This money is<br />

then spent and circulated in local economies.<br />

Samantha Homer from Capital CU, Edinburgh,<br />

said her credit union has changed its policies<br />

to help members whose financial choices have<br />

narrowed. A requirement that members save<br />

£15 a month was locking some people out; this<br />

has been waived and 4% of members have taken<br />

advantage of the change.<br />

Capital has introduced a £50 loans to offer<br />

immediate low-level support, and a new<br />

financial education service which encourages<br />

members to come in earlier, so they can be given<br />

support before they default. Staff are being<br />

trained in early intervention and taught how to<br />

spot if a member is struggling.<br />

Local partnerships also help, with a credit<br />

union presence at local agencies and a linkup<br />

with Hibernian FC, where Capital is the<br />

preferred financial partner for season ticket<br />

saving or loan schemes. And it works with the<br />

club’s community foundation to give financial<br />

education to young people.<br />

Offering a perspective from the Republic of<br />

Ireland, David McAuley from Donore CU in<br />

County Meath said credit unions have to be<br />

sustainable.<br />

After Donore nearly went out of business<br />

between 2012-14, it took steps to ensure its<br />

sustainability, he said. This meant a shift in<br />

emphasis from 12% top-up loans – which had<br />

become “the never-never” – to bigger loans<br />

which generate more income. Donore’s biggest<br />

loans have grown from €2,000 to €5,000. “That<br />

income means we are better equipped to face<br />

that crisis … We know defaults are going to go<br />

up but we can face it.”<br />

Credit unions in Ireland have some advantages<br />

over the UK, added McAuley. “We’re still part of<br />

the EU and still part of a network of countries<br />

that support each other”. And Ireland has “a<br />

38 | DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong>

“<br />

“Resilience is not about<br />

surviving, it’s about thriving<br />

– withstanding adversity in<br />

a way that does not<br />

diminish you” – Miranda Flury<br />

p Miranda Flury,<br />

president of Hawkeye<br />

Strategies<br />

more generous social network”, with disability<br />

and unemployment and child benefits rising.<br />

“We’ve still got a situation where people struggle<br />

but it’s better than the UK.”<br />

The afternoon session, which focused on<br />

resilience, was led by Miranda Flury, president<br />

of Hawkeye Strategies, a Canadian consultancy<br />

which specialised in co-op governance.<br />

“Resilience is not about surviving,” she said,<br />

“it’s about thriving – withstanding adversity in a<br />

way that does not diminish you.”<br />

This means “building capacity to withstand<br />

a wide range of problems and respond<br />

opportunistically to events … it gives you the<br />

chance to take advantage of opportunities when<br />

competitors are least<br />

prepared”.<br />

In credit union<br />

boardrooms, she added,<br />

“people are realising<br />

that the status quo is the<br />

least likely outcome. The<br />

status quo doesn’t exist<br />

… When you realise that<br />

your boardroom mindset<br />

changes.”<br />

Resilience means<br />

keeping a credit union<br />

well capitalised and<br />

increasing the flexibility of your financial<br />

resources. Credit unions must decide what level<br />

of expenditure or borrowing maximises their<br />

chances, and how best to increase their strategic<br />

options? For instance, does bricks-and-mortar<br />

expansion, or <strong>digital</strong>, best serve growth in<br />

the target market – and what future costs do<br />

they bring?<br />

Internal resilience is also vital – in terms of<br />

a business model that can adapt to changing<br />

member expectations change, new regulations<br />

and challenger start-ups.<br />

And organisations should build people<br />

resilience – for instance by treating “failure as<br />

learning opportunities”, through succession<br />

planning, or through diversity and inclusion.<br />

On this point, said Flury, “it’s not enough to<br />

have diverse people sitting round the table, they<br />

should also have the ability to speak up and be<br />

heard. The literature shows that if it’s there, you<br />

will make better decisions.”<br />

Resilience also requires a credit union to<br />

maintain brand trust – by keeping employees<br />

engaged, by responding properly when errors<br />

are made, and by “consistently following<br />

through with what you say you are going to do”.<br />

Crucially, resilience must be monitored, she<br />

said. Credit unions should continually ask<br />

where their financial resilience lies – if it is<br />

concentrated in a few members or well spread<br />

across the membership; if new business lines<br />

are profitable; and whether or not budget<br />

assumptions have proved accurate.<br />

Other factors to monitor include talent<br />

acquisition processes, the level of dependence<br />

on third parties, cyber breaches, how quickly<br />

teams and leaders can adapt to change, the<br />

effectiveness of disaster recovery and business<br />

continuity plans, and whether or not legacy<br />

systems are in critical failure.<br />

It’s also vital for credit unions to know<br />

their communities, said Flury. “Do you know<br />

their vulnerabilities, have you gone into your<br />

communities to assess them?”<br />

These questions all feed into a resilience<br />

which means “your credit union is around for<br />

years to come and can serve members in times of<br />

need,” she told delegates.<br />

DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong> | 39

Co-operation among<br />

co-operatives<br />


By Dave Smith<br />

q Caribbean<br />

Confederation of<br />

Credit Unions<br />

The World Council of Credit Unions (Woccu) held<br />

its annual conference in Glasgow in July, which<br />

spawned a new collaboration between Swoboda,<br />

the British and Irish credit union research<br />

centre, and the Caribbean Confederation of<br />

Credit Unions (CCCU).<br />

If you are from the Caribbean or have visited<br />

one of the many beautiful islands, you will<br />

probably be aware that credit unions are well<br />

established in the region. The CCCU, based in<br />

St Kitts and Nevis, serves 22 national affiliate<br />

organisations, representing 230 credit unions<br />

throughout the Caribbean. Representatives<br />

of these credit unions attended the Glasgow<br />

conference; among them was Denise Garfield,<br />

the general manager of CCCU.<br />

At the conference, Dr Paul A Jones, director<br />

of research at Swoboda, delivered a workshop<br />

on the hot, contested issues in credit union<br />

governance – dealing with questions that are<br />

replicated in boardrooms around the world.<br />

Woccu invited him to make the presentation<br />

because of his extensive background of research<br />

into co-operative governance, reflected in<br />

Swoboda’s 2017 publication, Credit Union<br />

Strategic Governance, based on engagement with<br />

credit unions in Britain, Ireland, and Romania.<br />

Paul told delegates that boards everywhere<br />

must bring clarity to the roles and authority of<br />

directors, chairs, and CEOs; establish a positive<br />

relationship between the chair and the CEO; and<br />

embed board development and education. Their<br />

job is to control the credit union and at the same<br />

time ensure that it serves its members effectively.<br />

More than 400 delegates attended the<br />

workshop, including Denise and many other<br />

Caribbean representatives. It provoked a lively<br />

debate, with stories shared from credit unions<br />

all over the world, concerning the challenges<br />

and difficulties in implementing effective<br />

governance.<br />

The workshop was especially interesting to<br />

Denise and the other Caribbean participants.<br />

They recognised that the key governance issues<br />

identified by Paul chimed well with CCCU’s own<br />

concerns back home. At its annual convention<br />

in Jamaica the previous month, CCCU discussed<br />

the survival, sustainability, and viability of<br />

the sector – and identified that strengthening<br />

governance had to be a key element of its<br />

development strategy. Following the workshop,<br />

Denise approached Swoboda to see if it could<br />

provide governance support for Caribbean<br />

credit unions.<br />

Several weeks and online meetings later, Paul<br />

and his fellow Swoboda director Nick Money<br />

had committed to deliver a programme of ‘train<br />

the trainer’ workshops, to enable Caribbean<br />

credit unions to adopt a consistent model of best<br />

practice for co-operative governance. The system<br />

presented by Nick and Paul, and as originally<br />

articulated in the 2017 report, is bespoke for the<br />

40 | DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong>

credit union movement, bringing together the<br />

diverse elements of governance into a dynamic,<br />

integrated, and coherent system, based on a<br />

clear set of universal co-operative principles<br />

which can be implemented by all credit unions<br />

internationally, and has been tried, tested, and<br />

published in Romania as well as Britain. The<br />

model describes the roles and responsibilities,<br />

relationships and behaviours that ensure that<br />

a credit union can operate as a sound and wellrun<br />

business and achieve its goals and strategic<br />

objectives.<br />

“It was imperative”, says Denise, “for us at<br />

CCCU to engage the Swoboda Research Centre<br />

to conduct a series of workshops to train credit<br />

union boards of directors in the field of effective<br />

corporate governance. This partnership presents<br />

an exciting opportunity for collaboration as we<br />

encourage and maintain the precedence for good<br />

governance within the region.”<br />

Swoboda’s training programme will run over<br />

12 sessions in January, February and March.<br />

Unluckily for Paul, they will be held on line.<br />

“Perhaps the only disappointment is that we<br />

can’t meet face to face,” he said. “A winter in the<br />

Caribbean would be attractive.”<br />

The training will cover all<br />

aspects of board and senior<br />

manager-level governance,<br />

including the principles of<br />

governance, the importance of<br />

understanding the respective<br />

roles of the board, directors and<br />

executives, and the importance of<br />

setting goals and strategy, as well<br />

as risk oversight and compliance.<br />

Further critical features<br />

address the commitment to cooperative<br />

values and an emphasis<br />

on sustaining the credit union’s<br />

democracy and accountability to<br />

members.<br />

The programme has another<br />

attraction for Swoboda, says Nick<br />

Money. “We have started a big<br />

project to overhaul our 2017 report. We want to<br />

update it to reflect developments in practice in<br />

recent years, make it much more user-friendly<br />

and create versions that reflect local regulation<br />

and approaches in Ireland, the Caribbean and<br />

other jurisdictions.<br />

“Our experience in Britain, with CCCU and<br />

UNCAR, the Romanian credit union trade<br />

association, shows us that despite the diversity<br />

of the international credit unions and their<br />

regulatory and other contexts, the practice of<br />

good governance has so much in common and<br />

we want to share our experience.”<br />

Swoboda will engage a range of experts to<br />

review the approach, section by section, and<br />

aims to publish a new version of the governance<br />

publication in late 2023.<br />

Swoboda is delighted to be offered the<br />

opportunity to work with CCCU and its member<br />

credit unions. As Paul notes,<br />

“It presents a great opportunity<br />

not only to share our thinking<br />

and expertise in governance,<br />

but to learn from the experience<br />

of credit unions facing similar<br />

governance issues in another<br />

part of the world”.<br />

There is something special<br />

about working with Caribbean<br />

credit unions, because it was<br />

from the Caribbean that the idea<br />

of credit union was originally<br />

introduced into Britain in the<br />

1960s. The first credit unions<br />

in Britain were in London<br />

established by people who had<br />

migrated from the Caribbean.<br />

“Swoboda is proud to be<br />

involved in working with a<br />

credit union movement that was the original<br />

inspiration for credit unions this side of the<br />

Atlantic Ocean,” said Nick.<br />

To learn more about credit unions in the<br />

Caribbean, contact Denise Garfield dgarfield@<br />

caribbeanccu.coop or visit caribccu.coop. For<br />

more information on Swoboda and its research<br />

activity in Ireland and Britain, contact Nick<br />

Money nick.money@swobodacentre.org or visit<br />

swobodacentre.org<br />

“ The first credit<br />

unions in<br />

Britain were<br />

in London<br />

established by<br />

people who<br />

had migrated<br />

from the<br />

Caribbean”<br />

p (Above) Nick<br />

Money with Dr Paul<br />

A Jones and (inset)<br />

Denise Garfield<br />

DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong> | 41

CASE marks 40 years<br />


By Paul Gosling<br />

u Dorothy Francis<br />

Dame Pauline Green was the guest of honour at<br />

an event celebrating the 40th birthday of CASE<br />

– Leicester’s Co-operative And Social Enterprise<br />

development agency. At its formation in 1982,<br />

the agency was called Leicester Co-operative<br />

Development Agency.<br />

The celebration took place in the premises<br />

of one of Leicester’s oldest trading co-ops, Soft<br />

Touch Arts Co-operative – which has been in<br />

operation since 1986. All food and drink, as well<br />

as musical entertainment, was provided by local<br />

co-op enterprises.<br />

In her address, Dame Pauline congratulated<br />

CASE on reaching its milestone, while reflecting<br />

on her positive experience with co-operatives in<br />

her various roles as a Labour/Co-op MEP, chief<br />

executive of Co-operatives UK and as president<br />

of the International Co-operative Alliance. Co-ops<br />

do businesses differently and with more<br />

humanity, she said.<br />

Rose Marley, the current CEO of Co-operatives<br />

UK, recorded a video to also congratulate CASE.<br />

Several co-operatives existed locally prior to<br />

the establishment of Leicester CDA, including<br />

Equity Shoes – established in the 19th century<br />

by workers in dispute with their employer, the<br />

Co-operative Wholesale Society. But in the<br />

subsequent years of Leicester CDA – under<br />

that name and its successor titles of Leicester<br />

& County CDA and CASE – a much larger cooperative<br />

sector has grown.<br />

CASE commissioned a film to mark its<br />

anniversary and showcase some of the co-ops<br />

it has supported. It contained testimonies to<br />

the work of the agency; screened at the<br />

celebration, it can be seen on YouTube, titled<br />

40 years of CASE. Profiled enterprises<br />

included Leicester Wholefood Cooperative,<br />

which started trading in 1987, and<br />

Shepshed Carers, a domiciliary care co-op,<br />

which is now 28 years old.<br />

Dorothy Francis is one of the team of five<br />

core workers, who are all co-directors in the<br />

organisation that operates as a collective. She is<br />

also the longest serving worker at CASE, having<br />

joined the Leicester & County CDA 35 years<br />

ago. She told the celebration that the agency’s<br />

structure of itself being a workers’ co-operative<br />

is key to its success and longevity.<br />

“I absolutely believe we would not have<br />

survived if we were not a co-operative,”<br />

Dorothy said. “It gives us a shared vision and<br />

understanding and means that we pull together.<br />

It also makes it a lot easier to talk to people about<br />

being a co-op if you are yourself a co-op.”<br />

The great achievement of CASE, Dorothy<br />

believes, has been its impact on the people who<br />

have worked in the supported co-ops. There are<br />

currently around 60 co-ops trading in the city<br />

or county, employing hundreds of people. “We<br />

have helped so many people to turn ideas into<br />

realities,” she says. “And we have managed to<br />

stay with them on their journey.<br />

“It’s not just about helping people to set up<br />

co-ops. It’s about keeping going; to grow and<br />

develop, dealing with challenges, to take on<br />

opportunities with confidence. We wanted to<br />

celebrate success with people like Leicester<br />

Wholefood Co-op, Soft Touch and Shepshed<br />

Carers, and welcome into the fold new ones, such<br />

as Great Central Gazette, which is Leicester’s<br />

newest co-operative.<br />

“And it’s about doing the job well. It’s about<br />

succeeding and surviving. There used to be<br />

a CDA in every London borough and major<br />

42 | DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong>

t Paul Gosling,<br />

Dorothy Francis, Jane<br />

Avery, John Goodman<br />

and Pauline Green<br />

conurbation, now I believe it is just us and<br />

Coventry & Warwickshire CDA in the Midlands.<br />

Survival should not be underestimated.”<br />

While the organisation has evolved over the<br />

four decades, the principles of engagement<br />

with the communities the agency serves has<br />

remained core to its operation. “It was the great<br />

thing about the agency from the beginning:<br />

it was a community and it was involved in the<br />

community,” says Dorothy.<br />

The CDA workers were initially often very<br />

hands on in early stage business establishment.<br />

Seed corn funding programmes in those first<br />

years provided important practical assistance to<br />

co-ops so that members gained a range of skills<br />

and access to resources.<br />

“There were some innovative projects in those<br />

days, which we have not been able to maintain,”<br />

says Dorothy with regret.<br />

She stresses, though, that skills development<br />

remains a core element of the work of CASE.<br />

“Skills development not just for co-ops, but also<br />

for us [as workers]. We have turned ourselves<br />

into a very highly skilled organisation in order to<br />

skill others. We were only the second community<br />

organisation in Leicester to get Investors in<br />

People accreditation.”<br />

While the agency has expanded and contracted<br />

at times over the years, and experimented with<br />

a hierarchical structure, it has returned to a<br />

flat collective working arrangement and wage<br />

parity. CASE also draws in specialist associates<br />

as required.<br />

But it is also the engagement and support<br />

of local co-operatives and their members that<br />

have been essential to the durability of CASE,<br />

says Dorothy. The 40th anniversary celebration<br />

included a recognition of the contribution of<br />

one of Leicester’s most dedicated co-operators –<br />

Bruce ‘Woody’ Wood, who died recently. Woody<br />

was a founder member of the Corani Housing<br />

Co-operative and also of a car share co-operative<br />

and Alternative Services Co-operative, which<br />

undertook electrical and other practical work for<br />

CASE and a range of local co-ops.<br />

In recognition of Woody’s contributions, CASE<br />

commissioned a portrait of Woody holding his<br />

newly born grandson, Merlin. That portrait was<br />

presented to his daughter Hertha, who travelled<br />

up to the event from Devon – where Corani is<br />

now located and in which Hertha is herself an<br />

active co-operator.<br />

“It’s important to remember your roots,” says<br />

Dorothy. “People without knowledge of their<br />

history are like a tree without roots. We wanted<br />

to acknowledge that we could not have got here,<br />

and survived 40 years, if it hadn’t been for the<br />

strength of the people we worked with, both our<br />

staff and the co-operators. It was always about<br />

the passion to make changes and move forward.<br />

We have had so much support over the years,<br />

including in the early days.<br />

“That support was essential in those early<br />

days, when no one knew what a CDA was. Woody<br />

was one of those who helped to root us. It is very<br />

important to recognise that we got here on the<br />

shoulders of others.”<br />

Paul Gosling was employed as one of Leicester<br />

CDA’s first workers, 40 years ago.<br />

“ “It’s important<br />

to remember<br />

your roots.<br />

People without<br />

knowledge of<br />

their history<br />

are like a tree<br />

without roots”<br />

DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong> | 43

A call to members<br />



By Susan Press<br />

q Member Nominated<br />

Director, Sarah<br />

McCarthy-Fry<br />

The search is on for someone keen to help the<br />

Co-op Group through the current cost of living<br />

crisis.<br />

Applications are being welcomed as the<br />

process begins for next year’s election of a<br />

Member Nominated Director (MND) to join<br />

colleagues on the Co-op Group board.<br />

Re-elected this year, MND Sarah McCarthy-Fry<br />

acknowledges the coming period is likely to be<br />

grim given the economic forecasts by the Bank<br />

of England and the triple whammy of soaring<br />

energy bills, retail prices and interest rates going<br />

through the roof.<br />

But she is clear that the Group will continue<br />

helping communities through what could be one<br />

of the worst recessions in decades. Measures<br />

to help employees, customers and members<br />

include additional colleague discount on<br />

Co-op-branded purchases and an additional<br />

cost of living allowance for customer-facing<br />

colleagues over the winter months. Some £37m<br />

has been invested to lower the price of 120<br />

key products through to the new year with an<br />

expansion of the “Honest Value” range. Despite<br />

the challenges, board members also remain<br />

committed to their goal to be a net zero business<br />

by 2040.<br />

“In the past few years it has been one thing<br />

after another so we have been building resilience<br />

and making sure we can go forward, looking at<br />

the balance sheets and cost structure,” says<br />

McCarthy-Fry, who has a background in finance.<br />

“Unless we are financially viable, we cannot<br />

do all the things we want to do. Our Vision<br />

Statement 2020 was issued just after I first got<br />

elected, that’s still the lodestar.”<br />

Before embarking on her current role,<br />

McCarthy-Fry served between 2005 and 2010 as<br />

Labour/Co-op MP for Portsmouth North – the<br />

seat currently held by Penny Mordaunt, who<br />

recently stood in the Conservative leadership<br />

contest.<br />

As a government minister in HM Treasury, she<br />

was responsible for personal savings policy and<br />

financial inclusion, including credit unions.<br />

As schools minister she led the development<br />

of apprenticeships policy and partnerships<br />

with business and schools. She is also a former<br />

finance director at GKN Aerospace, one of the<br />

world’s leading engineering companies.<br />

Fellow board members are from a diverse<br />

range of backgrounds but they all share her<br />

professional experience of management at the<br />

most senior level.<br />

In all there are four MNDs chosen by members<br />

through an election process which concludes at<br />

the annual Co-op AGM in May.<br />

“The Co-op Group is a huge organisation with<br />

a portfolio of several different organisations. If it<br />

44 | DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong>

“ Being an MP was the<br />

most amazing five years<br />

of my life. I did things I<br />

never thought I would be<br />

capable of doing”<br />

were a private company it would be in the FTSE<br />

100 so to be an MND you have to have financial<br />

acumen and experience at that kind of level as<br />

we are responsible for managing the company.<br />

We set the agenda, manage the risk and hold the<br />

executive to account for delivering the strategy<br />

the board has set,” she says.<br />

It is also a significant commitment in terms<br />

of time. Co-op Group board meetings are held<br />

10 times a year in Manchester. McCarthy-Fry is<br />

also a member of the Risk and Audit Committee<br />

and liaises regularly with the Members’ Council,<br />

which meets six times a year. She is also a keen<br />

participant in the Group’s Join In Live events,<br />

this year held online and in person in London<br />

and Glasgow.<br />

As a resident of the Isle Of Wight, she travels<br />

extensively as part of her role.<br />

“It’s really important that you don’t just<br />

sit there at the top but listen to what people<br />

on the ground are<br />

thinking. That’s what<br />

I missed in the Covid-19<br />

years,” she says.<br />

“We had to switch to<br />

online meetings which<br />

was very difficult,<br />

however we had to<br />

keep the organisation<br />

going so it was better<br />

than not meeting at<br />

all. This year I have<br />

been up in Scotland,<br />

and closer to home I<br />

recently spent a day in Hamble seeing what life<br />

is like in a small convenience store, as well as<br />

visiting a distribution depot in Andover.<br />

“Post-Covid, some of our committee meetings<br />

are still online and it’s good to have a bit of<br />

balance of both virtual and in person so more<br />

members get involved.”<br />

Although all board directors are elected,<br />

MNDs are the only ones to stand in a contested<br />

election and the process is a rigorous one. All<br />

candidates are expected to meet the eligibility<br />

and membership criteria linked to skills,<br />

experience and empathy with co-op values and<br />

principles. This includes having been a Co-op<br />

Group member for at least three years prior to<br />

submitting a nomination.<br />

They are also expected to have an<br />

accomplished track record at an equivalent level<br />

in a substantial organisation and awareness<br />

of the strategic and operational challenges<br />

from overall strategy to governance and risk<br />

management. So the ask is quite a big one.<br />

“Putting yourself up for a contested election is<br />

not everyone’s cup of tea,” she says. “It’s always<br />

a stressful experience putting yourself out there<br />

and you have to account for the possibility that<br />

you might not win. You also have to understand<br />

and know about co-operative values because<br />

we are that link on the board representing the<br />

membership.”<br />

Once shortlisted by the selection committee,<br />

candidates are able to issue formal 500-word<br />

statements to be considered by the members<br />

who then elect them at the annual AGM.<br />

As a former MP, Sarah is more than familiar<br />

with the challenges of being on the ballot paper<br />

and winning and losing elections. She still<br />

maintains links with former colleagues and is<br />

currently treasurer of the Parliamentary Outreach<br />

Trust, which visits schools and universities to<br />

offer an insight into the mysterious workings of<br />

Westminster and how government departments<br />

work and how Bills become law.<br />

“Being an MP was the most amazing five years<br />

of my life. I did things I never thought I would be<br />

capable of doing, was made a Treasury Minister<br />

with a couple of hours notice and then had to give<br />

a speech in Parliament. When I left Parliament<br />

I missed the friendships and colleagues but it’s<br />

not an easy place and we had nothing like the<br />

level of scrutiny you get these days on social<br />

media. However, once you have been a political<br />

animal, I think you always are.”<br />

Sarah is currently part of a team working<br />

with the Members’ Council to get more people<br />

involved in the Co-op Group and build better<br />

relationships with local communities.<br />

“With the challenges we are facing it’s<br />

always about how we achieve our vision and<br />

looking at what is the best way we can help our<br />

communities, demonstrate the co-op difference<br />

and work towards that,” she says.<br />

“It’s about how we build that relationship,<br />

which starts off w ith t he m embership c ard,<br />

so eventually people understand what cooperation<br />

is all about – as well as building<br />

relationships with other community groups<br />

to see how we can grow that co-operative<br />

way of thinking. It is a brilliant way of doing<br />

business and I am really passionate about it.<br />

As a qualified a ccountant, I c an a lso b ring i t<br />

all together in a way in which, if I was a non<br />

executive director with a corporate organisation<br />

just would not be the same.”<br />

Nominations for the MND elections close on 20<br />

<strong>December</strong>. More information at<br />

co-operative.coop/mndelection<br />

DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong> | 45

Leading Lives<br />


By Rebecca Harvey<br />

p Leading Lives<br />

is a social care<br />

co-op owned by its<br />

employees (Image:<br />

Anthony Cullen)<br />

“The best thing about my job is the people<br />

and the fact that we pride ourselves on being a<br />

very level, transparent organisation,” says Boo<br />

Dendy. “I can get alongside our workforce, and<br />

genuinely involve them, their ideas and their<br />

enthusiasm. They feel part of something.”<br />

Dendy is business development manager and<br />

vice-chair at Leading Lives, a social care co-op<br />

which provides support for people with learning<br />

disabilities, autism and complex needs across<br />

Suffolk and beyond, both in the home and in<br />

the community.<br />

“I used to work as an operations manager for a<br />

local authority, part of a provision for social care<br />

services. The LA was looking to cut provision<br />

back and put it to tender, but they also gave us<br />

the opportunity to come up with an alternative.”<br />

Dendy and his colleagues got researching, and<br />

began looking at the worker co-op model: “We<br />

effectively span out from the local authority<br />

10 years ago and now we’re a 100% employeeowned<br />

social enterprise, an industrial and<br />

provident society.”<br />

The organisation offers a range of support<br />

services, including bespoke packages of<br />

personal assistance and domiciliary support<br />

(short and long term) to autistic people and<br />

individuals with learning disabilities or other<br />

complex needs.<br />

It also runs Community Hubs and Units<br />

where people can enjoy a varied programme of<br />

activities and experiences designed to empower<br />

them to lead the life they choose – and provides<br />

a range of high-quality short breaks in units in<br />

four locations across the county.<br />

It also offers short breaks specifically for<br />

young people (13-25) so they can enjoy time away<br />

from home with their peers and with activities<br />

specifically designed for them and runs weekly<br />

youth groups (Leading Lives Night Hubs) for<br />

young people who are autistic or have learning<br />

disabilities.<br />

Leading Lives employs 417 people across<br />

Suffolk, with all employees having the<br />

opportunity to become members of the<br />

employee-owned co-operative. “This means<br />

employees can all be co-owners of the business,”<br />

says Dendy. “They care about how it is run and<br />

the quality of care it provides.” Any surplus<br />

made is re-invested back into services for our<br />

46 | DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong>

“ For us it’s all<br />

about<br />

co-production<br />

– about<br />

shifting our<br />

power base,<br />

about finding<br />

solutions to<br />

what people<br />

need”<br />

customers or in the local community through<br />

our Community Benefit Fund.<br />

Over 90% of staff choose to become employeeowners,<br />

and the board is made up of employees;<br />

the MD is ex officio with two others and the rest<br />

are voted on. “The board term was originally two<br />

years. We’ve changed that to three because you<br />

really need those three years to understand and<br />

get your feet under the table,” says Dendy.<br />

“We’re also developing a structure where we<br />

have a shareholder council that is more engaged<br />

and active. So actually, there’s a bit of a pathway<br />

towards being on the board. And we’ve also just<br />

voted that we feel it’s time that the chair of the<br />

board is a paid role outside of the organisation.<br />

But we will not be employing anybody unless<br />

they’ve got co-op values.”<br />

It hasn’t been an easy journey. “There was a<br />

real challenge going from the public sector into<br />

the third sector,” says Dendy.<br />

“None of us had business experience – all<br />

our experience was delivering social care – so<br />

we’ve had to find a lot of business acumen.<br />

But we have also done a lot of learning around<br />

the third sector, setting up a social enterprise<br />

and engaging with employee ownership,<br />

working with Co-ops UK, Social Enterprise UK<br />

and the Employee Ownership Association.”<br />

In 2019 the organisation received the 2019<br />

Public Service Mutual of the Year Award from<br />

the EOA.<br />

Covid-19 – and the aftermath of the pandemic<br />

– has been another challenge: “Before Covid, we<br />

were in a recruitment and retention crisis. We<br />

naively thought which I think a lot of the sector<br />

did that people would be more interested and<br />

have more understanding around health and<br />

social care. I think the opposite has happened.<br />

They’re terrified of it.<br />

“We’re in an employer’s market where we ask<br />

people to do a very difficult job for a cost of living<br />

wage – and yet you could go to a local retailer<br />

and earn a lot more with very little responsibility.<br />

And at the moment, people’s pressures are<br />

financial. So we’re finding we have to recruit<br />

to values and get into communities, reaching<br />

people who perhaps don’t even know they want<br />

to be involved in social care. But when we find<br />

the people with the right values, they’re the ones<br />

that we want to work with - not necessarily those<br />

with the qualifications and experience.”<br />

Right now, Dendy adds, everything Leading<br />

Lives does is about collaboration, partnerships<br />

and relationships. “We have strong values and<br />

principles and we want to work with other coops<br />

and social enterprises, but actually, you’ve<br />

got to pull the community alongside you. And for<br />

p Boo Dendy (Image: Anthony Cullen)<br />

us it’s all about co-production – about shifting<br />

our power base, about finding solutions to what<br />

people need in regards to their social care and<br />

trying to get out of antiquated care systems<br />

which are based on task and time and funding.<br />

It’s about being innovative, and it’s our values<br />

that allow us to do that.”<br />

Burt language can still be a barrier, he says,<br />

not just for Leading Lives, but across the co-op<br />

movement.<br />

“We’ve got to change our language, change<br />

how we tell our stories,” he says. “Those of us<br />

involved in the co-op movement, social value,<br />

employee-ownership, we’re talking jargon a lot<br />

of the time and we need to simplify that language<br />

so people understand what we’re about.<br />

“We also need to lobby politicians and<br />

commissioners to show preference towards<br />

the third sector because I genuinely believe<br />

we deliver a better service. But we also value<br />

employees with those principles that we have –<br />

that’s what is going to sustain communities.”<br />

DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong> | 47

<strong>2022</strong><br />

Christmas<br />

gift guide<br />

Check out the Co-op News <strong>2022</strong> gift guide part two – with our second batch of budget buys from ethicalshop.org,<br />

and a range of other co-operative gift ideas to treat your friends and family with this Christmas.<br />

Under<br />

a fiver<br />

Mint & Grapefruit<br />

Shower Block £4.75<br />

Divine Dark Chocolate Coins £2.75<br />

Elephant Poo Snakes<br />

and Ladders £4.95<br />

Peters World Map (folded) £4.95<br />

48 | DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong>

the Queen ... a report from the<br />

international Co-op Housing<br />

Symposium ... More changes<br />

at the top for the Co-op Group<br />

ISSN 0009-9821<br />

01<br />

9 770009 982010<br />

Under<br />

a tenner<br />

Curry Condiment<br />

Gift Set £8.99<br />

Recycled Sari<br />

Notebook £5.95<br />

Merry Christmas<br />

Plant & Card Kit £8.95<br />

Bug Spotter<br />

Kit £9.50<br />

Green fingered gifting<br />

Give someone the gift of<br />

growth this Christmas with<br />

a gift card from the Seed<br />

Co-operative, starting from<br />

£5. The Seed Co-operative<br />

sells organic, openpollinated<br />

seed as part of its<br />

mission to “sow the seeds<br />

of a healthy and resilient<br />

organic food system”.<br />

seedcooperative.org.uk<br />

Or you can support the<br />

development of community<br />

gardens with a calendar from<br />

the Lambeth GP Food Co-op.<br />

The 2023 calendar, priced at<br />

£8 (plus £4 p&p), includes<br />

a seasonal recipe for each<br />

month, generously provided<br />

by volunteers, patients, friends,<br />

and members of the co-operative.<br />

All money from the calendar sales<br />

goes towards Lambeth GP Food Co-op’s<br />

work supporting the community by building<br />

gardens around GP surgeries and hospitals.<br />

Email gpfoodcoop@gmail.com to order.<br />

OCTOBER <strong>2022</strong><br />




Plus … Co-ops pay tribute to<br />

www.thenews.coop<br />

£4.20<br />

Co-operative tipples<br />

For the gin lover in your life,<br />

the Gin Cooperative’s<br />

website features over 150<br />

Scottish Gins from 70<br />

Scottish Gin makers and<br />

sells gift vouchers starting<br />

from £25.<br />

thegincooperative.com<br />

Or you can give somebody<br />

a lifetime membership of<br />

the Wine Society for £40.<br />

Benefits of membership<br />

include access to<br />

fairly priced wines,<br />

tastings and events,<br />

and they’ll receive<br />

£20 off their first<br />

order of wine.<br />

thewinesociety.com<br />

Co-op News subscription<br />

And for something to read whilst sipping, try<br />

a Co-op News subscription and membership.<br />

For £5 a month, you can gift a loved one a<br />

monthly copy of our magazine so they can<br />

stay abreast of the happenings within the<br />

global co-operative movement.<br />

thenews.coop/be-a-member<br />

DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong> | 49

DIARY<br />

Do you have a co-operative<br />

event – taking place in person,<br />

online, or as a hybrid – to be<br />

featured?<br />

Tell us at: events@thenews.coop<br />

Christmas Remembrance Services<br />

Various (online)<br />

Throughout <strong>December</strong>, many of the UK’s<br />

co-operative retail societies are again<br />

hosting online Christmas memorial<br />

services in memory of those missed.<br />

These include:<br />

East of England Co-op<br />

7pm, Thursday 1 <strong>December</strong> (online)<br />

bit.ly/3Xw4CzS<br />

Southern Co-op<br />

6.30pm, Wedneday 14 <strong>December</strong> (online<br />

and at Mayfiel s Woodland Burial<br />

Ground, Wirral)<br />

info@mayfieldsburial.co.uk<br />

Central Co-op<br />

7pm, Sunday 18 <strong>December</strong> (online)<br />

bit.ly/3GPbNgC<br />

World Cooperative Monitor <strong>2022</strong> Official<br />

Launch<br />

1 <strong>December</strong> <strong>2022</strong> (online)<br />

the ICA in collaboration with the<br />

European Research Institute on<br />

Cooperative and Social Enterprises<br />

(Euricse) will organise a dedicated<br />

webinar to launch of the <strong>2022</strong> <strong>edition</strong> of<br />

the World Cooperative Monitor.<br />

This year’s <strong>edition</strong> will focus on the topic<br />

of <strong>digital</strong>ization in relation to cooperative<br />

identity. Building on the research, this<br />

webinar will explore how member<br />

democratic control (second cooperative<br />

principle) and consequent membership<br />

engagement can be enhanced through<br />

the use of <strong>digital</strong> tools.<br />

bit.ly/3OIFmCv<br />

Conversations with Gamechangers –<br />

Zameen Prapti Sangharsh Committee<br />

14 January 2023 (online, 3-5pm)<br />

This webinar is the fifth of a series of<br />

conversations with radical grass-roots<br />

solidarity economy organisations across<br />

the world who are breaking new ground<br />

in their own contexts while building<br />

power in their communities. The Zameen<br />

Prapti Sangharsh Committee has been<br />

building a movement of landless farmers<br />

to reclaim access to land they are<br />

rightfully entitled to in the Punjab region<br />

of India. Their strategy, which involves<br />

a diversity of tactics, includes building<br />

community power and making demands<br />

on the government for the rightful share,<br />

while also developing collective forms<br />

of working the land and sharing the<br />

produce. The ZPSC were influential in the<br />

groundbreaking farmers protests which<br />

took place across India in 2020-2021.<br />

bit.ly/3F0H2E8<br />

Future Co-ops 2023: Fom Crisis to<br />

Co-operation<br />

10-11 February 2023 (Oxford)<br />

What role can co-ops play in supporting<br />

people through the cost of living crisis?<br />

And what can existing co-ops do to<br />

support other co-ops on the frontline?<br />

futures.coop/from-crisis-to-coop/<br />

Conversations with Gamechangers –<br />

Guerrilla Translation<br />

11 February 2023 (online, 3-5pm)<br />

Guerrilla Translation is an activist<br />

commons-oriented cooperative created<br />

to share ideas between communities<br />

and spread the word about things<br />

that matter. To help support activist<br />

translators and freelancers to use<br />

their skills for causes they care about<br />

while also making a living, Guerrilla<br />

Translation has developed a new kind<br />

of livelihood vehicle which combines<br />

two functions: a voluntary translation/<br />

media collective working for activist<br />

causes, and an income-generating<br />

cooperative agency providing translation<br />

and communication services. This is a<br />

form of ‘economic resistance’; a means of<br />

ethically coherent, sustainable livelihood<br />

for knowledge workers, and the creation<br />

of a multilingual knowledge commons<br />

that upholds open-source, global idea<br />

sharing.<br />

bit.ly/3VjKuiM<br />

UK Society for Co-operative Studies<br />

Conference<br />

24-25 February 2023 (Lincoln)<br />

This conference will take the opportunity<br />

to reflect on Consumer Co-operation,<br />

particularly in the context of the business<br />

and service delivery changes over the<br />

past three years. The programme will<br />

include panel discussions and academic<br />

papers, exploring the position of<br />

consumer co-operatives in the present,<br />

looking at member engagement, the<br />

use of technology to facilitate online<br />

meetings and how data is shaping<br />

retailer’s relationships wit members.<br />

ukscs.coop<br />

50 | DECEMBER <strong>2022</strong>



100% COMPOSTABLE<br />

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BOOK BY<br />

28 FEBRUARY 2023<br />

DISC VER<br />

BUDVA<br />


4 nights<br />

from only<br />

£369<br />

Fontana Hotel &<br />

Gastronomy<br />

with breakfast<br />

per person * Brand new 4*<br />

Give more<br />

Your booking helps<br />

children facing serious<br />

challenges enjoy a break,<br />

plus we plant a tree via our<br />

climate impact partner<br />

Ecologi for every passenger<br />

who travels with us.<br />


Private return transfer from £72<br />

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CALL 01922 896 534<br />


*Prices correct as of 31/10/<strong>2022</strong>, subject to change and availability. Price based on 14th May 2023 flying from London Gatwick. Based on 2 adults sharing. One small cabin bag per person included. Larger cabin bags or hold luggage can be purchased for a

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