New Drive for Co-op Democracy from the Members Up

By Patrick Thorpe posted 04-06-2021 13:57:55

  


Members for Cooperation wants to encourage the movement to do more to grow its ownership models around the world.

Launched this year, Members For Cooperation is a global network to organise ordinary members within co-ops to campaign for increased co-operation between co-operatives – the sixth principle of the movement – especially between the larger/older co-ops and the smaller/newer ones. Coop news, states if the Nationwide Building Society had invested 1% of its statutory profits into new co-operatives in 2019, it could have made an investment of more than £55,000 into every single co-op started that year in the UK.

Co-operation between co-ops is most common among those in the same industry. A great example is CO-OP Financial Services, a US service organisation set up as a co-op and co-owned by credit unions across 50 states, operating one of the largest ATM networks in the country.

However, too often co-ops operate in silos rather than co-operating across sectors, and Members For Cooperation want to challenge this. Members For Cooperation believe great potential lies in well-established co-operatives, operating in sectors where co-operatives are common, nurturing new co-ops in fields where they are yet to gain a foothold. This is especially the case when it comes to emerging industries – for example, co-ops could easily switch from Zoom to The Online Meeting Cooperative

What is the aim of Members for Cooperation?

The inaugural campaign of Members For Cooperation put forward a member resolution to the AGMs of the Co-op Group and Nationwide Building Society to replicate a similar accelerator programme in the UK, which would require a diminishingly small portion of their surplus. While it did not achieve enough signatures to put its resolution on the ballot at either AGM, it was never its expectation or the main goal.

Members For Cooperation will also generate new ideas through discussions on how co-ops can best work together for mutual benefit. For example, it has established a fund to help credit unions give out gift cards, coupons, and vouchers that can be used with other co-operatives. It’s not uncommon for credit unions to offer their members discounts and gift cards on a range of businesses – what Members For Cooperation wants is to see this work with local co-operatives.

Eventually, it hopes credit unions will experiment with general “Cooperative Gift Cards” that can be used in a range of co-operatives. Compared to top-down grant funding, this finance mechanism would see support allocated by members based on the ability of co-ops to offer the goods and services they need. 

The organisation will be democratically governed, and it will be deciding on governance structures with the 100+ people who have already joined. 

If you want to be part of that conversation or just follow our work as an observer, you can find out more at members4cooperation.org.

Source – Coop news


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