Networking at Co-op Connections in Oxford, October 2023

Earlier this month, Co-operative Futures hosted a Co-op Connections networking event in Oxford with Irena Pistun from Co-ops UK. It was great to get other co-operators into a room together and thinking about how accessible we are as a movement.

Irena posed a question, inspired by her conversations with young people new to co-operatives, who felt at times put off or confused by the movement. The question was, hilariously,

“What should co-operatives continue doing to discourage people from joining the movement?”

Here were our top 10 answers:

  1. Keep co-operation to ourselves and don’t try to spread the word – just stay in our bubbles and only work with other co-ops
  2. Be mysterious and niche
  3. Use exclusive, technical language and bombard people with information about legal structures and governance
  4. Do nothing to dispel the notion we are closely related to a political party
  5. Exclude those with different politics, faith etc.
  6. Focus on the negativity of being a co-op
  7. Keep the legal and financial processes for co-ops complicated, non-automated and disconnected.
  8. Keep banging on about Co-ops vs Social enterprises
  9. Be afraid of making a “profit” or being identified as a business
  10. Once in a co-op, forget the values & principles and don’t handover properly to new members

The answers made us all laugh, but I wanted to share them as they do provide some useful warnings to us as co-operators. Reflecting on these points might help us think about how we might change the ways we communicate as a movement and engage with those outside of it!

Basically, we all need to start doing the opposite!

Alice Hemming, Co-operative Futures