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:
- 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
- Be mysterious and niche
- Use exclusive, technical language and bombard people with information about legal structures and governance
- Do nothing to dispel the notion we are closely related to a political party
- Exclude those with different politics, faith etc.
- Focus on the negativity of being a co-op
- Keep the legal and financial processes for co-ops complicated, non-automated and disconnected.
- Keep banging on about Co-ops vs Social enterprises
- Be afraid of making a “profit” or being identified as a business
- 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