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It’s about members

What happens to the Co-operative Bank over the next period comes down to who owns what, when the dust settles and whether that helps one of Britain’s great recent ethical businesses move forward.

 

 

How to operate with minority external investors is something we explore in a new report we have released, called Good Governance in Minority Investor Owned Co-operatives – a review of international practice by the distinguished academic, professor Johnston Birchall.

 

 

One new co-operative business every day of the working week

There are 6,169 co-operative enterprises in the UK and these are owned by 15.4 million members.

The number of co-operatives is increasing at a rate of 6% per annum, averaged over the last four years, which is represents around 250 new co-operatives a year – around one new co-operative every working day of the week.

The real headline on energy this week

The phrase ‘Small is Beautiful’ was not coined by Fritz Schumacher, but by his publisher. The phrase was evocative and in a period of modernism in which architecture, development and media focused on the big, it helped to conjure up a different path of human-scale living. There are writers such as David Boyle today, who understand that, even more so in a networked society and economy, that scale – and scope – matters.

Top ten ideas

I have been tweeting ten ideas from the great Geoff Mulgan, drawn from his new book, The Locust and the Bee. Here they are in a single blog:

1. Crises of efficiency become crises of interpretation – radical change happens not when things change but categories change

2. A predatory trade is one that is not reciprocal…economics has struggled to distinguish between profit and rent.

3. The economy needs care, which is why so many firms devote such efforts to create their own cultures, myths & meanings

Mutual, co-operative, friendly – what’s in a name?

The Mutual Life Assurance Society of the Cape of Good Hope was established in 1845 in South Africa as an insurance mutual. It became known over the years as ‘the old mutual’ and this in turn became its trading name. That was smart marketing – after all, it always helps to see yourself in ways that are in line with how your customers want to see you.

Co-operation by the seaside

As seaside piers enjoy their busiest month of the year, we have published a report by Jess Steele, The People’s Piers, which examines the ownership, usage and future of Britain’s piers.

The good news is that seaside piers remain as popular as ever, with 6 million people a year visiting them. The report also shows that:

Responsible rating?

A library in a shop?

I visited the Lincolnshire Co-operative Society this week, to see how they are creating space on the high street for libraries.

With cuts all around, the county may have to close up to 32 of its 46 libraries. This is where the co-operative has stepped in, recognising that if communities want it, then there may be new ways to keep the service alive. The co-op is piloting 5 libraries in-store, as well as services such dropping off books with its existing home prescription service for house-bound patients.

Community reinvestment

Banking that helps? The framework of regulation and incentives that promote equal opportunities in finance in the USA has long stood out as a model for success.

The Home Mortgage Disclosure Act in the 1970s was a response to allegations of race discrimination in lending by banks. The Act required them to publish their lending data. This was followed by the Community Reinvestment Act, that widened the disclosure and added an obligation on banks to serve all the community in which they were licensed to operate.

An open set of questions

We had an open and constructive session recently at our annual Co-operative Congress on the current context around the Co-operative Bank. The strong sense from the wider co-operative sector is one of support for the practical action now underway to restructure the capital base of the Co-operative Bank, in partnership with those affected, in order to safeguard its operations, in line with co-operative values and principles.

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