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Empowering co-operation

Blog post

Rose Marley
Written by
Rose Marley
7th March 2022
Co-operatives UK
Rose Marley, CEO, Co-operatives UK

As Co-operatives UK launches it's new three-year strategy and new look branding, CEO Rose Marley explains the thinking behind this approach.

The co-operative movement has set the standard and raised the bar for all business. People are now beginning to understand that ethical business is good. But we are in a crowded and noisy market where the language of co-operation is becoming commonplace to the consumer.

We need to communicate clearly WHAT a co-op is and WHY people should choose them to truly transform our society. Today we launch our new look branding as the first steps towards this, with a three-year strategy which aims ‘to inspire everyone to become a member of a co-op and every co-op to become a member of Co-operatives UK’. Because if we achieve this, then we’ll be well on our way to achieving our vision of creating a fairer society through co-operation.

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Our three-year strategy aims to inspire everyone to become a member of a co-op and every co-op to become a member of Co-operatives UK
– Rose Marley, CEO of Co-operatives UK

This clear aim has two distinctive lines of focus for Co-operatives UK. By stating that we wish to ‘inspire everyone to join a co-op’ we are clearly outlining our need to reach the general public, which is not the traditional model for a trade body. However, the complexities of the world we now live in, the desire to stimulate a deeper understanding of co-operation and the growing prominence of ‘business-to-business-to-consumer’ (B2B2C) models, means this is an important nuance to get right.

The second point is that ‘we want every co-operative to become a member of Co-operatives UK’, which means we need to be relevant to all the different types of co-ops, including our federal members, and setting the standards we expect our members to strive for.

Our exciting new strategy has a focus on empowering young people; enabling tech and digital; leading a new era of co-operation; embedding the values and principles and inspiring communities. These five themes will run through everything we do over the next three years.

    Remote video URL
    The themes of our strategy are outlined in this short video

    Our joint challenge is explaining the relevance of co-operation to the next generation. Earlier this year we commissioned YouGov research that explored some of the issues that 16-to 25-year-olds are concerned about. From mental health to affordable housing and education, lack of control over their working lives, climate change anxiety and worries about personal data – each of these issues has a co-operative answer. We need to align our movement closely with the issues that people care about and lead the way in transforming society for the better. And be seen to be doing so. So that people understand that co-operatives are the businesses that make a significant impact.

    How will we know if we are successful? As so many co-ops told us in our co-op economy survey last year, if you don’t get a blank look when you tell someone you work for a co-op that isn’t a convenience store then we’ve partly done our job!

    Now we’ve set our aim as an organisation, we’re turning our thoughts to engaging the wider co-operative sector to work with us to raise awareness of the co-operative model. Next, we’re consulting with members to define simple, short language that we can all use to explain what a co-op is.

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      We need to align our movement closely with the issues that people care about and lead the way in transforming society for the better.

      That’s why we’ve launched our new strategy with a fresh look and feel. You’ll see that we’re showcasing how the coop marque can be used as a badge or stamp of co-operative credentials, whilst still allowing our organisation to have its own brand identity. We are encouraging more co-ops to follow suit in either fully adopting the coop marque in their branding or as a stamp of accreditation. We think our new branding is vibrant and exciting and it’s been developed to highlight the energy of the sector and reflect our strategic aims.

      We believe this is a proactive approach to competing with the ‘noise’ created by marketeers who want to promote their businesses as ethical and ‘for good’. Although the co-operative movement were literally the pioneers that popularised the idea of ‘business for good’ and the social economy on a worldwide basis, in more recent times we’ve lost our way in effectively communicating the attributes of co-operation in the modern world.

      There’s so much work to do to effectively communicate the attributes of co-operation but we’re enthused we’re on the right track. We want to help you and your co-operative business by doing that initial leg work for you. We are on a mission to enable you, to further empower you and to really demonstrate that co-operative business is what people are looking for. They just don’t necessarily know it’s been on their doorstep all along. Join us on our journey to empower co-operation.

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