Vote in the Co-op of the Year Awards
Voting is now open in the co-op sector’s annual awards - which celebrate the achievements of co‑operators and co‑operative organisations across the UK.
Co-op of the Year shortlist
We have three award categories for co-ops, one co-op council award and a number of awards for individuals who embody the co-op values and/or have made a significant contribution to the UK co-operative movement.
The individual awards were selected by a panel of judges made up of representatives from Co‑operatives UK members. And YOU have the chance to choose the winning co-ops and co-op council!
Read about the wonderful co-ops and co-op councils on our shortlist and vote for your favourites.
Central England Co-operative is a successful community-based co-operative employing 7,800 people across over 430 outlets with over 165,000 active members. Its purpose is to inspire communities to create a sustainable Society for all; a strong and successful Society that is invested in protecting the environment and the wellbeing of its colleagues, members, and customers.
During the pandemic, protecting and supporting the Society's colleagues and communities has been its number one focus, not only through immediate safety measures but through eco-friendly home delivery and new channels to make funeral arrangements.
As a statement of inclusivity, the Society signed the Business in the Community (BITC) Race at Work Charter and is rolling out plans for more diverse products and services, including accessible toilets and baby change and greater member benefits for all. From an environmentally sustainable perspective, the Society has outlined ambitious plans to be carbon neutral by 2030 and is the only food retailer to achieve the Carbon Trust triple standard three years in a row.
Its work with FareShare Midlands and food banks over the past seven years has seen enough food donated to create over 2.1 million meals per year. Its trading success enabled it to give out Community Dividend grants worth £175,000 to 116 groups and support for its corporate charity Dementia UK topped £1.5 million
It continues to regenerate its food stores to provide everything customers need from goods, essentials and services to vital amenities such as free water refills, baby changing facilities and bike repair stations.
The Heart of England Co-operative Society enjoyed a highly successful 2020, with a 20% increase in turnover during a very difficult year.
The Society invested £4.3 million of profits back into the business. Its revamped membership scheme, launched at the start of 2020, saw twice the amount of member benefits than in 2019.
The retailer also invested in PPE, store modifications and an employee assistance programme, ensuring the wellbeing of staff throughout the pandemic.
The Society pledged £63,000 to worthy causes, including £25,000 to relieve food poverty, and generated a further £17,500 for its corporate charity, Alzheimer’s Society.
Colleagues received £20 weekly rewards over nine weeks during the height of the pandemic, and £15 weekly during the second wave.
The existing staff discount was sometimes doubled and staff received £5 daily lunch allowances and additional bonus payments, also during the height of the pandemic.
The Society partnered with Fareshare, while its own [email protected] scheme allowed local producers affected by hotel and restaurant closures to sell their goods to shoppers.
The Society invested £100,000 in Student Co-operative Homes and £10,000 in Co-operative and Community Finance.
Our thoughtful teams saved high-demand items like hand sanitiser and toilet roll for elderly and vulnerable customers. They used social media to keep customers updated on product availability and busy or quiet times in-store.
Over Christmas staff promoted specific goods including locally-sourced cakes, being sold in aid of local foodbanks, hospitals and NHS Charities Together. Many donated from their own pockets to the same causes.
The Midcounties Co-operative has continued to show leadership across the Co-op movement, in particularly to its response to two unprecedented events - Covid as well as Brexit.
Uniquely in the UK, this leadership and response has had to span not just one or two but six unique trading sectors - all with their own specific challenges, and sometimes daily changing legislative requirements. Midcounties has achieved this whilst ensuring that the Society continued to protect and serve their colleagues, members and the communities in which they trade.
During the last year Midcounties mobilised more than 1,000 volunteers and 100 community groups to make over 100,000 home deliveries to support vulnerable members. Furthermore, their Foodbank Fund generated donations of £50,000 to support 70 foodbank partners, and their Community Restart Fund provided over £70,000 to help 36 charity partners rebuild following the Covid-19 crisis. During the pandemic the Society also actively grew their local supplier base to support local businesses in crisis, increasing their number of local suppliers to 200 by the end of 2020.
The Society’s activities have been widely recognised both within and outside of the Co-operative movement. Case studies of the Society's approach during the past year have been featured and celebrated by many including the ICA & CBI.
As a result of the Society’s co-operative response to the pandemic Midcounties was named Business of the Year and won the Social Sustainability & Community Development category at the edie Sustainability Leaders Awards – one of the UK’s biggest social sustainability awards.
Inspiring Co-op of the Year
This award is for co-ops with a turnover of between £1m and £30 million. The 2019 winner was The Schools' Energy Co-op.
The Active Wellbeing Society (TAWS) is a Birmingham-based community benefit society and co-operative which work with communities in areas of high deprivation to tackle inequality and promote wellbeing. Ordinarily focused on supporting communities to be more physically, socially and civically active, their work changed overnight in March 2020 when the first national lockdown was announced. As supermarket shelves emptied and services shut their doors, many were concerned about the devastating impact Covid-19 would have on vulnerable communities.
In Birmingham, where 40% of people live in the top 10% most deprived households nationally, poverty was already a significant issue. The pandemic exposed and exacerbated levels of inequality, and TAWS have turned their work to help meet the changing needs of our communities. In less than one week it established a community-led food distribution network, involving mutual aid groups, faith groups and community organisations that has grown to include over 80 partners and over 500 volunteers.
Working collaboratively, TAWS set up a distribution hub in the city (initially at a community centre and later, a Students Union), where they distributed over 750 tonnes of surplus food, via 140,000 food parcels (averaging 7,000 a week). A parcel recipient said: ˜You've been reliably like clockwork providing me with food parcels for the last 3 months @TAWSociety. Thank you for keeping me alive. I feel valued by my fellow citizens in Birmingham." TAWS has united the voluntary sector across Birmingham through this network, embodying co-operative principles and working together to tackle inequality and meet need.
Co-Pilot Wind Project Ltd has enthused over 700 members from across the UK who are passionate about generating their own clean renewable energy from a wind farm and having it supplied to them via the national grid. It means that anyone, whether they own their own home or rent - or can't afford the up-front cost of rooftop solar - can decarbonise their home with their own green power from as little as £25.
Together, the Co-Pilot members have committed £1.5m, and the society has secured funding from the Welsh Government to enable the project to enter construction and keep the share offer open. The turbine will start generating power in December (2021) and from that point about £75,000 per annum of the turbine's revenue will be channelled via charity partners to address fuel poverty in south Wales.
Co-Pilot is the only energy generating society to be registered by the FCA as a co-operative under current legislation, because it is the first to create a genuine trading relationship between its members and the generating asset. As the membership is highly distributed, all communication is digital through regular email updates, members' dashboard and webinars. This enables all members to participate actively in the society. A recent webinar had 15% of members attend and 13% viewed the recording on YouTube within 24 hours. This innovative co-operative is set to disrupt the energy market, paving the way for fairer and more affordable access to green power for everyone.
The Developer Society (DEV) is a non-profit co-op digital agency helping charities and NGOs (non-governmental organisations) build the technology they need to change the world. With a mix of strategists, designers, and software developers, it is helping groups such as Help Refugees/Choose Love to raise millions of pounds online to support refugees and migrants across the world, Oxfam International to mobilise millions of people to end poverty, and Samaritans to launch their first self-help app, delivering vital mental health support to tens of thousands of people in crisis during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The Developer Society has used its unique skills and experience in the tech for good sector to help hundreds of leading nonprofits deliver on their missions. The co-operative is part of a growing movement of ethical tech organisations in the UK, showing that cutting edge technology can be created in a fair, ethical, and sustainable way. As the rapid growth of the tech sector and the gig economy drives further inequality, The Developer Society is showing that not only is their an equitable, co-operative way for tech companies to organise, they can also use their skills and expertise to create positive change in the world.
Essential Trading has been a pioneering and inspirational force for 50-years, from humble beginnings when few appreciated vegetarian, vegan, organic, sustainable and free-from produce. Sharing and promoting a passion for healthy, hearty wholefoods and conscious living, Essential Trading has been a lifeline during the Covid-19 pandemic. When supermarkets ran out of products Essential Trading provided much-needed goods to customers throughout the UK.
To satisfy social distancing, Essential Trading adopted split shifts in the warehouse - starting at 5am! Other departments helped pick orders and drivers revised deliveries, demonstrating its 'all in it together' co-op mentality. With 'helping' in its very nature, Essential Trading has donated nearly three tonnes of produce to FareShare South West since November 2020. The co-op is also the primary sponsor of a council-led sustainable food campaign.
Essential Trading promotes bulk buying and has a history of developing and delivering to 'community collectives' who purchase in larger quantities to, reduce food miles, waste and pollution. The co-operative further demonstrates its environmental credentials by importing by sea, never airfreight. In addition, power from its solar panels saves approximately 20-tonnes of Co2 emissions annually. Finally, Essential Trading has a proud history of providing equal opportunity to all.
Greencity Wholefoods has been incredible at keeping the show on the road during Covid-19, working round the clock to ensure supply of essential wholefoods and household goods to hundreds of small independent businesses and co-ops across the country. While big corporate wholesalers were being accused of shifting priorities, especially at the beginning of the pandemic, Greencity stuck to its co-operative values.
The commitment and determination from its worker-owners ensured that hundreds of small retailers - often in rural areas and of critical value to their communities - received vital support. An inspiration when it comes to hard work, dedication and pure commitment to co-operative values and principles in everything they do, may businesses wouldn't now be trading without them. The Glasgow-based worker co-operative also uses its platforms to promote small businesses, both at the supplier and retail end.
Greencity plays an active role within the worker co-ops group and over the last three years has been a key driver in developing the new network of Scottish co-ops; hosting meetings, spreading the word and facilitating the establishment of a new online community forum.
Small Co-op of the Year: Worker
This award is for worker co‑ops (owned and controlled by their workers) with a turnover of up to £1 million,
Beyond Psychology thought that a name change would be the biggest thing to happen in its fourth 4th year. Instead, the worker-owned co-operative needed to adapt its service delivery model overnight to continue to support the adopted and looked after children and families it supports. Due to early life trauma, the young people Beyond Psychology supports are more likely to feel the impact of lockdown, so pressing pause wasn't an option.
Beyond Psychology took its sessions from therapy rooms to country parks for 'walk and talks' with the teenagers it work with; round campfires in a farmer's field for younger families; and online video sessions supporting the parents and carers holding everything together. Crucially, it also the maintained its high standards in line with the British Psychological Society.
Despite - or perhaps because of - a near continuous lockdown in Manchester, Beyond Pyschology managed to develop an effective self-help method - The 4Ds of Dealing with Distress. Since January 2021 it has delivered this 90-minute workshop to nearly 1000 people in the North West, all of whom work in schools or hold mental health support roles. Beyond Pyschology has continued its work with a number of schools, helping developing their Whole School Approach with expertise in attachment and developmental trauma. Importantly, Beyond Pyschology has also gone beyond for its worker members with daily team check-ins, free therapy sessions and flexible working around childcare commitments.
Loaf is a co-operative-run bakery and cookery school based in Stirchley, South Birmingham. Its cookery school has been closed during the Covid-19 pandemic, but the worker co-operative has still been baking bread and donating thousands of loaves to communities and groups across the city to support those most in need. These include incredibly generous bread donations to community benefit society and co-operative, The Active Wellbeing Society, which supports people with no recourse to public funds and those currently in temporary accommodation. This co-operative partnership has been essential in providing people in temporary accommodation with bread during a time when access to fresh produce has been limited.
Loaf has often gone above and beyond, even baking bread when closed to ensure there was sufficient supply to send out. There are nine members of Loaf, all of whom are Directors and have an equal say in decision-making. The worker members actively bake extra produce to donate to foodbanks, charities and community groups, including city-wide surplus food re-distributor, Incredible Surplus.
All produce is locally and ethically sourced, including staple ingredients which are bought from co-operative Suma Wholesale. Loaf is a prime example of a co-operative that has adapted its activities during the pandemic and has worked in solidarity with other co-operatives, making a real difference to people's lives particularly those who have been really struggling really during the crisis.
Preston Larder is much more than a cafe, food outlet or cooking school. It launched an immediate and extraordinary response to Covid-19 in March 2020 - extraordinary both in terms of speed and reach. Preston Larder is always able to adapt incredibly quickly fast - depending on community need. It's one of those terrific responder co-ops that is ever-relevant. The worker co-operative is also right at the heart of the Preston Model initiative with food security for all as one it's prime missions.
Preston Larder recently introduced a cookery programme for 120 families over the summer holidays; provide nutritious meals for those in need, along with a long-term recovery strategy which aims to create community food independence and empowerment. It has expanded its online resources and works with local government and the Syrian Resettlement Programme to support people who are even more vulnerable since the crisis hit.
The co-operative's larder of projects include Kids Cooking Club, Preston Cook-Along, Food Academy, Preston Larder Cafe.. the list goes on. Preston Larder has demonstrated and is demonstrating the difference being a co-operative means. It is radical, rewarding and necessary for the sort of society we now find ourselves in.
The Media Coop helps spread the word about co-ops every time it takes on a project - and has won more than 20 awards! In recent times Media Coop has produced the Co-op Fortnight video campaign, highlighting the positives that the co-op movement brings to society. Media Coop has also attended events at fellow worker co-op Greencity Wholefoods; recording and editing these events without payment - just trying to spread the word about coops.
Much of the work the Glasgow-based co-operative does is based around social change, working with third sector organisations and social enterprises to help create a fairer society. Media Coop is passionate about its local community and has established a strong presence in the Gaelic community by promoting the language. It has also put together campaigns on abuse, economic inequality, human rights and have tried to break down stereotypes often used in mainstream society.
Greencity Wholefoods' Craig McCormack said: "One of my favourite things about The Media Coop is they offer training to help others and you can see throughout their work how they introduce children into film, media and animation. Giving many the confidence and belief that they have a strong future and can do whatever they want. I feel really lucky to have these people in Glasgow."
The journey of Coffee Cranks Co-operative began at Levenshulme Market a number of years ago. Their coffee trike inspired me to get myself a cargo bike which I had never considered before! When I lived in Levy I used to go to the market every weekend to get a brew from them and when I managed to buy a house in Whalley Range in 2017 Coffee Cranks took over the cafe in Alexandra Park and became my local cafe! They've changed lives of many local residents including myself.
With friendly and helpful worker-owners, Coffee Cranks' cafe boasts a great selection of food that considers different ethnic groups that live in the area as well as the environment (with a vegetarian and vegan menu). The worker co-operative stages a variety of events; most of them free and some of them donation based. Coffee Cranks activities enhance the lives of people living in Whalley Range, Moss Side, Hulme and further afield.
As one patron said: "It's good to know that when you go for a walk in one of the most beautiful parks in Manchester you can stop and grab a coffee from a cafe that's not focused on making money only. They deserve all the best!"
Across the last decade Transition by Design (TbD) has set its sights on being the leading practice for citizen-led low-carbon architectural design. Combining skills in the built environment professions with research and community organising, they place social and environmental value at the heart of projects, whilst developing trusted relationships that foster connected, and thriving, communities of practice.
TbD's projects bridge scales, from the highest standards of low carbon household retrofit, through to co-operative affordable housing schemes and running large-scale community engagement processes such as on the redevelopment of Oxford's Covered Market. However, the unusual part of their co-operative approach is that they spin off projects in support of their core mission, to solve collective problems which arise for citizens and purpose-driven organisations in Oxfordshire. When Tbd needed a new office, it led on setting up a non-profit workspace enterprise, Makespace, which has just secured £1.9m to convert 50 properties. The co-operative obtained grant funding to found a sub-regional hub for community-led housing and took over an empty shop to set up a public living room for engagement around homelessness.
TbD deserve to be recognised for its breakthroughs in collaboration, not just looking at their own organisation's successes but the impactful partnerships forged along the way. Oxford's Co-operative Champion, Councillor Richard Howlett, said: "TbD's impact extends far beyond the modest size of their team and really shows that a dedicated group with a persuasive vision can meaningfully-influence complex problems like housing and homelessness."
Small Co-op of the Year: Community
This award is for co-ops, with a turnover of up to £1 million, that are owned by their community.
Since 2010, members have been working together, collectively, to restore the derelict Bridgend Farmhouse into a community hub. After an enormous amount of community development and volunteer engagement, that vision is now reality. Following a successful campaign to gain community ownership of the land in 2015, the community has worked together to create a beautifully restored farmhouse with small homely and welcoming spaces - training kitchen, cafe and accessible upstairs events space, four workshops - all hives of activity, which opened in March 2018.
The organisation converted in 2018 to become a community benefit society, with a community share issue where 405 members became shared owners. Volunteers and members decide and often lead activities. Co-operative democratic structures are nurtured, with various monthly sub-groups and volunteers forum, and bi-annual members meetings. Many of these continued online during the Covid-19 pandemic when the hub and local community sprung into action, providing over 75,000 meals, 14 bikes for key workers, regular free bike repair, weekly phone welfare calls, a local mutual support group, online classes, and more.
Through its acttivitiees during the pandemic, the society reached numerous new people and developed many new partnerships. Bridgend Farmhouse recently completed a community action research project with local volunteers, consulting over 400 local households about their experiences and ideas to improve life in their community. Over the last two years community members have also been working together to design and build their own eco-bothy on site, made of sustainable materials and techniques.
The Globe has operated a venue throughout the pandemic, providing income for musicians, employment for staff and joy for isolated people. The Newcastle venue broadcasts 15 events a month covering jazz, folk, rock, and classical. Performers and technicians work in a covid-secure environment to deliver high-quality live-streams. These have been enjoyed by thousands and raised over £40,000 for musicians.
In 2014 The Globe was a failing pub before a successful community share issue created the UK's first co-operatively-owned music venue and education centre. Surprisingly, 2020 was the co-op's best year for delivering its objectives, engaging with the community, and involving members and volunteers. When lockdown started, the co-op invited its supporters to shape the future of The Globe. The incredibly positive response included donations, investment and volunteer help.
There was a strong desire to provide live music as soon as possible and to make the venue covid-safe. The co-op worked with musicians to develop live-streaming and soon decided this was the way forward. The Globe was refurbished and new equipment installed by volunteers, with funding from Power to Change and the Culture Recovery Fund. Gigs in autumn 2020 were performed to socially-distanced audiences in The Globe, while being live-streamed worldwide. This innovative live-stream/in-venue hybrid allows those in the venue to see musicians in an intimate but safe environment, while those who prefer not to travel receive as closest possible online experience to a live gig.
From the ashes of high street devastation, a local community group took control of managing a once great market place. Down on its knees with six loyal traders barely keeping the lights on, the volunteer group created a co-op not to just reignite the market's potential, but also to rebuild the high street and bring together the communities it serves.
The team of volunteer directors refurbished the market, recruited traders, created a growing retail scene and developed a night time offer and more importantly, created belief in the town centre. This has been a very testing year for the Greater Manchester co-op, but it keeps growing from strength to strength on the back of the buy-in from the community and is even now creating a 'Market 2 You' offer to connect with isolated parts of the community and complete their shopping and have a chat.
Radcliffe Market truly is a special organisation and worthy of an award.
YnNi Teg is a Welsh community energy project with a 900kW wind turbine near Carmarthen in south Wales. The society raised £250,000 through a community share offer and is expecting to generate enough electricity for about 650 homes. Its mission is to help Wales develop a clean energy future; mitigating climate change by installing renewable energy generation - and to do this in a fair and democratic way by spreading the ownership and benefits across the community rather than concentrated in the hands of the few.
YnNi Teg set up a local community fund aimed specifically at the people living closest to the turbine. The society has already put an initial lump sum of £15,000 into the fund, which will be followed by £2,000 every year for the next 19 years. This will be spent in consultation with the local community. Some of the community benefit fund has been used to support the local foodbank as a response to Covid-19.
Meidrim Primary School was given £10,250 to create a new outdoor activity area including a mud kitchen area, performance area and willow areas for creating willow dens. More work is planned including an assault trail, picnic benches and a creative/musical area. The Foundation Phase area in the playground has also been made more secure with a new creative and artistic wooden fence.
Sutton Community Farm is a community-owned seven acre smallholding which started in 2010 in response to a community need to increase access to fresh, healthy, sustainable food in south London. It provides locally grown produce, as well as events, workshops and a shared space for people to cultivate skills, get exercise and make new friends. With help from the local community, the farm grows vegetables that are sold via a veg box scheme to around 300 customers a week. Unusually for a scheme of this kind, half the vegetables in the boxes are grown on the farm, making it London's most productive veg box scheme.
In 2020, the farm produced 17 tonnes of vegetables! During the pandemic it stopped supplying restaurants when they closed during the lockdowns. All veg now goes into the vegboxes, with a 75% increase in retail sales (for home delivery). The farm had to change all on-site processes to be covid secure to keep their volunteers safe. The community rallied round - offering skills, time and lending equipment to help with sudden spike in demand.
Sutton Community Farm is a great example of the power of co-operation. The society helped get fresh veg to people who could not leave their homes, especially when food was in short supply during panic buying of the first lockdown. And through its army of volunteers and members it is providing a lifeline of social contact and a way to keep active outdoors when isolation and loneliness are a real issue due to social distancing restrictions
Small Co-op of the Year: Multi-stakeholder
Multi-stakeholder co-ops have members that cover more than one group of people (eg workers, customers, suppliers, their community). This award is for multi-stakeholder co-ops with a turnover of up to £1 million.
Co-op News deserve this recognition because, despite the challenges thrown at the co-op movement and print media in general, Co-op News has been there every step of the way for the last 150 years to inform, educate and entertain co-operators and co-operatives. It tells stories that otherwise wouldn't be told and fills a really important information gap for those wanting to find out more about what is happening in the big wide world of co-operation.
Co-op News is based in the UK but is a global hub, connecting, championing and challenging co-ops of all shapes and sizes, in every sector. Throughout the recession, covid and Brexit - as well as individual challenges facing its members (who are both organisations and individual people) - the team has continued to produce high-quality specialist journalism, grow the organisation and start to diversify into design and other aspects of communication work. Turnover may only qualify them for the 'small multi-stakeholder' category, but it does inspiring work - and is a true leader in its field.
Tamar Grow Local provides helps local people grow their own food, including allotments and community orchards and runs local markets, a food hub and an equipment bank. During the first lockdown people quickly turned to local food and their food hub website provided by Open Food Network (OFN) crashed. The phones started ringing with worried customers and they had a 500% increase on February's orders. Turnover was more in one week than for the whole of December! And then wonderful things happened. Friends and members of the community offered to help. Volunteers manned the phones, packed veg bags and delivered food, with support from town councils and even Plymouth Raiders basketball team.
Messages of support flooded in with people saying that they looked forward to their Friday delivery so much. Bottles of wine, face masks and pictures were left on doorsteps. One of the hardest things was organising customers and making the difficult decision to create a priority list for customers. One week they were only able to open for 15 minutes before they reached capacity. Developers all over the world started working on improving the Open Food Network's performance and now they have a really quick shopping platform. Tamar Growers online Farmer's Market has tripled in size since last March resulting in a move to bigger premises to make the workplace Covid secure and deal with increased demand. They've also taken on more staff. Read more https://tamargrowlocal.org/tamar-valley-food-hubs-covid-19-the-country-…
Co-operative Council of the Year
Won in 2019 by South Tyneside Council, this recognises best practice as demonstrated by co-operative local authorities and also celebrates the great work delivered at a local level.
This award is sponsored by CCIN, the Co-operative Councils' Innovation Network. The award is open to any Council Member of the CCIN which has not previously won this award.
Cheshire West and Chester Council use co-operative approaches to help build greener, fairer and stronger communities with a council plan that focuses not just on the council, but how communities can play their part. Declaring a climate emergency, the council held a conference and public evidence session to define the way forward. An advisory panel of partner organisations and local environmental groups met monthly to consider key themes - such as industry and transport - and develop and challenge the action plan for a carbon zero borough by 2045.
Following two Poverty Truth Commissions and the impact of COVID, the council declared a poverty emergency. A Poverty Advisory Board of local people with lived experience of poverty advises and challenges the Council on mainstreaming consideration of poverty across all its services, as well as developing a tackling poverty strategy. Throughout the pandemic the council worked with local communities to safeguard people, matching volunteers with requests for help and joining with the Westminster Foundation and Cheshire West Voluntary Action to create a community response fund that support local initiatives.
The council is engaging with communities in new way; co-opting six partners onto their outbreak management board, webcasting the meetings and taking public questions. It has developed a network of 350 community champions to share trusted messages whilst feeding back local issues and concerns. The council has brought waste collection back in-house through an arms-length company managed through co-operative principles with active ownership and involvement from residents and staff. In 2020 it topped the Eunomia UK Recycling Carbon Index.
Kirklees Council looks back at 12 months of Coviid-19 with great sadness - remembering those we've lost - but also great pride at what has been achieved together. Never has its co-operative values been more important and impactful. Kirklees' fight against Covid-19 is a shared one: co-operation with incredible networks of fast-acting partners and residents meant together to do everything to protect and care for people, support businesses, schools and more.
The council's Mutual Aid Groups supported the needs of local people and shared knowledge, building mutually trusting relationships. Its new food network brought together the surge of organisations helping their local communities access food. Frontline workers helped keep Kirklees running, while many others were redeployed alongside local volunteers and community groups. Businesses got involved, leading village mutual aid responses, becoming community anchors, making PPE and hand sanitiser.
Kirklees' voluntary and community sector took on challenges like never before. Ward councillors championed their communities and shared local budgets based on residents' needs. Faith leaders engaged their congregations, building awareness and mobilising people to serve their neighbours, as well as hosting pop-up vaccination centres. The council faced every challenge thrown at it - community testing, the vaccine rollout, supporting people shieding - in many different places but as one Kirklees team. Kirklees' recovery has inclusion at its heart, as it tackles the inequalities the pandemic has bluntly highlighted. The relationships forged and strengthened this year will help tackle what comes next together, with no one left behind.
Rochdale is the birthplace of co-operation. That legacy was alive and thriving before Covid-19, but the pandemic has accelerated the pace of change - helping the council to develop an approach fit for the future. Rochdale's two-year "'Good Help' project is changing the way people are supported. The co-designed approach is all about getting people to help themselves by having the right conversations - giving them the confidence to take actions to improve their lives.
The borough's Community Health Champions (a team of volunteers supported by our Living Well service) were already using Good Help methods to prevent health inequalities before the pandemic. During Covid-19 their approach to working with neighbourhoods has been invaluable. It has seen 483 people take a vaccine that otherwise wouldn't have done. The council has proactively enabled, empowered and funded our third sector to respond to the pandemic. Separate foodbanks and pantries were rapidly brought together with a borough-wide Community Warehouse and Food Solutions Network.
Rochdale Council's VCFSE infrastructure organisation, Action Together, co-ordinated over 20 VCFSE organisations and statutory partners to ensure essential supplies, economic, health and wellbeing support were there for everyone in need. To tackle isolation and exclusion, the council and other anchors funded a consortium of grassroots organisations to establish a Digital Library to loan out technology items. Rochdale Council is passionate about working with community groups to improve lives, with examples too numerous to mention, ranging from community led housing, to setting up a hub for cooperative businesses. It believes collaboration is the key to a better future
Co-operative values underpin how Telford and Wrekin Council works for and in partnership with their local community. They live their vision of 'protect, care and invest' to create a better borough. These values drove the council's response to the Covid-19 pandemic which saw them: Step in to support 22,000 plus households with vulnerable residents; recruit and engage 1,100 plus volunteers; and work in partnership with 80 plus community groups.
The council has taken a partnership approach to tackling the climate emergency. A 2019 council resolution recognised the emergency and set a target for the organisation to be carbon neutral by 2020 with a similar aspiration for the borough. To drive this, the council established a Climate Partnership bringing together 33 local organisations to share knowledge and expertise which is already delivering change. Community-based partnership working is not just about emergencies. The council has a strong track record of supporting the development of community groups.
Telford and Wrekin Council's Capacity Building Fund provides 'get started' and 'develop' grants to community groups, to enable them to nurture resilient communities. Co-operative values underpin how the Council delivers its services every day. Social prescribing is core to the support the council provides to vulnerable adults. This means they can access non-clinical support through community groups in their neighbourhood - many of these groups have benefitted from the Council's Capacity Building Fund grants. It is for these reasons that Telford & Wrekin is an exemplar of what it means to be a co-operative council.
Committed to being co-operative, Torbay Council has facilitated the Torbay Food Alliance - a consortium of 12 food banks and community voluntary organisations as a response to the pandemic. The Alliance united around a common goal: to ensure no-one in Torbay goes hungry during the crisis. It brought together community food resources and fundraising efforts, providing co-ordinated support to people who struggled to access food, helping the poorest and most vulnerable in Torbay.
Building on this approach, the council is now co-operatively developing a strategic food partnership for Torbay, which will take a long-term collaborative approach - creating a resilient local food system. It will tackle food system issues and collaborate to explore creative, innovative solutions to establish a vibrant resilient food system, where good, healthy and sustainable food is available to all. The food partnership is multi-sector, with a systems approach that involves and connects key actors across all parts of the food system.
Torbay Council will take a strategic and co-operative approach to good food governance, with the following priorities: tackling food poverty, diet-related ill-health and access to affordable healthy food; prioritising the immediate issue of school holidays; supporting the creation of a vibrant, prosperous and diverse sustainable food economy; tackling the climate emergency through an end to food waste; and building public awareness, active food citizenship and a local good food movement. These example of Torbay Council's co-operative approach embody how it is committed to the principles of co-operation, social responsibility, solidarity and equality.
Co-operator of the Year
This award recognises inspirational UK-based co-operators who embody the co-operative values and principles and/or who have helped to shape the co-operative movement.
The winners will be chosen by our panel of judges, with several awards presented online in July.