Skip to main content

Co-op Congress 2023

Congress landscape graphic

Co-op Congress brings together those working to build a fairer economy to share ideas, get inspiration and take action. This year's event, themed Spirit of Co-operation, boasts a packed programme with dynamic speakers covering the topics that we collectively need to explore.

Co-op Congress - one of the highlights of the co-operative calendar - is taking place at the Mercure Manchester Piccadilly Hotel in Manchester on Friday 16 and Saturday 17 June (2023). Sponsored by The Co-operative Bank for the third consecutive year, we have assembled a brilliant line-up of speakers for the UK's biggest and boldest Movement-wide event.  

Get your tickets

Superb speakers

At Co‑op Congress we inspire and empower. We're covering the biggest topics and have assembled a fantastic line-up of speakers. From keynote speakers to workshops, breakout sessions to panel discussions, there's something for everyone involved in co-operatives and the wider member-owned economy! Speaker highlights include:

  • Andrew Griffith MP, Economic Secretary to the Treasury and City Minister
  • Lisa Nandy MP, Shadow Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities
  • Shirine Khoury-Haq, CEO of Co-op Group
  • Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester
  • Catherine Douglas, Chief People and Sustainability Officer, The Co-operative Bank
  • Tim Davies-Pugh, CEO, Power to Change
  • Bev Craig, Leader of Manchester City Council 
  • Cherylee Houston, Actor and disability campaigner
  • Lord Victor Adebowale, Chair of the NHS Confederation
  • Debbie Robinson, CEO of Central Co-op
  • Sarah Merrick, Chief Executive of Ripple Energy 
  • Rob Harrison, Director, Ethical Consumer
  • Sara Vicari,
  • Dan Sodergren, Great Marketing Works
  • Emma Back, Equal Care Co-op
  • Cheryl Barrott, The Co-operative Guild of Social and Community Workers
  • Blase Lambert, The Confederation of Co-operative Housing 
  • And many more!

The biggest topics:

  • Climate emergency and co-operatives
  • Embracing and vocalising co-operative identity 
  • Principle 6 in action
  • Raising finance
  • Co-operation in social care
  • Community ownership
  • Tech and co-operation
  • and much more content in our main room and fringe sessions
Book your tickets

Detailed breakdown of sessions and speakers 

10.30-10.45: Welcome

Rose Marley, CEO, Co-operatives UK; Catherine Douglas, Chief People and Sustainability Officer, The Co-operative Bank

10.40-11.00: Keynote speech

Andrew Griffith MP, Economic Secretary to the Treasury and City Minister

The Economic Secretary to the Treasury will specifically address how he and his department are acting to develop the co-operative movement in his pre-recorded keynote. 

11.00-11.30: Shirine Khoury-Haq plenary

Shirine Khoury-Haq, CEO, Co-op Group

The CEO of the UK's largest co-operative will deliver a plenary at this year's Co-op Congress.

11.50-12.50: Social care - how to fix a broken market. Could a co-operative pilot across Greater Manchester produce a scalable solution?

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester (Chair); Lord Victor Adebowale, Chair of NHS Foundation; Emma Back, founder of Equal Care Co-op; Paul Gerrard, Co-op Group; and Michele Rashman, domiciliary care service user (via video)

At Co-op Congress 2022, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, alongside Co-operatives UK CEO Rose Marley and Champion of the Fair Care Mark, Cheryl Barrot, invited co-operatives from across the country to shares challenges and opportunities in social care. Delegates will hear about the work that has been undertaken over the past 12 months, including research on worldwide co-operative solutions and the potential for a ground-breaking pilot scheme. Greater Manchester has the greatest devolved powers in the north of England and the second largest Integrated Care Board in the country. Co-operatives disrupt and fix broken markets, so in terms of a social care pilot taking place in Greater Manchester - home to Co-op Group (the UK's biggest co-operative) - the question is 'what are we waiting for?' 

13.50-14.50: Democratising the economy – a plan to take control

Andy Street, Mayor of West Midlands (pre-record); Liz Zeidler, Centre for Thriving Places; Sarah Longlands, Centre for Local Economic Strategies; John Robb (moderator)

Over the next five years, New Economics Foundation, Co-operatives UK, Centre for Local Economic Strategies and Centre for Thriving Places, are working with South Yorkshire Combined Authority, West Midlands Combined Authority and North of Tyne Combined Authority. We will work with local policymakers, communities, civil society and businesses, to embed long-term community-driven agendas for the creation of high-wellbeing and low-carbon economies. Economic democracy is at the heart of our approach. In this session moderator John Robb will explore plans to embed greater control in communities with Sarah Longlands (CLES), Liz Zeidler and Co-operatives UK. Delegates will also hear from Mayor Andy Street about a unique approach to culture and creativity being trialed in the West Midlands.

15.00-16.00: What are co-ops doing to respond to the climate emergency?

Catherine Douglas, Chief People and Sustainability Officer at The Co-operative Bank (Chair); Debbie Robinson, Central Co-op; Sarah Merrick, Ripple Energy; more speakers TBA.

Care for the community, as one of our guiding principles, is built into the DNA of all co-operatives. The climate emergency is arguably the greatest issue facing society and has a growing impact on us all with the need for urgent and immediate collective action. Co-operation is the only way to fight the climate crisis. In fact, our evidence demonstrates that co-operatives are at the forefront of climate action; from retrofit to community energy to the bold zero emission targets of the UK's biggest member-owned businesses. In this session you'll hear how co-operatives are leading the way – but how we can and must do more.

17.00-18.30: Co-operatives UK AGM

Participate in the democracy of Co-operatives UK and ask the questions that matter to you and your co-operative. Find out how to participate in the Co-operatives UK AGM.

18.30-23.00: International Supper – sponsored by Central Co-op

Joins us for a drinks reception (choice of complimentary glass of Prosecco, bottled beer or soft beverage), followed by an International Co-operative Working Group (ICWG) networking supper. The support consists of a two-course international buffet, featuring wine and bottled beer on tables.

Alongside the opportunity to network, you'll hear about the incredible work of the ICWG and Central Co-op in Malawi. We're also delighted to welcome Sara Vicari from who will talk about a new, collaborative film-making project involving UK co-operatives. A range of ticket options, which include attending the International Supper. Click here for more information >>

11.50-12.50 sessions

Showcasing retrofit homes

Tom Nockolds, LocoHomes; Sandy Rushton, People Powered Retrofit; James Wright and Tom Laing, Co-operatives UK 

We'll explore the role co-operation can and is playing in the delivery of retrofit. We are delighted to welcome speakers from Glasgow's Loco Home Retrofit and People Powered Retrofit in Manchester. Attendees will have the opportunity to discuss challenges and opportunities facing co-operatives in the retrofit sector.

Is having a collective, co-operative identity that important?

Emma Laycock, Co-operative UK; Sarah Alldred, The Co-operative College

How well has the international statement on co-operative identity stood the test of time? Following worldwide consultations, this session will cover outcomes, next steps and how, by working together, we can deepen the co-operative Identity. You will be the first to take part in a co-operative identity consultation using a toolkit designed by the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA). The toolkit can be taken away to use with members/colleagues/workers within your own co-operative.

Co-operative media: An altogether different way of making headlines

Rebecca Harvey, Executive Editor, Co-op News (Chair); Rhys Everquill, Managing editor and community coordinator, Great Central Gazette; plus more speakers TBA

What can media look like when journalists are not beholden to politics or corporate shareholders and writers have the freedom and knowledge to cover stories of genuine local interest? How does co-operatively owned media work? This panel will explore how co-op ownership has an altogether different way of addressing three challenges: democracy and media freedom; the decline of relevant, local and expert knowledge; and decent work.

Chaired by Co-op News executive editor, Rebecca Harvey, the session will feature conversations, practical demonstrations and a Q&A with journalists at the frontline of co-op media. How does being in a co-op change the way they cover news? How does it change the way they serve their readers and members? And what are they all doing about AI?


13.50-14.50 sessions

Roundtable on capital raising with HM Treasury

This roundtable will convene HM Treasury officials, co-operatives and finance providers, to explore  ambitions, innovations and challenges for co-operative capital raising. 10 spaces will be available for delegates to join the roundtable discussion. To express interest in joining, email [email protected].

How local councils are growing the cooperative economy

Cllr Louise Gittins, Chair of the Co-operative Councils’ Innovation Network and Leader of Cheshire West & Chester Council; Cllr Mike Stubbs, Vice Chair of CCIN Values & Principles Board and Newcastle-Under-Lyme Borough Councillor; Cllr Matthew Brown, Leader, Preston City Council; and Cllr Ajaz Rehman, Cabinet Member for Inclusive Economies at Oxford City Council

The Co-operative Councils’ Innovation Network (CCIN) is a Network of Councils committed to finding better ways of working for, and with, local people for the benefit of their community using the co-operative values and principles. We have 132 Members and Supporters across the UK and our Members represent 10.5m citizens and control an £18bn budget. Join this session to find out more about what we are doing.

Our Malawi Partnership – Principle Six in action

Charlotte Castille, Central Co-op; Jane Avery, Central Co-op; Dr Sarah Alldred, The Co-operative College

A remarkable initiative that demonstrates what can be achieved when Principle 6 is put into action, this session is all about 'Our Malawi Partnership' and how co-operatives can further strengthen this life-changing collaborative project. Launched during Co-operatives Fortnight 2022 and led by Central Co-op, Our Malawi Partnership creates trading opportunities for Malawian producer co-operatives, while also returning some of the profits back into a cohesive Malawi Development Plan, co-created and implemented by the Co-operative College and Malawi Federation of Co-operatives. 

Central Co-op will lead the workshop with outgoing President, Jane Avery, sharing experiences from her recent visit to Malawi – one of the world’s poorest countries. Charlotte will also talk about the initiative’s aims and progress to date as well as explaining how more co-operatives can participate and strengthen the partnership. UK-based suppliers enables Central Co-op to further expand trading opportunities by sourcing Malawi products. Suppliers including NutCellars, Liberation Nuts, Revolver Co-operative and True Origin will be attending the workshop and on-hand to answer questions and provide sampling opportunities!

10:00-10.15: Welcome

Cllr Bev Craig, Manchester City Council

10.15-11.15: Ownership and place: communities taking control – including keynote

Lisa Nandy, Shadow Secretary of State for Levelling Up; Tim Davies-Pugh, CEO, Power to Change; Lenny Watson, Sister Midnight; Mark Hodson, East Marsh United; Rose Marley, CEO, Co-operatives UK (Chair)

Lisa Nandy MP delivers a keynote speech on her work on investment in communities and the importance of communities. Lisa will join a discussion where two co-operatives talk about how using community shares to raise finance has made a huge difference to their communities.

11.30-12.30: The future of tech, AI and the role of the co-operative movement

Dan Sodergren, Great Marketing Works; Violetta Nafpaktiti, Managing Director, DotCoop; Jen Bird, Founder, Signalise Co-op; plus more TBA.

Technology is moving at breakneck pace. This session begins with a wake up call for the movement about the impact AI will have on our lives – both as businesses and individuals. How can we as a movement not only ready ourselves for this revolution but actively embrace it, with everything from joined up membership schemes to a co-operative digital infrastructure to user-owned and run digital platforms. If we are truly behind Principle 6 then tech and digital must be at the forefront to create a Movement that moves. From provocations to challenges, delegates are asked to arrive with an open mind and a willingness to embrace technology-led change. 

13.30-14.30 Disability and co-ops 

Steve Graby, TypeOlogy; Cherrylee Houston, Actor and disability campaigner; Cheryl Barrott, The Cooperative Guild of Social and Community Workers

14.50-15.50: The spirit of co-operation 

Philip Clayton, Bright Future Co-operative; Shaun Fensom, Cooperative Network Infrastructure; plus more speakers TBA

In this session we will explore modern co‑operation and the impact it is having on individuals, in communities and on the UK economy. Hear inspiring examples of the spirit of co-operation in action.

11.30-12.30 sessions

Community Shares:  What does it take to create a successful share offer and community-owned co-operative?

Alice Wharton, Co-operatives UK; Lenny Watson, Sister Midnight; Mark Hodson, East Marsh United; Makena Lohr, People, Place and Participation (Flo's in the Park)

By embracing their co-operative identity, communities are doing it for themselves using community shares to raise funding. Not only is this type of funding raising millions for community businesses, it's also leveraging in millions more from institutions and government. But it wouldn't be anything without the local people leading the way and running these share offers and businesses. Find out from the people making it happen in live music, housing and community hub spaces.

Great Expectations: Where are the next generation of co-operators coming from?

Molly Newhouse, Young Co-operators Network; Christopher Roseby-Bunce, Suma Wholefoods

Molly lived in a student housing coop and has been involved in Edinburgh Student Housing Co-operative, Students for Co-operation, Student Co-op Homes and now the Young Co-operators Network. Now she’s no longer a student how can she continue to be involved in co-operatives? Buncey had no idea about worker co-ops, but is now part of Suma, the UK’s largest worker co-operative. 

Join us for this interactive session with Molly and Buncey. Hosted by and the Young Co-operators Network, we'll be pooling ideas on how to super-charge worker co-operatives by opening out to younger people. 

Why co-ops should be leading tax justice

Graham Drummond, Fair Tax Foundation; Rob Harrison, Ethical Consumer; Scott Lockwood, Third Sector Accountancy

As ethical businesses, it makes sense that co-operatives should pay the right amount of tax, in the right place, at the right time. In this session we'll take a deep dive into tax justice, including a look into the benefits of responsible tax conduct and the co-operative-pioneered Fair Tax Mark.


13.30-14.30 sessions

How can co-ops capture the buzz of B Corps?

Rob Harrison, Ethical Consumer Magazine; Violetta Nafpaktiti, Managing Director, DotCoop

At a time of great social and political upheaval, how can co-operatives capture the buzz of the B-Corp movement with their own labelling and/or messaging? In this collaborative session we'll also explore whether additional social and environmental assurance be needed to help get the message across - and what these standards might look like?  

Member consultation: Help shape our policy priorities

James Wright, Co-operatives UK

This summer Co-operatives UK will publish a call on political parties to back co-operatives, setting out the sector's priorities. It aims to secure broad backing from our movement. Co-operatives UK members are being invited to comment on and suggest changes to a draft of four policy priorities and wider call on political parties. The result of this consultation will be discussed in this session.

UN Sustainable Development Goals

Blase Lambert, Confederation of Co-operative Housing (CCH)

A workshop on the UN Sustainable Goals and what they mean for your society. In the session, Blase Lambert will focus on the work of the Confederation of Co-operative Housing in creating its Wayshaper SDG toolkit and advice and how this toolkit can be useful to your societies. 


14.50-15.50 sessions

Moving from fragile flowers to flourishing ecosystems: What next for co-operative development? 

Dave Boyle, The Community Shares Company; Mark Simmonds, Co-op Culture; Lenny Watson, Sister Midnight 

To enable healthy and diverse co-operative start-ups, as well as to support the sustainability and growth of existing co-operatives, we need a thriving and supported co-operative development network. What does this look like now and what is the future of co-operative development? What can be done to enable more consistent business support delivery, learning and development opportunities and best practice sharing? Our panellists will each set out their vision, followed by a discussion and Q&A.

Co-operative synergy: Harnessing the spirit of collaboration in Credit Unions

Jo Moscrop, No1 CopperPot Credit Union; Sheenagh Young, Chief Executive of South Manchester CU

Industry experts will explore the theme of "spirit of co-operation" within the context of credit unions. The session aims to delve into the significance of collaboration and collective action in driving the success of credit unions and their ability to meet the evolving needs of their members.

Book your tickets

Interested in exhibiting? 

Take advantage of a fantastic opportunity to put your products and services in front of delegates at Co‑op Congress 2023. Contact [email protected] today to discuss our exhibitor package.

Related content