Skip to main content

Co-operative movement offers hope to next generation

News item

3rd January 2022
Last updated
12th July 2022
Co-operatives UK
InFact Digital are a co-op owned by a group of young ex-freelancers

Some of the top issues occupying the minds of young people have co‑operative solutions claims trade body Co‑operatives UK in a new YouGov survey released today.

Mental health, job security, career prospects, a lack of control over their working lives, climate change and worries about personal data are causing stress in young people, but there are co-operative solutions, says Co-operatives UK CEO Rose Marley.

Two out of three (66%) 16 to 25 year olds feel there are not enough good jobs for young people and 61% believe that the gig economy treats them unfairly. Almost one in three young people have personally experienced, or know a friend that has experienced, a lack of job security (32%), having no control over working life (30%) and poor career prospects (28%), according to the YouGov poll.

“Co-operatives are common in countries such as The Netherlands, Finland and France, which incidentally all rank in the top 10 for child wellbeing and happiness. There are six times as many co-operatives in France than in the UK and 90% of people in Finland are members of a co-operative."

Quote mark
But here in the UK, even though co-ops are worth £40bn to the UK economy, it’s a little-known business secret that can transform the lives of young people and provide hope and solutions at a time when it’s most needed.
– Rose Marley, CEO, Co-operatives UK

“Awareness of the co-operative model is really low among young people; over half could not name a single co-operative*, but two out of three** are looking for an ethical employer who treat customers and staff fairly. It’s time to reintroduce them to the concept of joining co-operatives as a way of having a say in where they work, live and shop," she continues.

Ivan Gonzalez, Lucy King, Max Gerber and Noga Enbar began working as a collective of freelancers after meeting through London’s tech co-op community and formed In Fact Digital Co-op – an agency creating apps, websites and digital tools.

Quote mark
We are convinced that co-op working is the future. We probably didn't ever consider setting up any other way. We wanted to be in control of our own destinies.
– Lucy King, InFact Digital

Wings platform co-op in the Finsbury Park area of London was formed in July 2021 to provide an ethical alternative to existing food delivery apps, giving delivery riders fair pay and conditions.

“I want every rider currently getting a bad deal in the gig economy to eventually have the option of a proper, dignified job with decent pay,” says Rich Mason, co-founder of Wings.

Almost half of young people are worried about how their personal data is used (49%), while 41% are also concerned that technology is being controlled by a few companies or individuals. But again, there is a co-operative way to tackle this.

Platform co-ops are tech platforms owned and controlled by the users and people who provide the services. Whilst co-ops like Open Data Services are dedicated to providing open and transparent data, guided by strong values and ethics, working with organisations including the World Bank.

High street retail co-ops such as The Co-op Group are taking steps to tackle mental health - the top issue worrying young people - with two out of three (68%) having first-hand experience of mental health issues, either through personal experience or knowing a friend with mental health issues. The Co-op’s partnership with Mind has seen them pledge £8m for the mental health charity, with £5.5m raised to date.

Research published in Nature earlier this year revealed that climate anxiety is common in children and young people across the world. Again, it’s an area where the co-operative movement can offer hope. Two thirds of member-owned businesses are taking action to reduce carbon emissions and of those taking action, one in five has published net zero targets.

Quote mark
Young people are at the heart of our new strategy, which focuses on inspiring and supporting the next generation of co-operative members and embracing and influencing the ethical ownership of technology and data to enable a fairer future for us all.
– Rose Marley

“We’re holding a young people’s summit later in the year to help raise awareness of the co-operative solutions available to them. This is the first step in our ambition to encourage more young people to join co-operatives," she adds. 

Data sources

  1. All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2016 UK 16-25 year olds online. Fieldwork was undertaken between 3rd - 12th December 2021.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK 16-25 year olds online.
  2. UNICEF Innocenti Report Card reports on child wellbeing health and happiness (September 2020)
  3. Co-operatives Europe National Report: Finland (September 2020)
  4. Young people’s climate anxiety revealed in landmark survey (Nature September 2021)

*54% of respondents could not name a single co-operative

**66% of respondents said that when thinking about what type of an employer they would like to work for, behaving fairly (ie being ethical to staff and customers) was important to them.

Related content