It was a real pleasure to share the ideas of the New Citizenship Project at the Practitioners Forum this year, writes Jon Alexander. We are huge fans of the co-operative movement, and keen to do whatever we can to be part of the new golden age we firmly believe is possible.
With that in mind, my contribution - off the back of a collaborative innovation project we’ve been running with Lincolnshire Co-op, Phone Co-op, Co-op Group and Nationwide - was to challenge the gathered practitioners to think about 'participation' not just as lots of consumers engaging lightly through economic participation (buying stuff), while a small core engage deeply through 'governance participation' (the democratic process); but to seek also to develop what we call 'everyday participation'.
This is all about giving the people who shop in co-operative stores, or who join co-operative societies of any sort, more - and more creative - ways to participate in our work in the world on a day-to-day basis. The example of Brewdog is one we at New Citizenship believe every co-op should be looking at. Brewdog is not a co-operative, but from effectively inventing equity crowdfunding, to the Cicerone course training people to be beer experts, to open-sourcing their recipes, to the 6000-attendee AGMs, to building bars where their 'Equity Punks' are, this is truly a business harnessing everyday participation. The result is huge commercial benefit, with Brewdog the only company to rank in Britain’s 100 fastest growing for the last five years running.
This is the kind of success we believe the cooperative movement deserves, and we want to help that happen. We’re working with Co-operatives UK on how best to share our broader findings and ideas in the most useful way possible - so watch this space or get in touch at [email protected].
Jon Alexander is co-founder of the New Citizenship Project (NCP) and led a session on 'the power of everyday participation' at the 2017 Practitioners Forum. Jon's presentation can be viewed here. The NCP "is a social innovation lab, established in 2014 to help catalyse the shift to a more participatory society". Founded by Jon and Irene Ekkeshis it uses "creative strategy to promote the role of the citizen and encourage better participation in society".