Blog article

Co-operative communities: your thoughts


Following a suggestion in the Co-operative News and subsequent discussions with a number of people and organisations, Co-operatives UK would like to get your thoughts and feedback on a new initiative - co-operative communities.


What is it?

We see co-operative communities as a self-help initiative, spreading around the country, for local people to promote and benefit from co-operative action.

The overall purpose of the initiative is to promote public recognition and engagement with co-operative enterprise and co-operative action at a local level, by creating a framework for local volunteers to take action.


What is a co-operative community?

Any community can be a co-operative community, whether a neighbourhood, village, town, city or region.

There isn’t a formal set of criteria or assessment process to become a co-operative community. In the independent spirit of co-operatives, each community itself defines what co-operative commitments it wants to achieve and keeps track of how it’s doing.

However, a co-operative community must make co-operative commitments in two different areas:


Co-operative action

A commitment to creating more co-operative action in your local community. Examples could include:

  • Use or distribute ’introduce yourself to neighbour’ cards
  • Street party
  • Clothes swap
  • Street meet up or clean up

Co-operative enterprise

A commitment to supporting and promoting co-operative organisations in your local community. Examples could include:

  • Find out about co-operatives you can use locally
  • A website
  • A Facebook page
  • A directory
  • A flyer
  • Running events

Three steps to a co-operative community

Step 1: Form an action group that will act as the driving force behind the co-operative community, spreading the word and linking and promoting co-operatives locally.

Step 2: Decide on your co-operative commitments and how you will measure their success

Step 3: Register your co-operative community on the Co-operative Communities website

Why not, once a year, see how you’re getting on with your co-operative commitments and look at other things you could do?

An invitation

We are holding a creative planning session on Friday 16 September 11.45 - 14.00 to brainstorm and pin down the tools and resources that will be useful for people starting co-operative communities. If you are interested in attending please contact John Atherton at [email protected]


Update: Summary of online feedback for - Co-operative communities.

There will be roughly 25 people attending the event and we will be asking questions on twitter from @athertonjohn using the #coopcoms please respond if you have the chance as we will be sharing comments in the session.

Feedback so far:


 Searchable list by locations (map) and interest “tags” of: communities / individuals so users can find each other and increase interactions. Preferably based on open standards, or accessible on other sites. There is interest in both geographical and “community of interest” communities.

 List of examples and actual commitments/actions taken be co-operative communities (and the ability to share how well they are being achieved?)

 Content to motivate, engage, share success and learning between existing communities and people wanting to get involved: blogs, news, resources.

 Ideas for resources

 Build on existing Principles 6 events, should focus on business referrals but also: share learning, collaborate local projects: joint ordering (“P6” may be one option of a number of co-operative communities). Create simple clear handbook for how to set up and run a P6 community. Possibly “sponsor” events to seed them for the future.

‘Audit’ tools to help people find out what co-operative activity is already going in their local area.

Practical advice: how to find others, door knocking and arranging first meetings, how to accepts “snubs”, how to collaborate and organise. (Sign-posts to existing community development resources like Locality?)

Ideas to raise awareness

Identify small numbers of communities to pilot (possibly via application process), that act as good examples and pump with resources and use to tell a story so that others follow (they can see it can be successful).


Has to be easy to get involved, clear and relevant to people:

Focus on raising awareness of the beneficial impact of the co-operative model on a community. “What co-operatives are all about, and how to co-operate in practice.

Focus on what money/tangible value can be achieved from involvement? For example; how can poorer people save money by co-operating.

Focus must be on “co-operatives” as opposed to “people doing nice stuff”, should tie strongly in to our “promote, develop and unite” purpose and constantly refer back to this. Be careful not to water down, to just “co-operation”.

Purpose should be to look at how to bring other major resources into play.


To be successful must be grass routes led and satisfy tangible needs

Be specific about what difference will be achieved, how it will be measured and when (preferably SMART).

Co-operatives will go to these meetings if they generate business, but how do we widen the net and involve new people (not just co-op activists).

Ensure this isn't one of these vague touchy feely neighbour, but is rather more focussed on some hard edged business thinking about how we might identify clusters with potential for real development, and resource them appropriately to enable that development to happen.

 Be aware of co-operative deserts (don’t just focus and build for the oasis)

 Don’t supplant Regional co-operative councils but act with them at a more local level.

 Other groups to involve

 Great opportunity to link with councils and in particular “co-operative councils”, consumer co-op local committees, regional co-operative councils, local co-operative development bodes, Young peoples groups, tenants and residents associations.        

Written by John Atherton
Updated: 14/09/2011