The chief executive of The Co-operative Group, a director of the social care co-op Leading Lives and the head of Co-operative Energy joined politicians and policy makers at a roundtable on 2 July (2015) to launch a new book outlining 50 co-operative innovations to boost the British economy.
Edited by Ed Mayo, secretary general of Co-operatives UK, the network for Britain’s co-operative businesses, the book – the Co-operative Advantage – is based on three years of research and analyses growth sectors around which economic co-operation offers a competitive advantage.
You can order a hard copy of the book direct from Cooperatives UK. Members receive one third off the cover price.
The potential innovations dovetail with emerging trends in technology and markets and range from social co-operatives, where staff and users run care services together, to data co-ops giving people control over data about them and a freelancers’ union for the growing numbers of self-employed people.
Speaking at the launch, John Penrose, Parliamentary Secretary to the Cabinet Office, said: “Co-operatives and mutuals are an important and valuable, but sometimes overlooked part of the economy. This book helps to sketch out the exciting potential of the mutual sector.”
Jonathan Reynolds, shadow minister for the Department of Energy and Climate Change echoed the sentiment. He said: "Features of co-operatives like employee and consumer control are not just good business ideas, but practical too. The ideas in this book are surely the future of the co-operative movement.”
Steve Baker MP, who hosted the book launch, expressed his support for co-operatives, highlighting the potential the strengths of the co-operative model in challenging sectors like social care. He added: “Co-operatives are about ownership - and a vital part of our economy.”
"Co-operatives are about ownership and a vital part of our economy.” Steve Baker MP
Richard Pennycook presented on where the Co-operative Group has disrupted markets through the introduction of new lines, like Fairtrade, whilst Ramsay Dunning of Co-operative Energy focused on how, unlike competitors in the industry, being customer-owned makes it accountable. Milly Gaskin of worker owned Leading Lives stressed that moving to a worker owned business has boosted entrepreneurialism amongst its 500 workers, cutting costs and developing new lines of business.
“There is an ownership agenda here,” said Ed Mayo, summing up the day. “When business ownership is shared through co-operative and mutual businesses, people have a stake in their success. It changes how people feel about the business. Beauty is in the eye of the owner.”
The Co-operative Advantage roundtable took place on 1 July in Westminster, attended by MPs, policy influencers and co-operative business leaders.