Nine proposals for growing the UK co‑operative sector

At this year’s Congress,180 people from across the UK’s diverse co‑operative sector came together and prioritised nine proposals for growing the UK co‑operative sector.

They will form the building blocks for a new National Co‑operative Development Strategy to prioritise where the sector focuses its energies in order to develop and grow the UK’s co‑operatives over the coming years.

Participants focused on identifying the issues and solutions in three areas:

  • How can we support existing co‑operatives to be excellent?
  • How can we encourage co‑operation among co‑operatives?
  • How we can ensure co‑operatives are open to innovation?

Over the course of the day there was passionate debate and expert insight from people involved in co‑ops of all kinds – from the leaders of our largest co‑operative retailers to housing activists and business development specialists. You can see all the flipcharts with all issues discussed and ideas generated at the event on excellence, co‑operation and innovation.

Participants were asked, for the final session of the day, to identify the most desirable and the most achievable of these, and we have used this to determine the big three issues and most desirable and achievable solutions for each of the areas of focus, below.

Be excellent

Issue Idea
Complexity of movement Equip those who work in coops to be champions for their co‑op 
Defining and measuring excellence Be clear as a co‑op on what success looks like
Why be a member? Engage co‑op members and be led by their needs

Co‑operate with like‑minded businesses

Issue Idea

Lack of connections

Make it easier for co‑ops do more business together
Communication Work together on marketing to make co‑ops a natural business form
Support Make opportunities for co‑operation in the supply chain

Be open to innovation

Issue Idea
Public policy and governance Cut legal and regulatory barriers to co‑operation
Diversity Foster a culture of open learning
Technology Put technology at the heart of tomorrow’s co‑op sector

What happens next

The outputs from Congress, both this condensed version and the full set of ideas, will form the building blocks for the National Co‑operative Development Strategy. The panel overseeing the development of the strategy will consider these alongside discussion papers and the ideas bubbling up on the independent whatif.coop blog set up by the panel.

The next stage is the launch of the co‑operative census – the first census of its kind, which will provide the evidence base for the strategy by getting under the bonnet of the UK’s thousands of co‑operative businesses. The aim is to encourage as many co‑ops as possible across the sector to complete the census.

What you can do now