Nick Crofts, The Co-operative Member Council President shares his thoughts following this month’s Annual General Meeting (AGM).
“What a phenomenal AGM we had last Saturday. There were 750 people in the main conference hall at Manchester Central and the same number again watching live online. And, unusually for any AGM, at one point #CoopAGM was trending on Twitter. And by the end of the day, 30,000 people had watched a short video we posted on Facebook telling the story of the Co-op and the values we stand for.
That told has just how significant our announcements were that day.
Our new Co-op Membership benefits, and the return of our iconic clover leaf logo to draw attention to them, immediately captured people’s attention.
The reaction since the AGM has continued to be overwhelmingly positive with even Chris Evans talking about us on his Radio 2 breakfast show. We’re part of a national conversation again – and for all the right reasons!
During the morning AGM session I took our members through the progress the Council had made in recent months.
Upholding our Co-op values and principles and holding the Board and management to account on behalf of millions of members continue to be our priorities.
I showed the meeting the model we’re using to focus all of our work and create an agreed way of measuring Co-op progress and success. You can see it below.
The morning highlight for me and many others was the speech made by Lois McClure, Chair of our Co-operative Young Members Board, who gave a passionate speech about the role young people play in our Co-op. We have a great past, but with people like Lois we have an even better future ahead of us.
The reveal of our new membership rewards, 5% for you and 1% for your community, received spontaneous applause as did the unveil of our new look – or should I say the return of an old look that served us so well from the late 60s to the late 80s.
It’s rare for any business to get such a warm reception for a new logo but reporters and commentators seemed to understand straight away how it all linked to strengthening local communities.
The announcement that by 2018 we’ll be returning £100 million to members and local causes is evidence that we really are a better way of doing business.
After the excitement of the AGM and dinner with our new Council where we joined by members of our Board, I was delighted to formally welcome the new Members’ Council to our first meeting of the year
Following our Council elections, we welcomed 12 new members to our Council from across our constituencies. I’d like to introduce to you Richard Boudier (Wales), Lynne Hibberd and Lyn Hunter, (Yorkshire and Humber), Danny Douglas (East of England), Jan Barnett (North West), John Boyle and David Hallam (West Midlands), Paul Newman (South East), Josephine Bacon (South East) and Andrew Wade and Susan Milestone from South West) We also welcome Steve Allsopp to our Council from Mid Counties Co-op as an Independent Society Member.
I’d also like to take this opportunity to thank those members who were unsuccessful in our elections. I’m extremely grateful for their passion, skills and enthusiasm, they’ve all shown a tremendous commitment to supporting our Co-op.
May Council saw our first visit from Mike Bracken, Co-op Chief Digital Officer. Through some live examples, Mike showed us how Co-op digital is overhauling our business websites, removing jargon and complexity with one aim in mind – to simplify and improve the digital experience for all our members.
Mike reminded us that we are a unique brand that has the trust of UK shoppers despite our recent tough times. Our national scale can help us to grow quickly on line, but only if we can give members a consistent and easy to understand digital experience.
Alison Chadwick, our Director of Strategy and Dan Crowe, one of our Vice Presidents gave us a progress report on the work of our co-operative local forums. We discussed what had worked well in the first 18 months. We’ve made great progress from a standing start, but it’s clear that a vision and framework is needed to help guide these groups and activities as roll out our new member proposition – more practical tools and training are essential to make this happen locally.
At the same time, the research proved that urban, rural and suburban needs differ significantly and need tailored community activity plans – I’m committed to ensuring that these groups have sufficient flexibility to deliver their work in the community based on their own local needs.
A joint Board and Council workshop in June 2016 will agree how we take this fantastic local initiative forward – I’m looking forward to providing you with further updates over the summer.
We also heard more about how we’ll be distributing the community share into local communities as part of our new member proposition. The business is looking to widen those organisations in scope to receive support to a broader set of more local community groups and projects – not just registered charities. This is really important for Council and will ensure that our co-operative local forums can strengthen links with other local groups who share our values and principles.
Jim Cooke from the Co-op Foundation was our final speaker of a packed morning. Jim came to update us on the work of the Co-operative Foundation – a charity set up by the Co-op to benefit the communities throughout the UK where it does business.
Jim talked about the strategy for the next three years of the Foundation. It will prioritise working with other like-minded groups who share our co-op values, at the same time developing a unique role as the UK’s charitable foundation with a co-operative difference.
I’m particularly pleased that this new strategy will help young people in particular to develop their voices and values, and to have more opportunities to shape their communities for the better.
This builds on the strong track records of both the Foundation and the Co-op in empowering the next generation, and inspiring them to put co-operative values into practice. Look out for further information on how you can support the Foundation coming soon!
On the Monday following the AGM I was delighted to be at Ewloe in North Wales where we officially opened a rebranded Food store and Funeral home located next door to each other. Talking to the teams there, I have no doubt the new membership and the new look are going to be a huge success.
Our 70,000 colleagues, and all 100 members of the Council, will get to test out the new membership rewards from the summer. And in the autumn our millions of members will be sent their new blue cards.
It’s shaping up to be a very good year for our Co-op and as Richard Pennycook said at the AGM, 2016 will be looked back on as a turning point in our revival.