Denise Scott-McDonald was elected President of Co-op’s National Members’ Council in July. She explains what inspired her to stand, what she hopes to achieve, and how co-operation is part of her way of working
I’m so proud to be leading the Co-op National Members’ Council (NMC) as its first black President. We’re a Council comprised of one hundred members from around the UK and we meet regularly with the Board and Co-op leaders to hear about Co-op’s activities and help shape our Co-op’s plans for the future. The input of Council into these decisions helps ensure that we are representing Co-op Members and communities in everything that we do.
Standing for the NMC was a no-brainer because I’m fascinated by the Co-op way of doing business,I’ve got a keen interest in politics and see the value of bringing different people and opinions together to achieve a collective view. A number of Council colleagues suggested that I should run for President and when I began to think about it and sound others out, it felt like a role where I could make a real difference.
Today I’m a councillor and deputy leader of Greenwich Council, but I’ve been involved in politics since I was young. When I was a kid, politics was always discussed around the dinner table. Through that I learned about politics, fairness, justice and what was going on in the world. Deep down, I’m one of those kids that always wants to change the world.
Greenwich is a Co-operative Council and that shapes how we respond to things. For example, during the pandemic we got together to set up the Greenwich Hub for people who are self-isolating, through which volunteers deliver food or medication. It has also helped in our approach to tackling school holiday hunger, getting small businesses into more government or local authority contracts, engaging with the voluntary sector and adult social care.
The future of the National Members’ Council
I’d like our Council to continue to be more inclusive and representative, while championing co-operative values and principles and holding the Board to account. Co-op’s campaign on shop worker safety grew out of the Council, and when you see things like that – or the work on fair tax, or modern anti-slavery – you get a sense of the power of the voice of our members when we come together.
Outwardly, I’d also like to raise the profile of the Council – what it is and what it’s trying to achieve. Many Co-op colleagues and members don’t know about us yet. So, I’m going to be looking at how we can achieve better communication with our members, including ways for members to share their views with Council so we know w’ere representing their views in everything that we do .
For now, our biggest challenge is Covid, Covid, Covid! Council hasn’t met face to face for over a year now and this affects our ability to welcome and engage with new Council members and impacts on how we co-operate outside of meetings.
I’m exploring how we can find more effective ways to use new technology and looking at ways that we can get back together when the time is right. There are other important challenges for the Council on Co-op’s business and commercial performance. Plus, I’m keen to see further collaboration with the Board around our membership and community strategy.
Championing Diversity and Inclusion
Finally, as part of Council’s diversity working group, I’m proud to be championing Co-op’s commitments to racial equality and inclusion, and we look forward to seeing the progress made by Co-op on these commitments later this year. The Council itself is also working out how it can be more inclusive, both in terms of our composition and ways of working – we know that we still have lots of work to do to make sure that we are truly representative of our membership.
I want to lead a Council that can be a voice for all Co-op members and communities so follow me on Twitter and get in touch so we can work together on driving progress.
President of the National Members’ Council