Co-op Members make their mark

Approx 800 words.

From  joining in with  opportunities, to voting  in the  AGM  and  standing for  election, it’s easy for Co-op Members to get involved with their Co-op. Gemma Robinson  explains her  journey  to National  Members’ Council.  

Like many others, I initially signed up as a Co-op Member to get discounts on my favourite products and to support the local causes in my community. But I soon found out there was more to being a Co-op Member, including voting at the AGM. 

I’m now in my third year as a Member Pioneer, and in August 2020, I was voted onto the Co-op’s National Members’ Council.  

I love everything about Co-op - its ethics and all the things I can get involved with - so much so that I’ve even painted my kitchen Co-op blue!  

Joining in with Co-op  

When I joined as a Co-op Member, I started to receive monthly emails asking me to share my thoughts and ideas on Co-op products and services.  

The opportunities were fun, interesting and engaging. I’ve helped choose a name for Crumbs - Co-op’s gingerbread character – shared ideas to develop a new Member-inspired Pioneer wine, designed a new wine label, and even hosted a member-to-member wine tasting session in my own home.  

To know that my contributions influenced the products that appeared on shelves in Co-op stores gave me a real connection.  

However, the opportunities that really resonated with me were the ones where members could join together with Co-op to engage with MPs and get involved in campaigning - like the Safer Colleagues, Safer Communities campaign to help stop violence against retail workers.  

I found myself wanting to do even more, so voting at the AGM seemed like a simple first step.  

Voting at the AGM  

I first heard about Co-op’s Annual General Meeting in 2016. I watched it online and was really excited to find out that I was eligible to vote at the AGM and in elections.  

As Co-op is owned by its members, they have a say in how the organisation is run. I love the voting system, which means members like me are able to shape Co-op by deciding on its directors whilst also having a say in policies and on motions – like Fairtrade and recycling.  

All eligible members receive a voting pack – either via email or by post – so it’s easy for Co-op Members to get involved and help shape the motions of the future.  

Becoming a Member Pioneer  

I’ve always been heavily involved in my community, volunteering and offering my support wherever possible, so when I heard about the Member Pioneer programme – where individuals passionate about their local area can connect Co-op Members, colleagues and local causes together to make their communities a better place – I just had to get involved.  

My Member Pioneer role links in well with my work in store and with the support of Co-op membership, I’ve been able to help my local area so much more. It’s just such a brilliant job to have because you get paid for four hours per week working in your community.  

Standing for election  

Having spoken to members of Co-op’s National Members’ Council, I was keen to stand for election as I felt I could really get the voices of my community heard.  

As someone who has come from a difficult background, worked hard and achieved so much thanks to the opportunities given to me, I thought I could relate to a different kind of person, offer a unique voice and give something back to my community.  

So, when nominations to the Council opened, I jumped at the chance to get involved. It was easy to put myself forward. It was just like a job application with a personal specification that went out to members in my local community. All I had to do was write a description about how I could represent members and what I’d be aiming to do on the Council.  

Having missed out by a few votes in 2018, I was delighted to achieve my goal last August. To be representing North East members on the Co-op National Members’ Council is truly an honour and a privilege. I feel very proud.  

I love everything I do with Co-op. It really doesn’t feel like work at all.   

Find out more  

Co-op Members can find out if they are eligible to vote at our 2021 AGM here.   

Members can contact their local Member Pioneer or find out more about becoming a Member Pioneer here.   

And if you’re interested in standing for election to the Co-op National Members’ Council, you can find out more here.  

There are always ways for Co-op Members to get involved in their Co-op. Head to your online membership account to find out what opportunities are available now.  

Gemma Robinson  
Co-op National Members’ Council