Occupation: Technical Adviser
Co-operative Businesses traded with in the last 12 months: Food, Insurance and Bank
I believe passionately that we can make the Co-op feel again like it really is our shop. I served on the Manchester Area Committee 2009 - 2015 and since then as a Member Pioneer. I co-founded Save Our Bank, an on-line campaign to keep the Co-op Bank to its principles. If elected I’ll use what I’ve learned to try and help the Council connect better with members on-line and in communities.
For me, the most important thing about the Co-op is that it’s our business - run for customer and staff members and not to benefit remote shareholders. We may be different from other businesses because our colleagues and members get involved with local causes and because our shops stock Fairtrade. But that’s only part of the difference. For it really to feel like it’s our business means that our voice must count. It must count locally: local shops should respond to local needs.
Members should be able to see how they can make a difference to what the shops do and what they stock. And it must count nationally - members should see how the business is run for them and how it holds to its principles. For it to count locally means supporting what members do locally.
In the local forum where I am Member Pioneer in South Manchester, members have worked together, holding our own poll to choose which three causes will get 1% of members spend; helping local stores stock the products members want to see by surveying and talking to customers; promoting causes we care about like Fairtrade. We’ve been able to see the results: the charities we chose are benefitting from the 1% and the shops are stocking new, local products we asked for. I’d like to see how the Members’ Council can help members in local communities with this sort of work.
For it to count nationally means connecting with members directly. When trouble hit the Co-op Bank in 2013 I helped set up the Save Our Bank campaign aiming to keep the bank to its principles. It’s an on-line campaign so we can keep 10,000 supporters up-to-date with developments.
We launched a new Customer Union which members can join on line. I’d like to help the Members’ Council more effectively use on-line techniques like these to reach more members. I think this can show many members who would not get involved in local activity how the business belongs to them too.
I’ve been working in and with co-operatives most of my working life. For the Co-op, I served on the Manchester Area Committee for 6 years until 2015 and since then I have been a Member Pioneer. I co-founded Poptel, a co-operative and one of the UK’s first internet companies. We launched the co-op domain-ending with the International Co-operative Alliance. I now work advising on new digital infrastructure like fibre optics, and helped establish a new type of cooperatively owned internet hub and data centre in Brighton.