Co-operative democracy – 3: a constructive reply

Another colleague who is close to the movement, and has written about some of its projects, replied (headlines added):

The business models are the way they are and all guided by KPMG, Deloittes, etc.

What you had to say is so vital, and nobody else replied, I cannot resist saying something. You make really key points precisely and astutely about the Co-op leadership challenge and what the Mission should be about. Peter Marks has worked up from the bottom within the Co-op, achieved certain big developments and is now retiring. Within current parameters for success, he has achieved a lot. That the plot has been lost is self-evident to me, but he personally cannot be blamed, when the business models are the way they are and all guided by KPMG, Deloittes, etc. We wait to see who the Co-op Group board will select to replace him.

Your point about economic democracy is crucial. This is the USP and indeed has to be the focus of any Co-op business. If organisations lose this commitment they can revert to a conventional business, not legally, but spiritually. ]

Unless Co-op principles can be asserted and built upon, new economics has no chance

With the endemic corruption and rot amongst every corporate stone one turns over these days, unless Co-op principles can be asserted and built upon, new economics has no chance. Co-op education is a vital first step. How to fund this is the question?

(Ed: I am told that incoming executives do take a course at the Co-operative College, but it is obviously not countering the mainstream business model to which they have owed allegiance throughout their working lives.)

If the Co-op just decided to allocate a larger percentage of marketing funds instead for Co-op research and education and practical change projects, a Giant Step forward could be made. But could this be localised and federated?

The funding possible here needs linkage to a major strategic plan. This is not yet to hand. The session that Richard Bickle led on the idea of a Co-op Business School at the Co-ops United conference on 1 November made a good case for this key move. The member who attended this session suggested that ongoing work with BALTA could be insightful for the UK and the West Midlands.

BALTA is a broad network linking up community based organisations, the Co-op sector and 11 universities in two provinces of Canada. The learning journey has been tough but there is now now a strong sense of how to go much further . . .

In phase 2 of BALTA, a partnership with nef and Co-ops UK is under discussion.

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