Democracy / Openness / Equality / Social Responsibility

Earlier today the Brakes Trust attended a networking lunch at Birmingham Town Hall which brought together a number of different co-operative societies from around the region, from a number of different sectors.

The main speaker was Mr Ben Reid OBE, Chief Executive for the Mid-Counties Co-Operative Society.

During his segment, Mr Reid talked about what the overall co-operative movement (not just the supermarket!) stands for; it is currently a thriving movement based on the concept of ordinary people wanting better for their lives. Amongst huge uncertainty, especially in the current economic climate, co-ops can provide hope and stability. They can offer unique resources, but within an overall democratic organisation. Individual participation is important, and this builds self confidence in the individual – developing their skills.

Mr Reid laid out the co-operative values using the mnemonic ‘DOES’:

D- Democracy. This is all about how the co-operative operates and how it works with members.
O – Openness. This is self-explanitory – the core value of openness with members is a fundamental philosophy.
E  – Equality. With each member holding an equal £1 share, this provides an equality of effort and purpose.
S – Social Responsibility. The co-operative works within the community and holds a responsibility to work for the benefit of that community.

Mr Reid closed his speech by stating that co-operative societies are indeed very relevant to today’s economy, perhaps even moreso now in the current climate. People want to deal with organisations which follow the co-op values above, and customers demand fair treatment, trustworthiness, and an overall better way of doing business.

After the main speech there was a speech from Carl Taylor, Chief Executive of Birmingham Co-Operative Housing Services. There was also time to network amongst a number of different members of local co-operative societies.

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From a personal perspective, I found it fascinating to hear the values from the Mid-Counties Co-Op (based in Warwick) very closely matching the values of the Leamington FC Supporters’ Co-operative, which themselves carried through from the Supporters Direct model rules and overall philosophy. Whilst there are massive differences (not least in turnover!) between a co-operative society like the Brakes Trust and the Co-Op, it is both encouraging and affirming that the core values are essentially the same. It proves to be a welcome reminder that the Brakes Trust is not only an organisation working for the benefit of Leamington FC but also part of a much wider movement which shares the same ideals.

During the networking session with individuals from other co-op societies, we took the opportunity to mainly talk about our flagship Citizen of the Year project, which is currently heavily in planning for 2013.

The Brakes Trust would like to thank Jacqui Forster from Supporters Direct for the opportunity to attend this excellent event.

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