Coming very soon

I was asked a couple of weeks back if I could help publicise the forthcoming conference of the UK Society for Co-operative Studies, which is taking place at Northumbria University in Newcastle the first weekend in September. Of course, I said I’d be happy to do so. I enjoyed last year’s conference which was held in Leicester, and which pulled in perhaps fifty or so researchers and cooperative activists for a weekend of presentations and discussion.

If I haven’t mentioned the event until now it’s because I’ve been waiting for the conference organisers to make the programme for the event available. The website for weeks has been announcing that the programme is ‘coming soon’ and informal attempts by email to get more information to share with you haven’t yet elicited any details either. I know that UKSCS gets by on volunteer effort and very limited resources (and August is a holiday month) but, with only ten days to go before Newcastle, I think ‘coming soon’ is now getting a little close to the wire.  I’m sure the event will be valuable, but it would be nice to know what exactly is planned.

Inside the John Lewis Partnership

I have spent today inside the John Lewis Partnership. No, I don’t mean literally. I’ve not been shopping for bed linen or a new living room sofa at my local John Lewis department store. I mean I have spent the day reading a copy of the book A Better way of doing business?: Lessons from the John Lewis Partnership which arrived in the post yesterday and which I’ll be reviewing in due course for Co-operative News.

This is, I think, a very useful book which looks in detail at recent developments at John Lewis, and how the often radical changes which have been introduced by senior management link in with – or perhaps cause tensions with – John Lewis’s much-applauded ‘employee ownership’ model. The book comes from two Open University professors, Graeme Salaman and John Storey (one a professor of organizational studies, the other of management), both of whom have considerable inside knowledge of the workings of the company.

As well as my Co-operative News review (which I will flag up here when it is published), I plan to offer you a more comprehensive assessment of the book on my blog here.

Preserving the past for the future

I wrote back in 2014 and again more recently here of the moves being made to identify and properly preserve key records from the workers’ co-operative movement of the later twentieth century. I need to declare an interest as one of the small advisory group that has been working with the Co-operative Heritage Trust on the project Working Together: recording and preserving the heritage of the workers’ co-operative movement.

The project has already received support from co-operatives and individuals in the movement. I’m pleased to say that the project plan and budget was yesterday submitted to the Heritage Lottery Fund, who we hope will also endorse and help fund the initiative.  I’ll let you know how we get on.

International Co-operatives Day 2016

It’s the UN’s International Co-operatives Day tomorrow, so let me get my greetings in in good time.

Here, in the town where I live, we will be celebrating tomorrow both the past and present of co-operation. We will be laying some flowers on the graves of two eminent nineteenth century co-operative leaders, both of whom are buried locally. Then we shall be foregathering in the meeting room of a local housing co-op, where the growing number of local co-ops will be sharing news of what they’re up to.  And finally we’ll adjourn for a drink – in our local co-operatively run pub. How’s that for a tempting timetable of events?

Making your savings work positively for good

Since the pioneering days of the nineteenth century the co-operative movement has had an interest in the way that investment capital can be used differently,  not just to make as much money as possible. That interest is still there: co-operative capital is one of the five key areas being focused on in the International Co-operative Alliance’s current strategic plan.

My personal and professional interest in this area doesn’t go back quite to the nineteenth century, but I’ve written over quite a number of years journalistically on some of the major initiatives for what has at various times been called ‘ethical investment’, ‘socially responsible investment’, ‘alternative investment’ and now, it seems, ‘positive investment’.

So I’m interested to see that the ethical share trading platform Ethex is at present supporting a major academic research study into the attitudes of ‘positive investors’ (ie people who make savings and investment decisions on more than simply the rate of return on offer). You may like to support this project by completing their online survey, which is to be found here.

Some news about the (Co-operative) News

As a journalist I naturally want to see a thriving press. As someone with a strong interest in the co-operative sector, I want to see Co-operative News do well. It has after all been serving the movement since September 2nd 1871.

It’s of some concern, therefore, that Co-operative Press (the co-operative society which publishes Co-operative News) reported a £67,000 loss for the last financial year. Those of us at the society’s AGM on Friday heard that, as a consequence, the budget had been revised and the News’ strategy tweaked.  Editor Anthony Murray suggested that the magazine could soon be published monthly rather than fortnightly, with a shift towards the News’ website and digital offer.

A change in the Co-operative Press’s membership structure was also agreed on Friday, so that in future all subscribers to the News will automatically become members of the co-op. This makes eminent sense, and should help to build a wider, and perhaps more committed, membership base. The News needs all the friends it can find.