Branding and re-branding

Ramifications continue over the Co-operative Group’s decision to re-re-brand, away from the ‘national’ The Co-operative brand they had previously effectively spearheaded. I understand that Co-operative Group members will shortly get replacement turquoise cards for the standard yellow honeycomb cards which have been issued up to now.  Which is fine, but could create no end of confusion if Group members are also members of independent regional societies which themselves issue honeycomb cards. Letters are now going out to people in this situation, trying to explain what’s happening. Poor old regionals.

Is there anything positive in all this?  Just possibly, if it means that the regional societies are able to reaffirm their own independence from the Group as autonomous member-owned co-ops, something which was very difficult under the previous combined brand.

The birth of a co-op

I’m a co-op member.

Well, of course, I’m a member of a number of different co-ops, from the Co-operative Group to my local co-operative pub.  But, no, I mean that I’m a member of a new co-operative, one which will shortly begin trading. Our venture is, we strongly suspect, the first authors’ co-operative of its kind in the country. It is bringing together (initially) four of us who earn our living as professional writers, it will be specialising in books on the outdoors and the countryside, and it will enable us to jointly market our own titles under a shared co-operative brand.  After several meetings and weeks of discussion, the decision to proceed was taken last Friday (in a café in a small town in the Midlands).  There’ll be a press release when our first titles are out and I’ll tell you exactly who we are and the name we’ve chosen then…

On ale, and archives

I shared a drink (a modest half-pint of real ale, since you ask) in a local co-operatively run pub on Saturday with members of the Leeds and Wakefield co-operative history group who were spending the day exploring the co-operative past of my part of northern England.

They were telling me of the problems of researching the history of co-operation in Leeds, the result of records from the early days (and indeed more recent times) being lost. Keeping important archive material away from the Great Skip of Destruction is vital if future historians are to be able to do their work.

As you may know from past blogs here, I’ve been working with a few colleagues recently on an archive project to try to preserve records from the late twentieth century workers’ co-op movement. Our project application is currently being assessed by the Heritage Lottery Fund. I’ll let you know how we get on just as soon as I know myself.

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.