The Co-operative Group’s old governance arrangement, where area committees (usually with a motley bunch of members all drawing some dosh) had almost no power but were supposed in some way to be in touch with grassroots customers, was never something which I felt worked well.
But the idea of reinvigorating the Group’s democracy and membership from the bottom-up is certainly something which needs exploring and I’m very interested to see that this is what was tried last Saturday in the Chorlton area of south Manchester, An experimental ‘cluster’ meeting brought together local members of the coop (ie shoppers) with staff, with the support of the Group’s membership team.
The event was arranged by Manchester Area committee, which (despite what I said in the first paragraph) is showing it has some real energy and ideas. They launched the Co-operative Springboard website last year to encourage debate about how the Group’s governance review could help create a ‘21st century co-operative’, and they are now keen to see the Cluster idea tried elsewhere. Go for it, I say.