There are plenty of ways to spend a Thursday evening in February: a trip to the cinema maybe, a few drinks in the local pub or just an hour or two in front of the television.
But I chose last night to spend my evening at the AGM of a local cooperative I’m a member of. It’s a community energy business which runs a small wind turbine in a farmer’s field up on the hillside near here and which also works locally to encourage more use of renewable energy. It’s one of many similar community energy cooperatives which have got going in recent years – though the highly regrettable government cut-backs in the ‘feed-in tariffs’ for energy generation and the removal of tax breaks on investments in such cooperatives make the model very much harder to replicate in the future.
The AGM was a model of how a small cooperative with strong community roots handles its business. We met in a local social club. We had a comprehensive verbal report from one of the directors on the past year’s ups and downs. We scrutinised the accounts. We passed a motion making a small change to our constitution. We awarded ourselves as investors a modest interest payment. And we also agreed to donate £1400 to a local charity, to help towards the appeal for the Christmas flooding which has badly affected our community.
Good governance, strong democracy and a profitable business: the secrets of a successful coop. I felt afterwards that my Thursday evening had been well spent.