The UK Society for Co-operative Studies (UKSCS) showcased its tradition as an independent voice in the movement at its annual conference in Lincoln this past weekend (1-2 September). The theme was ‘Community and Place’ and was aptly demonstrated by our keynote speaker, CEO of Lincolnshire Co-operative Society Ursula Lidbetter. In a polished yet passionate speech, Ms Lidbetter highlighted the various ways in which the Lincolnshire Society has embedded itself within its communities throughout the county. She used an interesting term, ‘benefits stacking’, to describe these community engagement activities; through its work with community groups, the University of Lincoln, and various local suppliers, Lincolnshire Co-operative Society has created a community with strong ties and respect for the co-operative model.
The rest of the conference produced equally interesting topics, :
- A radical and progressive education initiative in the form of the Lincoln Social Science Centre co-operative;
- A proposal by academic Dr Rory Ridley-Duff of Sheffield Hallam University to produce a theoretical framework for understanding workforce participation in organisations, including co-operatives and social enterprises;
- A humourous look at an interesting and comprehensive archive of co-operative material held in Bishopsgate Institute, London.
UKSCS is not an organisation that remains rooted in the past however. It has recently embarked on a radical program of modernisation and innovation, with the aim of establishing the society once more as an informed commentator on the state of the movement. Member recruitment drives, rebranding, and a modernisation its internationally renowned Journal of Co-operative Studies (enabling online access) are some of the more recent and important activities but work remains. In this matter members of the co-operative movement have a part to play.
I implore any co-operators with an interest in critiquing the current state of the movement using relevant theory and best practice to get in contact with the society through their website:
In the interest of fairness, I should declare that I am a (very proud) board member of this organisation.