CETS Blog – 2012 in review

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Lies, damned lies and statistics…interesting viewing though! Thanks to everyone who enjoyed our blog last year; more to come in 2013.

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2012 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The new Boeing 787 Dreamliner can carry about 250 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,700 times in 2012. If it were a Dreamliner, it would take about 7 trips to carry that many people.

Click here to see the complete report.

Celebrating UN 2012 Year of Co-operatives

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Great video which manages to capture the essence of the year in 3 minutes. Keep an eye out for clips from our youth engagement film Join the Co-op Future.


Community and Place – UKSCS conference

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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.

Woollard & Henry manufacturers marks ten year anniversary of employee ownership with special roadshow event

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— Event will showcase success of employee ownership and celebrate the United Nations International Year of Co-operatives —

Co-operative Development Scotland and Woollard & Henry are hosting a special event at Stoneywood Park, Dyce, on Friday 7 September to mark the company’s tenth anniversary of employee ownership.

Woollard & Henry was founded in 1878 and has over 130 years experience as a provider of papermarking products such as the dandy roll* and associated watermarking systems.

At the event Fred Bowden from Woollard & Henry will explain how employee ownership has helped shape a decade of success for his company in the face of declining market conditions.

Sarah Deas, chief executive, Co-operative Development Scotland, will also provide an overview of employee ownershipand how it sustains businesses in their local communities.

The event will also be attended by prominent politicians including Sir Malcolm Bruce MP, Richard Baker MSP, Mark McDonald MSP and Brian Adam MSP.

The free event will take place at Stoneywood Park, Dyce, from 11.00am. The event will include a presentation, tour of Woollard & Henry’s factory, discussion and a lunch. For further details go to: www.scottish-enterprise.com/cdsevents

This is the fifth in a series of Co-operative Development Scotland-organised visits to successful employee owned businesses taking place across Scotland in 2012.

Two more will follow later this year: 5 November at John Lewis in Edinburgh and 16 November at Tullis Russell in Glenrothes.

There are over 550 co-operative businesses in Scotland with a combined turnover of more than £4bn and employing 28,600 people.

An employee owned business is one in which the employees hold the majority of the shares either directly or through an employee benefit trust. It gives employees a meaningful stake in their organisation together with a genuine say in how it is run.

The Co-operative Future

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The co-operative movement in Scotland was keen that UN International Year of Co-operatives was not just about giving ourselves a big co-operative pat on the back.  The events at Edinburgh Castle and New Lanark were great but there was a strong desire to create an educational legacy.  That’s why the Scottish Membership responsible for promoting Co-operative Values and Principles put significant funds behind 8 Scottish schools and 150 of their pupils to complete ASDAN Awards in Co-operative Studies and to create new SQA Awards in Co-operative Studies.

Student Lauren Murphy accepting her ASDAN Award in Co-operative Studies

Armadale Academy pupil, Lauren Murphy, has been awarded the “Co-operative Studies Quaich” for her outstanding efforts in the field and is sufficiently enthused to be returning next year to have a go at the next level.

Hopefully, she will take this learning and these co-operative values and principles into her working life and help secure the Co-operative Future.



Review of UK co-operative economy 2012

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Co-operatives UK’s publication, The UK co-operative economy 2012: Alternatives to austerity, has improved year-on-year since I first got my hands on the 2009 edition. It has gradually become more detailed and interesting. It ceases simply to be a dry record of co-operative performance and has morphed into a manifesto for the co-operative ideal.

This year’s stats throw up some issues that need more analysis and debate amongst the movement:

The number of new co-operatives emerging has been increasing steadily for two years and can be attributed to the quality and quantity of co-op development being undertaken in the UK. It is no surprise that this improvement has been matched by an increased focus on the fifth co-operative principle: education, training and information. We now need to examine how we can stimulate further co-op development by identifying new education channels (university curricula and student enterprises spring to mind).

The movement has a lot of small co-operatives (65% have a turnover of <£250,000) and a stable segment of large co-operatives (12.5% have >£1,000,000). What becomes apparent is the ‘missing middle’, co-operatives that are more medium than small. This opens up debates relating to growth issues for co-ops (lack of capital, increasing divergence of business and member aims, member apathy etc).  Perhaps this ‘missing middle’ issue could be addressed by promoting the Enterprise co-op model. Many organisations have an optimum level, whether in terms of membership, revenue, market share etc. By combining through Enterprise co-ops, organisations can redefine their optimum levels and achieve scale. Mondragón and Emilia Romagna come to mind as successful examples of this strategy in action.

There are 3 times more co-op members than direct shareholders in the world. An interesting statistic but this is an average; far more interesting is the disparity between different continents. Asia/Pacific has 5 times as many co-op members than shareholders, ditto Africa. On the other hand, Europe has only twice as many members than shareholders. What are the reasons for this? A preliminary hypothesis would be that Europe is more advanced economically and so co-operatives, in their poverty reduction guise, are not needed as much. How then do we, the UK movement, promote co-ops if they are not too relevant as a poverty-reduction vehicle? One approach is to appeal to the ethical-consumer base but I believe that the greatest gains can be achieved by espousing co-ops as a more common sense approach for businesses/entrepreneurs.

A Celebration of Co-operation – New Lanark 14/06/2012

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Carlogie Primary pupils discuss their fairtrade café

Carlogie Primary pupils discuss their fairtrade café

Over 100 kids, 8 workshops, 5 speakers, and an awards ceremony; the madness that was our annual event is now over. Set in the New Lanark World Heritage Centre, home to Robert Owen’s social initiatives, we were joined by over 100 educators, students, practitioners and co-operators to celebrate co-operative education in Scotland. It quickly became apparent that co-operative education takes many forms, including:

  • A pupil-run fairtrade co-operative serving up delicious treats to primary students;
  • A young co-operative that donates its profits to an impoverished school in South Africa;
  • A cohort of pupils successfully completing ASDAN awards in Co-operative Studies; and
  • A secondary-school in Ayrshire working towards becoming a ‘co-operative school’ (see Peter Flood’s presentation below).

We made some attempt to organise the chaos: pupils were assigned workshops depending on their age, and the adults in attendance were treated to a series of interesting, informative (and occasionally controversial!) talks. This ensured that there was ‘something for everyone’ at the event and kept the wee (and not so wee) ones engaged throughout the day.

Pupil workshops


Nick Morgan, Education Scotland – Developing Global Citizens

David Cameron – Co-operatives and Co-operation in Scottish Education

Alan Wilkins, CLADA – A Learning Philosophy

Peter Flood, Loudon Academy – A Scottish School of Co-operation

Stonelaw High Fairtraders – The South African Connection

Ashley Simpson, Reddish Vale Co-operative Graduate also spoke of his experience of attending the UK’s first co-operative trust school.

Our sincere thanks to all who attended and supported the event (especially the volunteers from Robert Owen House in Glasgow) and, after a well-deserved break, we’ll have an eye on next year soon enough.

(There are some photographs of the event that can be viewed on our Flickr account; if anybody who attended has some pictures that they wish to share then please email us at info@cets.coop).

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