Co-operatives Fortnight

I do love team work, when you do so much more than you could ever on your own.

Working with colleagues and co-operatives across the country, I am proud that we are putting together the UK’s first ever Co-operatives Fortnight, running from June 19th – July 3rd 2010. It is an opportunity to build what we need, which is a more co-operative nation.

The Co-operatives Fortnight website is now live here – have a look, join the team!

Colin Ward

I was sorry to learn of the death of Colin Ward from Ken Warpole, with his obituary in the Guardian today.

I visited the wonderful Anarchist Bookshop in October, before starting at Co-operatives UK, to see what new writing there was relating to cooperation and community. There was good material from abroad, but it was surprising and salutary that the best UK work seemed to remain Colin Ward’s long stream of books and papers.

Colin and I exchanged ideas when I was at the New Economics Foundation, as shared critics, for example, of the practice of moving social housing from elected local government to housing associations with no accountability to tenants.

I wonder what he would have made of the current flow of announcements from the political parties embracing co-operation, not least the genuinely radical proposals from George Osborne to open up to public service worker cooperatives. I guess that he would have welcomed the aims but been a root and branch critic of the means by which the state tries to empower communities in this way. All parties tend to be localist in opposition and the opposite when in power.

This tussle of power – power to do things or power over other people – is the tapestry of society. We should respect those who help us to see this better and to reweave it differently for the sake of freedom.

Top 5 new co-operative books

There are a growing number of wonderful books out on co-operation – ranging from people and economy through to technology and nature.

This is my top five recommendations – please suggest more!

  1. The Perfect Swarm – Len Fisher (2010)
  2. Connected – Nicholas A. Christakis and James H. Fowler (2010) (thanks James!)
  3. Unjust Deserts – Gar Alperovitz & Lew Daly (2009)
  4. Mothers and Others – Sarah Blaffer Hrdy (2009)
  5. The Age of Empathy – Frans de Waal (2009)

Behaviour change

My son is doing two weeks work experience out of school, based at the New Economics Foundation. NEF’s new report calls for a twenty one hour working week, although I have to report that, age 14, he was putting in more hours than this! Voluntarily, mind.

These were two photos from the NEF kitchen, with the expertise of those who understand behaviour change.

Club culture

Today has been business advice and development day with food cooperatives, coming together in Birmingham under the theme of ‘making local food work’ and hosted by Midlands Coop (it’s John Boyle’s smile in the photo).

The event brought together food coops like the Hungry Snail and transition town foodies with bulk retailers like SUMA, who support a thousand small buying clubs across the country.

Eds in the North

I met up with Ed Cox this morning. He runs IPPR North and also chairs a local co-operative. His current and forthcoming work is on why communities succeed or fail, plus whether government programmes help or hinder…

Power pledge

I spent my day today talking to politicians from each of the three parties in turn. I was talking co-operation. They are all focused on competition come Election time.

But there is another vote open to us all for which there are 14 days left – the Power Pledge, which is building the case for a more participatory democracy (would be nice to see it for the economy too). Have a look – and you can get into practice and have a vote on what you want to see!