Ipswich and I

Ipswich and I go back decades, but I visited Ipswich only for the first time this weekend. This was at the invitation of the Board of the East of England co-op.

East of England is an independent co-operative, with half a million members across Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex, a wide spread of stores and an active commitment to the community.

I told the story of my link to Ipswich to Celia, one of the elected Board members, who is a teacher. At school, my maths teacher, Mr Goldsmith, was a passionate Ipswich fan. He used to give us double home work if Ipswich lost at home and half homework if they won away. That was great, except that Ipswich won the FA Cup the year I took my maths O level exam.

We were let off so much homework, I almost failed it.

Fair exchange

Three great books on money have come in and out of my hands in recent days.

  1. Jim Lindsay is the General Manager of the Airdrie Savings Bank – the last remaining trustee savings bank – and dubbed recently ‘the last banker in Scotland’. The trustee savings banks started two hundred years ago in 1810, with particular strength in Scotland. Aidrie is the very model of a local bank, serving the communities of North Lanarkshire and avoiding all the speculation that has brought down other banks. Airdrie is a member of Co-operation and Mutuality Scotland, our sister network.
  2. I did a swap with Jim. He gave me a history of Airdrie Savings Bank, new out by Professor Charles Munn. I gave him my thumbed copy of ‘The Future of Finance’ by Dan Schwartz, recommended to me by Penny of the UK Sustainable Investment and Finance Association.
  3. Then, in Newcastle a few days back, I met up with Patricia from Shared Interest, one of our members and a pioneer of social lending internationally (and I am a member myself, to declare an interest!). Patricia gave me the gift of a copy of their new book, for Shared Interest’s 20th anniversary, written by Sue Osborne and with a foreword by Harriet Lamb.

One book looking back 200 years, another 20, the third looking forward – all with an eye to making money work as a servant and not as a master.

Fair exchange, as my Dad used to say to me, is no robbery.

Co-operative Schools

As of today, there are 53 co-operative schools registered across the country.

Sir Thomas Boughey in Stoke on Trent is one of the early ones. I was hearing about their progress from Mervyn Wilson at the Co-operative College.

A recent Ofsted report testified to the difference that a co-operative rather than a competitive culture makes: “The school’s specialism of business and the Co-operative movement’s support chime with its ethos of equality, fairness and sustainability, and permeate all that it does.”

“This is an outstanding school that constantly strives for excellence in all it does.

Students’ excellent behaviour and attitudes around the site and in lessons makes a significant contribution to the warm and friendly atmosphere of the school.

Community cohesion is a strength of the school and is integral to its specialism of business and the Co-operative movement. This has helped the school develop strong links locally, nationally and internationally.

In addition, students participate in a wide range of young enterprise activities as ‘true workers’ cooperatives’, thereby embedding fair-trade practices and sustainability and the development of effective business skills.”

When I was in the area, on my meet the members travels, I met some of the children who travelled to Lesotho recently from another co-operative school, the Sutherland Business and Enterprise College. Carl Ward, in the photo, is director of innovation at the school in Telford. Carl and the young people he teaches are visionaries and part of a movement that could transform the social environment for children over time. That, at least, is their aim.