007 days

I have been up visiting Scotmid, Scotland’s largest independent co-operative. Hollis, the society president, pointed me to this time sheet for Sean Connery in the days when his day job was working in the co-op.


Community banking comes of age

Those of us involved in community finance in the UK and Europe can take good heart from the success across the Atlantic.

Pat Conaty and Cliff Rosenthal point to a ten year review of the community finance sector in the USA.

Between 1999 and 2009 the review shows that assets in Community Development Loan Funds have grown from $1.7 billion to $11.9 billion, assets in Community Development Credit Unions have grown from $610 million to $11.1 billion, assets in Community Development Venture Capital Funds have grown from $150 million to $2 billion and assets in Community Development Banks have grown from $2.9 billion to $17.3 billion.

As a result community investment in America is coming of age with growing numbers of US households, businesses and institutions moving their accounts and funds from mainstream banks to community finance.

Small is bankable.

Quietly flow the Dons

AFC Wimbledon have won their promotion this weekend back into the Football League. It is a wonderful story of triumph for a fan-owned co-operative club – I can see the film now.

With my friend and ex colleague Perry Walker, I have written a feature this fortnight in Coop News about AFC Wimbledon and how they have developed by engaging their members using the participatory technique Crowdwise

Post on Post

A big thanks to Clare, Cliff, Amy, Peter and Mark, who have been the team working on our Post Office Mutual report. We launched this at a seminar with the Consumer Minister Edward Davey, with Paula Vennells speaking in response.

I recalled Michael Young’s advice to me from years ago that “if you want to do anything new in Britain, pretend it is not”. In fact the media interest has been pretty open and constructive – Mirror, Telegraph, Mail, Guardian, Times…

We have proposed a multi-stakeholder model for the Post Office – and with all the stakeholders in the room, it felt good to hand over the report. It’s over to you!


I’ll scratch your back if you scratch mine is a good metaphor for co-operation. In fact, for monkeys, it is the number one thing they do. One in every five minutes awake is spent scratching backs or being scratched.

For us humans, Demos has just published a reporton Character. It is an intriguing theme, one that Lorna of the New Lanark World Heritage Site tells me was a key interest of Robert Owen, the co-operative pioneer.

I have contributed a chapter on co-operative character, inspired in part by the work of Sarah Blaffer Hrdy. She has explored the way in which co-operative parenting has shaped human character and evolution – all for the better.

Yvonne Roberts, another contributor, has been on Women’s Hour, talking about male and female character, as part of this.

Tobin tax – the voluntary road

Credit Cooperatif – the French co-operative bank – has announced that it is going to levy a Tobin Tax (on currency transations) on a voluntary basis. The proceeds will be put to action to meet the Millennium Development Goals.

The bank will levy this at a rate of 0.01% of all currency transactions (spot and outright) that it is involved in trading on the interbank market. The idea of the Tobin Tax (or ‘Robin Hood’ tax) is to discourage speculation and raise funding that could of wider use. 

It is just one bank, but it is a very welcome lead.  

Recipes for recovery

An uplifting theme of economic recovery today. I was with the Black Country Reinvestment Society this afternoon, which is a co-operative helping to give lifeline finance to small businesses in the West Midlands. They are investing £3m this year and are part of a successful Regional Growth Fund bid by another of our members, the Community Development Finance Association, which will raise this further still.

Then in Westminster for the launch of an IPPR Commission on the economy chaired by Eric Beinhocker. Eric’s comment was that the UK requires a dose of economic co-operation for its recovery that has not been seen since the 1940s.

Reality check

We’ve published a report by Jonathan Bland, looking at international models and experiences of co-operatives running public services. There are some inspiring examples, in Spain, Sweden and Italy in particular.

But it is all a bit of a reality check on the programme here in the UK, which feels like trying to climb a fifty foot ladder with half the rungs missing. We may turn out eventually to be ok, but it is time to get serious.