City Council seeks to boost Oxford’s co-ops with networking event for Co-op Fortnight

Published: Monday, 24th June 2019

Oxford City Council’s Co-operatives Champion, Councillor Richard Howlett, will host an event to celebrate Oxford’s co-operatives, share inspiration and look at ways to build the movement locally

Co-operatives are businesses, or other organisations, which are owned and run by their members who then share the profits or benefits.

This business model means they can choose whether to prioritise profits or other benefits, with many choosing to focus on local community and providing affordable goods or services.

The event, which will take place in Oxford Town Hall from 6pm on Wednesday 26 June, will hear from organisations in Oxford and co-operatives experts:

  • Colm Massey, a founding member of the Solidarity Economy Association (SEA), who will be sharing for the first time mapping data on Oxford’s solidarity economy, which includes co-ops.
  • Jo White, Executive Director, Co-op Futures. Jo will discuss how co-ops are central to progressive local economic development strategies in Preston and beyond.
  • Flo’s in the Park: A community-owned hub for people to meet, work, play, create, learn, eat and connect
  • The Village: A group of Oxford parents providing informal childcare exchange to one another.
  • New Internationalist Publishing: A Workers’ Co-op publishing books and magazines in Oxford since 1973
  • Mid-Counties Co-op: The UK’s largest independent Co-operative with 600,000 members and a history in the city going back to the 1870s

The event is part of Co-op Fortnight organised by Co-operatives UK, which is a national network that works to promote, develop and unite member-owned business worth £36 billion to the economy.

As part of Co-ops Fortnight, the Community Action Group network in Oxfordshire – a network of more than 70 community groups and social enterprises working together to build a more sustainable county – will announce that it is now a co-operative.

Oxford is home to a huge variety of co-ops, from the national Co-Operative Food shops to Flo’s Place in the Park children’s centre, building and social design collective Transition by Design, digital design agency Agile Collective and the New Internationalist book publisher.

The City Council is providing a revolving loan facility of £2.3m to Low Carbon Hub that will enable the social enterprise to build more renewable energy projects across the county, including installing solar panels on school roofs, building more local renewable energy generation and trialing innovation projects.

The City Council is also working with social enterprise Transition by Design, alongside Jessop and Cook architects, to transform a property in Floyds Row into a new centre helping to prevent and reduce homelessness.

Councillor Richard Howlett, Oxford City Council Co-operatives Champion, said: “Co-operatives can make a huge difference to our local economy and communities. They put local people first by ploughing money back into local businesses and making better decisions because the people impacted are involved in making them.

“I’m very excited by the opportunity Co-op Fortnight presents, and I want this event to inspire existing and potential co-ops by sharing what’s been achieved here and elsewhere and helping build a network of support.

“I want to see more co-operatives in Oxford as part of our work to grow a more inclusive and sustainable economy.”

Rhiannon Colvin, Project Officer, Community Action Groups Oxfordshire, said: “As part of Co-ops Fortnight we are excited to announce that the Community Action Group network, a network of over 70 community groups and social enterprises working together to build a more sustainable Oxfordshire, is now an independent, democratically run and co-operatively owned network.

“What this means in practice is that key strategic decisions about the work our team do and the future of our network are no longer decided by the unrepresentative board of a business, but by people that are democratically elected by the groups in our network.

“We made these changes because we care about local ownership and democracy and as far as we know we are one of the first place based networks in the UK to be run in this way. It’s a joy to become part of the co-operative network.”

Colm Massey, a co-founder of Solidarity Economy Association, said:

"Our work to map Oxford's 'solidarity economy' – all of the organisations, projects and initiatives who are working to create a fairer, socially just, and environmentally sustainable city – has identified there's a real opportunity for the co-operative movement in the housing, food and education sectors in Oxford.

“We're looking forward to exploring how we can address some of our city's most pressing issues through co-operation at this event, alongside Oxford's Co-operatives Champion, Councillor Richard Howlett, and some of the organisations already helping to create thriving communities of co-operation here."