18 February 2010

Food Co-operative Forum

Its been a busy week with the launch of Co-operatives Fortnight and the Tory's recent conversion to co-operation. So busy in fact that I haven't had time to write a blog on the fantastic Food Co-operative Forum that took place last Friday in Birmingham. So here it is:

Co-operativesUK working in partnership with the Making Local Food Work Project organised an event aimed at Food Co-operatives; from the smallest buying group to the largest wholesaler.

The wholefood/local food sectors are flourishing and co-operatives play a large role in this sector. There are 100's of local buying groups and retailers like Unicorn and Daily Bread; the combined turnover of the worker co-operative wholesalers alone is £55m.

The purpose of the event was to bring them all together; to discuss how they can grow, develop themselves and the sector as a whole. The day started with our own Secretary General Ed Mayo talking about the food choices available to children and the broader case for co-operation . Kath Dalmany talked about Sustain and the growth of the local food sector. Mark Simmonds talked about Governance and training on offer from Co-operativesUK. There were also inspiring stories from True Food & Ipswich Ripple.

But the best part of the day was in the afternoon (facilitated by CLADA) which became an open space event. Delegates chose what to discuss, who to discuss it with and worked through issues; offering insights and resolutions.

For me; what was so great about this event (and can be seen in the picture), was having some of my largest members: Suma, Essential, Infinity, GreenCity and Lembas all together in the same room talking about co-operation.

With the recent focus on community co-operatives, social enterprise and now public sector solutions it is sometimes forgotten that Co-operatives are businesses and operating under normal market conditions. Co-operation is a tricky thing particularly when you directly compete with each other. But we had some great discussion; dispelling myths, facing realities and hopefully coming out the other side with some real resolutions to improve our co-operation in the future. I can't wait till next year!


Graham Mitchell said...

Why wait a whole year?

John Atherton said...

There is of course Co-operatives 2010 in Plymouth! Would love to be able to run more than one a year, but I'd like to look at an event for other sectors first, how about a "Creatives Co-operative Forum"?

Anonymous said...

I'd echo Graham, and ask why the co-ops can't organise it themselves if it's such a good idea? That's what used to happen many moons ago. - Martin Meteyard (ex-GreenCity)

John Atherton said...

Of course they can, co-ops are "autonomous and independent" last time I checked.

I would love to see more events of this nature, especially if they can be linked to online communications and sharing of information. So the conversations can carry on.