Trouble at the Co-op.....

Trouble at the Co-op...What can we learn?

John Chillcott, Former CEO of ARCS, Chair of SEEE and board member of Co-operativeUK


The well published troubles of the Co-operative Group over the past year have been detrimental to the perception of the Co-operative business model and the credibility of the co-operative sector. Those working in a co-operative will be familiar with the public perception that they work for 'the' co-operative and that many people think of it as one broad national organisation. It is an understandable perception and the co-operative Group does provide elements of support and shared services to other co-ops and champions the co-operative model and its values and principles.


Whilst the Co-operative Group renews its governance and restructures the business on a reduced scale it is vital that the Co-operative sector as a whole takes responsibility for the support and development of co-operatives and champions the values and principles and the business model.


 Co-operativesUK, the membership organisation for co-operatives, has a vital role to play by encouraging all co-operatives to participate in the support and development of co-operation and the broader 3 rd sector economy.


I think that the way that the Co-operative group has developed over many years, including the relationship with other Co-ops offers some important lessons for social enterprises.


Social enterprises should take an active part in the support and development of the Social enterprise and broader 3rd sector economy. SEEE and SEUK are united in that mission.


Social enterprises should take a commercial approach, build on success and avoid dependency or over reliance on a third party. Work collaboratively where appropriate, accept support and help when needed but remain committed to developing resilience and independence as a business.


 Good governance is just as crucial as good management. The co-operative Group's [and more specifically the Bank's] governance is the subject of several external enquires but the internal enquiry conducted has been scathing of the board's failure to govern effectively as well as highlighting the Executive's failings.


The Co-operative movement will undoubtedly move forward from the recent troubles and out of the adversity, positive changes and development of the model will emerge. There are some great success stories amongst the thousands of co-ops in the UK. Fulfilling the ambition that Co-operative and social enterprise models fulfil a growing role in the growth of the economy will necessitate that we adhere to sound commercial management and governance.


Disclaimer: SEEE does not necessarily share the views in the above blog.