Last week’s annual results show how community is at the centre of everything we do. Through our Local Community Fund we gave back £13m to thousands of local projects in 2017 alone. That’s a total of £20m so far.

But as we’ve always said, it’s not just about the money. We have 200 Member Pioneers also doing their bit to build and strengthen relationships between colleagues, local communities and members, and bring people together to make things happen. Our research has also told us that many people want to make a difference in their community but they don’t know where to go or where to start.

It’s now time to do even more. It’s about closing the gap in the circle to achieve our five-year Stronger Co-op, Stronger Communities ambition – and finding new and different ways to connect people and increase co-operation in communities.

What are we doing?

We’re running pilots in Warrington and Bristol to test out new ways of working with communities, kicking off with an event hosted by their local Member Pioneers. We’re working with the community to learn and understand what they need, rather than going in and telling them what we think they need. This is just the start, it won’t be perfect and we will learn as we go, but we’re excited to see where it leads us.

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We were blown away by the attendance and the energy at both events. The people and their stories were inspirational and connections were being made left, right and centre. Everyone was excited about what could be achieved together through co-operation. At the events we learned that:

  • Social media and word of mouth are the most effective channels to bring people together, and very local communications (Orford rather than Warrington) performed best
  • The community felt inspired and came up with 51 ideas to work together on
  • The communities told us that they needed a way to connect, and there was a real sense of excitement when they realised they could shape this themselves
  • People were happy to share their contact details with Co-op and each other
  • The most popular ideas were often small and simple ideas that were very local

We’ve also realised that by combining digital tools and people on the ground in our stores and funeral homes we’ve got a winning formula to help communities to connect and make a difference. Our Member Pioneers are working with the communities to progress their ideas and plans using digital tools and resources to help make things happen. We’ll keep learning and improve these tools as we learn more about what they need.

The most satisfying bit is that we’re working as One Co-op – with community, brand, communications and digital teams supporting our businesses, to help bring co-operation to life in our communities.

Watch this space for more information on how we’re getting on, and if you live in Warrington or Bristol and want to get involved look out on our Facebook page or ask a Food or Funeralcare colleague for more information.

Sarah Mackenzie
Community Strategy & Change Lead

Join the conversation! 4 Comments

  1. All very good but funeralcare have stopped all our local community money and as I used to provide hampers for £20 and attend all the events for charities to present the prizes now other than attend the event I can not help raise funds , can you believe I actually spend my own money on hampers to provide for these charities as I’m so embarrassed after 8 years of supporting them we now can’t, and by the way my charity donation comes from myself now and not the co op , such a shame funeralcare looses sight of all the good we do , Chris Brighton Funeralcare

  2. Great idea. We used to connect really well as we would walk through the village everyday to bank money in the Post Office or buy stamps. That’s all stopped now.

  3. Hi I’m Dave App store Manger & Community Pioneer and I am part of this trial in Warrington which is brilliant for connecting our communities and I cant wait to share some of the brilliant work that’s been taking place.

  4. Fantastic work here by the innovation team in Co-op Digital working with colleagues in community teams.

    Well done Gavin, Ian, Helen, James, Naomi, Serena , Tom and anyone else whose name I’ve missed!

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