By Claire Cameron, Member Participation Campaign Officer

It’s been an unprecedented year for everyone, with measures introduced to reduce the spread of coronavirus leading to big changes in our daily lives.   

As restrictions begin to relax and normal life slowly resumes, we thought it would be a good time to reflect on how we’ve been helping Co-op Members stay as well as possible.

Throughout the past 12 months, we’ve been regularly checking in with members to see how they’ve been coping and to explore what Co-op and other members could do to help support their physical and mental wellbeing during these uncertain times.  

In our first check-in in May 2020, the majority of members told us they were looking for new ways to connect with others, learn something new and stay active.  

So, we hosted regular quiz nights, online puzzles, wine events, set up support groups and launched an 80-day step challenge to help bring members together and keep them moving.  

Quiz nights

More than 1,300 Co-op Members pitted their knowledge against each other on screen as we hosted five exclusive member-only quiz nights - including a dedicated event to mark World Mental Health Awareness Day.  

Held on Zoom, the hour-long quizzes enabled members to interact and have some fun while remotely answering four, 10-question rounds on everything from food and drink to general knowledge and sport. 

And, in true Co-op participatory style, all the questions featured were submitted in advance by members.  

The breaks also provided members with the chance to feedback on live issues being considered by Co-op.  

Wine and beer events

There’s lots of evidence to suggest that learning something new can be good for our mental health, so we explored ways to enable our members to learn about the stories behind Co-op products.  

Working with our wine buyers, suppliers and producers, we launched a series of exclusive online wine and beer events.  

More than 1,400 members joined in on Zoom to hear the inspiring stories behind our Co-op Fairtrade wine, White Port, Cava Brut and Spanish Garnacha. These events proved so popular that we also ran Rioja and Malbec wine events too.

During the events, members had the chance to chat with other members, put their questions to our experts, and learn more about how to create the perfect food pairings too.   

Members also got involved to hear experts from Brewgooder and Toast Ale share the stories behind their beers and explain how these social enterprise breweries invest their profits for social good as we celebrated Buy Social Weekend in October.  

Online puzzles

We’ve helped members stay mentally active by putting their problem-solving skills to the test with a collection of online puzzles – including some seasonally-inspired conundrums to keep them busy over the Christmas holidays. 

Our catchphrases, anagrams, visual, number and logic puzzles offered some welcome distraction to more than 2,500 members during these unprecedented times.   

Support groups

We’ve also helped connect members to others who are going through similar life events.  

Our online bereavement story groups, run by members for members, have enabled members to get together online to talk, share experiences and provide each other with mutual support in a safe space at a time when we’ve been unable to physically meet up.  

We held discussions on loneliness in November and were surprised to learn how many members would be spending Christmas alone due to the pandemic. 

So, we arranged several online get-togethers to enable members to connect and chat about their favourite films, music and books over the festive period.  

Stepping up

To keep us all moving, we invited members to join us on a virtual journey around the world by any means other than a motor vehicle.

More than 1,600 members joined our mission to circumnavigate the 25,000 miles around the globe in our 80-day challenge.

Participating members recorded any distance they travelled by walking, swimming, scooting, skating, horse riding, running or cycling – including on treadmills or static bikes – from 15 March to 2 June.

We emailed them weekly progress updates and they submitted their distance totals into a short survey each week too.

The challenge was such a success that together we travelled a staggering 245,024 miles – making it all the way to the moon!

What’s next?

Look out for more opportunities to join in in another membership colleague story next week!

You can also find out more by heading to your online Membership account.