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Building back better involves trusting local people – reflections on the CCIN conference

Jordan Binedell and Eliza Hardwick report on this year’s Cooperative Council Innovation Network Conference.

Last week, Mutual Ventures was delighted to attend the Cooperative Council Innovation Network Conference (CCIN) and hear from a wide range of speakers.

The Co-operative Councils’ Innovation Network is a collaboration between local authorities committed to transforming the way they work with communities and embedding the principle of cooperation in public services. They include councils across the political spectrum, committed to working together with their citizens. The conference, hosted entirely online, focused on recovery from the COVID-19 crisis and ‘Building Back Greener’.

The importance of local government

A common thread of discussion across the three-day event was around where decisions are made in government, and the role of central versus local government. A number of speakers were critical of deciding the response to COVID-19 predominantly at a national level, rather than devolving decision-making power to local authorities

Jonathan Reynolds MP urged national government to listen more closely to local authorities. He argued that the UK needed to prepare carefully for future challenges, such as the impact of technology on employment, trade shocks and further pandemics. He suggested de-centralising government as a key strategy to tackle these issues.

Growing the co-operative economy

Another key theme of the conference centred on making local cooperative models work in practice. In a session entitled ‘Growing the Co-op Economy in Practice’, Cllr Chris Penberthy (Cabinet Member for Housing and Cooperative Development, Plymouth City Council) and Anna Peachey (Economy, Partnerships and Regeneration Manager, Plymouth City Council) argued that there are three mechanisms for growing the Co-op economy – people, opportunities and awareness-raising.

They noted importance of having people who support co-ops, such as Co-op Champions or ambassadors, throughout councils, for example in environmental health, licensing or regen departments. These people should have a good understanding of what a co-op is, how they operate and where. Councils should also build capacity and knowledge through the Co-operative College.

While there have always been opportunities to set up new co-ops and improve existing ones, there should be a focus on post-COVID opportunities and supporting key sectors. It is important to note that co-ops are likely to draw in social investors when there is an asset attached to the development of the organisation, such as the co-location of health and well-being supplier.

Finally, it is vital to create awareness of Co-ops in your area. This can be done by publicly celebrating your existing co-ops to increase visibility and gain more members or employees, or through Business Relationship Programs that help to create deeper relationships and a better understanding of the Co-op’s growth aspirations.

Building back better

Overall, the conference gave a clear message around the importance of local people working together during the COVID-19 pandemic, and a focus on increasing trust in local authorities and institutions. The conference struck an optimistic note and highlighted the potential to use the crisis to expand the co-operative economy and build back better.

Learn more about our work on COVID-19 recovery here, or contact us on info@mutualventures.co.uk.

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