Jumping forward again to 2018, and I began talking about some of these ideas with Mark Simmonds. Mark is a highly experienced co-operative development professional, and it was fascinating to learn from his perspective and insights. I had been looking at the issues without any real knowledge of what was happening on the ground in terms of co-operative development in the UK, and what was on offer by way of service to people wanting to set up new co-operatives. The picture that Mark painted was concerning. The cadre of experienced co-operative development professionals was shrinking in size as older members retired and the number of people coming into the field wasn't enough – given the precarity of the profession – to keep the numbers up. The only reliable and focussed source of funding for co-operative development, provided by the Co-operative Bank, had no guaranteed future, and the numbers of new co-operatives being registered year on year dropped to below two hundred.We shared the view that a different approach was needed if the gradual decline was going to be addressed.
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