Big and old co-operatives are underutilised in two ways: as arenas for ordinary people to exercise democratic control over the economic system; and as vehicles to nurture new and small co-operatives to expand democratic control into more areas of the economy. Member participation is too often lacking; turnout in elections is low and member resolutions are rare. Meanwhile, smaller and newer co-operatives too often perceive the old giants as distant and uninterested.
While colleagues at established societies can do much to address this, we believe change should be sparked by grassroots member activity. For this reason, we (Iwan, Leo and a third co-founder, Christian Shaw) have launched Members For Cooperation, a global network to organise ordinary members within co-ops to campaign for increased co-operation between co-operatives – the sixth principle of the movement – especially between the larger/older co-ops and the smaller/newer ones. The potential is huge. For example, if the Nationwide Building Society had invested 1% of its statutory profits into new co-operatives in 2019, it could have made an investment of more than £55,000 into every single co-op started that year in the UK.