What local cause data tells us about our members

We’re proud of the Co-op Membership scheme and what it gives back to our members and local communities. When members buy own-brand products or services from Co-op, we give 5% back to the member, and 1% to the Local community fund to support local causes as chosen by members. We make payments to these causes every 6 months.

Now that 2 rounds of payments have been completed, the Data Science and Community Engagement teams have been looking into the data and what it tells us about our members, the choices they’re making and what those choices might say about us as an organisation.

Learning more about the Local community fund

We looked at data around causes across 10 different categories:

  1. Art and culture
  2. Community development
  3. Education and skills
  4. Environment
  5. Health
  6. Social inclusion
  7. Sport
  8. Young people
  9. Animal welfare
  10. Other

Using these categories we’ve been able to see the number of members choosing each cause, the popularity of each category, and the amount of funding each one received. We especially looked for significant or unusual data that provide specific insights and which can help direct our future campaigning.

Here’s what we found.

Community payouts increased between round 1 and 2

Our members have raised £20 million for local causes through the Local community fund  – £9,196,993 in the first round and a further £10,825,772 in the second round.

 

We saw a rise in the number of causes chosen, as well as in the income that was generated for each different cause category.

Young people and social inclusion received the most funds

It’s unsurprising that our data shows members supporting causes that align with Co-op values. In fact the Local community fund is specifically targeted at causes benefitting members’ local communities. However, clear favourites do emerge under each category.

For both round 1 and round 2, the category receiving the most funds was ‘young people’. Causes relating to this raised nearly £5 million: more than £1 million more than the next category down, which was social inclusion. We have done a lot of work in this area, including through our partnership with the Red Cross.

Between the 2 rounds, the number of causes related to young people has increased from 882 to just over 1,000, showing that this remains a priority in Co-op communities. Social inclusion groups have reduced in number between rounds 1 and 2, but remain consistent in the level of support they receive.

Homelessness is an important issue to members

The high number of causes in the social inclusion category, and the many members choosing to support them, provide a clear indication that members share our appetite for tackling the problems facing communities.

Causes in the social inclusion category were amongst the most successful at encouraging members to support them – proving the most popular cause in 43% of all the communities where they were represented in both rounds.

In the case of causes that are working to address social issues, such as homelessness, this proportion can rise even higher. Across both rounds, causes supporting the homeless proved the most popular with Co-op members in 55% of the communities where they were represented.

Promotion works

As we approached the end of the second round of funding, more than 1,600 members were choosing a cause every day. This shows that interest in causes remains alive throughout the 6-month round, and messages about choosing causes were being received through friends and family, stores and across the media.

However we found that this number increases significantly when the Co-op, and causes themselves, begin to promote the Local community fund. The chart below shows that once social media is used, either by Co-op or by the charity, to highlight both membership and local causes, members respond by logging in and choosing.

cause-selection-promotion-04-14-nov-2017Between 11 and 13 November, driven by social media activity, the daily number of members choosing a cause rose 78%. This then increased to a total of 35,000 on 14 November when we emailed our members encouraging them to select a cause, showing clearly that email is currently our most effective tool for mobilising people.

Round 3: hoping for even bigger payouts

If you’re a Co-op member, you can now choose your next local cause by logging into your account. Alternatively, if you’re involved with a local group or established charity, you can register your interest for the next round of the fund, and use social media to raise awareness. As we can see from our data, that can make all the difference.
Simon Kirby, Community data and insight manager
Charles Gordon, Senior community data analyst

We’re building a user research lab

Co-op Digital is building an in-house user research lab on the lower ground floor of The Federation. It will be available to all Co-op teams, the Federation community and, eventually, the wider world.

We’re calling it Fed Lab.

What’s a user research lab?

A user research lab is a physical space. It’s usually 2 rooms: one room that looks like a lounge but with cameras and microphones installed, and another that looks like a regular meeting room but with a very large TV. The ‘lounge’ is for researchers and participants to do research tasks, like co-designing something or doing a task on a website. And the ‘meeting room’, called a viewing room, is where the team sit and watch the research happening live.

Labs help whole teams see first-hand how their designs are working or not working. This way, a team can learn together and work on changing designs and interactions there and then. This fast response to live user research is what makes a lab such an important tool in agile delivery.

Why we’re building a lab now

Co-op Digital’s remit is to create new digital products, services and platforms; pioneer new ways to cooperate online; and help our existing businesses make the most of digital. To do this, we put users and their needs first, and help teams across the Co-op do the same.

Until now, we’ve been using external labs for lab-based user and market research, but we know from past experience that having a dedicated in-house research space significantly ups the ante on how much time teams and stakeholders spend with users.

And we believe the more time we spend with users, the better.

In the long run, the lab will help us offer teams across the Co-op a complete in-house research service. As a result, we’ll be able to build consistency in research across the business, maintain knowledge and build on it in-house, and be more financially efficient and even profitable.

But it’s not just about us. The Federation, is a fast-growing community of like-minded digital businesses and innovators. Fed Lab will give these organisations access to the tools they need to learn more about their users too.

Where we’re up to

We’ve completed the discovery and design phase of the lab, we’ve chosen the technology, and we expect to have the lab up and running in the summer. We’re pioneering a new solution, so everything needs more care and time.  

In building the lab, we’re planning on using cutting-edge, military-grade technology that will not only offer a top-end experience for people in (and out of) the lab, but also support us in maintaining our data privacy standards and help us conform to GDPR.

As the project takes shape, we’ll share much more about the technology and the design. To keep up to date with our progress, subscribe to the Co-op Digital blog. For more information, get in touch with Kate Towsey.

Kate Towsey
User research operations

Tech for good advocates can apply for funded workspace at The Federation

Earlier today, The Federation announced that the Co-op Foundation, has been given £700,000 of funding from Omidyar Network, an organisation that invests in entrepreneurs committed to advancing social good.

At The Federation, Co-op Digital already works alongside organisations and individuals who share our Co-op values but thanks to the funding, there are now 60 workspaces that like-minded tech entrepreneurs can apply for. 

You can apply for a workspace and read more about the funding over on the Federation site.

The funding will also support Federation’s events programme. Many of the events will be themed around how we create a more inclusive digital economy in the UK. Talks and workshops will look at the impact of technology on broader social issues such as loneliness, inclusive participation and the right to privacy.

Sign up to the Federation newsletter to stay up to date.

Co-op Digital team

Matching our research approach to the project

We’ve been drafting our user research principles recently and one idea to come out of the sessions was that:

User researchers shouldn’t fall back on a single research method just because we know it.

It got me thinking about my latest project at Co-op Digital and how interviewing people in a lab may have been easier for us but our insights wouldn’t have been anywhere near as valuable.

My point is: it’s easy to stick with a research method because it’s familiar or we feel confident using it, but different projects demand different approaches and user researchers must think carefully about choosing the most suitable one.

Matching the research approach to the project

I’ve been working on a ‘later life planning’ team, looking at how we can help people plan for the future.

We wanted to have conversations with people around:

  • what planning for the future means in practice
  • their hopes for the future
  • any plans they have in place

But talking about wills, funerals, loss and what might happen to us in the future can be scary and emotional – so much so that it’s a conversation lots of people avoid having. I quickly realised that our research approach needed to be carefully and sensitively planned.

We use research labs regularly and they can be brilliant. They help the whole team witness the research first-hand and the controlled environment allows the researcher to focus on the interview rather than on logistics.

But labs can be quite clinical.

The white walls and huge two-way mirror don’t foster a comfortable, relaxed environment. I wanted the people we spoke to to be comfortable. This is something that needed to be more on their terms.

Researching in context

Photograph of hands cupping a mug at a dining table. Glasses in shot as well as a plate of chocolate biscuits.Apart from putting them at ease, the decision to visit people in their homes came from the desire to understand a wider context. What environment are people in when they have these conversations and make these decisions?

And home visits were great. Talking to someone surrounded by photos of their grandchildren, or with their pets bouncing around, helped us to understand what’s really important to them. By allowing us to see a little bit of how they live, our research participants gave us insights that we might not have got if we’d spoken over the phone or they’d talked to us in a lab.

For example, we saw:

  1. People struggling to find certain documents, despite them telling us that everything was in one place. This indicates that they might not have their plans as organised as they’d made out. We’re less likely to have found this out over the phone or in a lab.
  2. People’s expressions and body language while they had candid conversations with loved ones. One valuable insight was seeing the sense of urgency on a wife’s face when she spoke about needing to replace her husband’s expired life assurance plan. Her expression gave us an idea of what an important and worrying issue this was for her. Their body language show us how much importance each of them placed on different parts of their existing plan.  

Seeing things first-hand was a good reminder that people’s lives are messy. Anything we design or build needs to consider this.

Challenges with timing and practicalities

It took a long time to plan and prepare for the home visits. The logistics of travelling, getting lost, finding somewhere to park and finding the right spot to put the GoPro so we could record the interview was sometimes tricky. And by the time we’d introduced ourselves, talked through consent, set up the GoPro, things felt quite rushed. Next time, I’ll allocate time for these things or chat over the phone before the interview to establish a relationship and cover the basics in advance.

It’s tricky to involve the whole team

I’ve found it’s easier to get the whole team involved when we’re speaking to people in the lab – it’s one place, one day. But we carried out home visits over 2 weeks making it more difficult to pin everyone down.

We discussed who we wanted to speak to and what we’d like to find out as a team beforehand. This then fed into the plan and discussion guide. Product manager Sophia Ridge and designer Matt Tyas were able to come to the various interviews but making sure the whole team heard the voice of the interviewee and got the same insight was difficult.

We all came together to watch the home visit videos and I asked everyone to take notes as they would in a lab setting. I’d hoped we’d sort the findings and uncover themes and insights together. But 2 videos in, people were pulled onto other work. Next time, I’ll take the team out of our working space and ask them to leave their laptops behind.

Research community, how do you do it?

We’d be interested to hear how and why you’ve chosen to step outside the lab for different projects, and whether you think you got more useful insight from it. Leave a comment below.

Vicki Riley
User researcher

Introducing our secondary colour palette

Since Co-op Digital began, we’ve mostly used 4 colours in our products and services. The majority have white backgrounds, blue Co-op logos, black text (sometimes blue) and our boxes and borders are grey. User interface elements such as buttons and error messages use additional colours but we’ve been quite cautious about using colour more broadly.

We wanted to keep things simple to focus on the design of our products but we’re now beginning to develop our visual language and colour will be a big part of this.

This week we’ve added a colour section to the design manual as well as 22 secondary colours to our palette. Here they are:

Grid of secondary colour palette showing blocks of colours and the hex numbers.

Choosing the colours for the secondary palette

The colours we’re trying out have their origins in the illustration and Food colour palettes from the Co-op brand guidelines. The first iteration was 8 dark and 8 light colours but designers didn’t feel those 16 were enough. They also said they looked kind of ‘muddy’ on screen.

We iterated and now we’ve got a range of dark, mid and bright hues. We’ve adapted them by brightening them slightly to make them appear more pure on screen.

Positive feedback on the primary palette

The feedback we’ve had on coop.co.uk and co-operative.coop has been positive. Users think the sites are easy to read, even on tablets and mobile devices. And making sure the colours we use are accessible, ie, that they’re high contrast enough to be clear and legible, is the most important thing.

However, there’s also an argument that the sites could be more exciting and the secondary colour palette gives us the opportunity to expand ways in which Co-op brand spirit is represented. Yes, we were cautious at first and we made sure we got the basics right before doing too much, but we are a commercial brand and we’re allowed to be a bit more interesting with how we use colour.

Giving designers alternatives

Co-op blue is a dominant colour, one that pops out and grabs the brain’s attention. This makes it great for our logo and for overall brand recognition. But, if a dominant colour is used in numerous elements on a page it can be difficult for a user to prioritise information or find what they’re looking for.

In the past, when our 3 brand colours (plus black for text) were the only ones available, some of our businesses have used Co-op blue behind white text. We use the WebAim colour contrast checker to check our colours meet the minimum colour contrast standards and the white text on Co-op blue isn’t as good as it could be accessibility-wise. Adding the secondary colours to our palette gives designers across the organisation alternatives. Co-op sites are now moving away from using the Co-op blue and are using the secondary palette instead.

Developing an approach to using colour

Along with the secondary colour palette, we’ve added a section on our approach to colour to the design manual. We aim to use colour with purpose (and also with restraint) so as not to make things complex for users.

We’re using colour to:

  • help structure content, eg, grouping things and helping users read content in a certain order
  • indicate what’s important on a page when there are no images
  • attract attention (our Twitter cards are a good example of this)
  • help highlight where action is needed, often by indicating a user’s progression through a service

Some colours already have meaning attached

There are some colour conventions in digital that users are familiar with. For example, a green button is widely used to indicate a primary call to action as a user progresses through a service. This is something we use but we also need other types like sign in buttons. We’re trying out other colours for these but wherever colour conventions already exist in the digital world, we’ll usually adhere to them. There no point making users’ lives harder.

A chance to be consistent

Co-op is a huge organisation and adding a secondary palette gives us the opportunity to create a consistent brand language on screens that’s appropriate to each context. Using just the blue, white and grey is arguably more memorable but it’s just not flexible enough for the wide variety of digital products, services, applications, forms, communications, dashboards and the rest.

Nothing’s final. We’ll need to adjust, add to or take away colours but a defined colour palette should help tie all of these things together under the Co-op brand.

Gail Mellows
Designer

5 things we learnt that helped us build the ‘How do I’ service

We’ve recently launched ‘How do I’ – a service that helps colleagues in Co-op Food stores find out how to complete store tasks and procedures in the right way. We built it based on months of research with our Food store colleagues.

Here are 5 things we learnt that challenged our assumptions and helped us create a service that’s based on the needs of the people who use it:

1.The most frequent tasks aren’t the most searched for  

In web design it usually makes sense to prioritise the most common tasks – those which affect the most people, most often. So, for food stores you could assume that might be putting a card payment through the till or putting stock out correctly – the tasks which have to be done frequently.

But we found that the majority of our colleagues had become so familiar with these tasks that they didn’t need to check the detail. It was, of course, the infrequent tasks that our users needed to check – the tasks they only have to do occasionally and need to check the detail of what’s involved.

So, we created a service that prioritised the things we knew colleagues needed to check.

2.People don’t want to rely on those around them for their development

We saw that most colleagues were confident asking for help and were used to learning by being shown. We assumed that this was the best way for colleagues to learn.

However, we found that this takes at least 2 people’s time, colleagues often felt like they were pestering the other person and it’s not always the best way of relaying information – people were sometimes passing on bad habits.

We found that it can be especially frustrating if you’re relying on a manager for information, for instance if you’re trying to learn new procedures to get a promotion. Managers are often busy with other tasks and responsibilities:

I’m going to the manager all the time – that’s why it’s taking me so long. It’d be quicker if I could have gone somewhere to look myself.

– Customer team member training to become a team leader

So we built a service that allows colleagues to be self-sufficient and responsible for their own development.

3.Managers are users too

We assumed that the audience who would benefit most from a service like this would be customer team members (rather than managers). They were our largest audience and those who were often newest to Co-op.  

But, we learnt that those who were new into a management role also felt especially vulnerable. As their responsibility increased, so did the assumption from their colleagues that they immediately knew everything:

Going from customer team member to team leader is a massive jump. It can be quite daunting and hard to get to grip with everything that has to be done.

– New team leader

So we made a service that could help give new managers confidence at the time they need it most.

4.People with specialisms can feel disempowered  

In some of the larger stores, colleagues tended to have responsibility for their own  area, for example, the cash office, newspaper and magazines or the tills. They were experts in their areas and knew the processes inside out. We assumed these colleagues would have little need to use the service.

But, we learnt that their specialism often meant that they were:

  • nervous covering shifts in different parts of the store
  • unable to cover certain shifts
  • lacked confidence applying for overtime opportunities in different stores

If I went to a smaller store I wouldn’t know what to do. I feel disadvantaged because I don’t know how to do things.

– Customer team member in a large store

 So we created a service where colleagues can access any information they want, from computers in any store, and get the knowledge they need to go for other opportunities.

5.Putting information on a website isn’t always the answer

Co-op has a lot of health and safety policies and procedures. A lot. Many people thought that the ‘How do I’ website would be the best place to put all that information. But, just because something is a procedure for Co-op Food store staff, doesn’t mean the website’s the right place to put that content, especially if we want colleagues to pay attention to it.

For information to be useful, it needs to be available at the point it’s needed.

For example, amongst the health and safety procedures are things like how to wash your hands properly after preparing food.  We learnt that people would be more receptive to the information if it was a poster positioned near the sink. It wasn’t effective it to put information like that on a website – people’s hands were dirty and they rarely had a computer nearby (if they did, it didn’t cross their mind to check it in that situation).
So, we made a service that’s based on an understanding of the what the user’s doing and where they are at that point of completing a task.  

Don’t assume. Learn.

When creating ‘How do I’ we:

  • were open-minded
  • tested our assumptions
  • made mistakes
  • were proven wrong

By understanding who our users are and what they need, we’re able to build a service that can help them, rather than a service based on reckons, assumptions and guesses.
And it doing so we were able to focus on the things that were important – our users.

Joanne Schofield
Content designer

Do you want to work with us to design content that puts users first? We’re hiring content designers.

Steve Foreshew-Cain: welcome back

(Transcript) Steve Foreshew-Cain: Hello and welcome to the first Digital team update of 2018. Happy New year to everyone hope you all had an enjoyable and festive break with your families. A big thank you to those of you who worked over the holidays, and particularly those in our social media team who were there for our members and our customers even on Christmas Day.

Before we left for the Christmas break we had the last All Team of 2017. It was a great celebration of all the hard work from everyone during the year. You can see some of the highlights in the short film which was put together and is available on our YouTube channel and linked to from our blog.

But back to the future and back to 2018, and this week we say a big hello to Matt Atkinson who’s joined Co-op as our Chief Member Officer. It’s great to have him here and he’ll be spending the next few weeks getting to know our teams in Digital alongside the other areas within his responsibility. So, a big welcome Matt.

Now, since opening the events space in The Federation in October we’ve held over 90 events for many different organisations, including the latest Digital Summit for the Mayor of Greater Manchester, Andy Burnham. The space is available for anyone to book – so if you’re looking for a great space or want to have just a look around, contact
Victoria and the team and they’ll be happy to show you around.

The Pioneer cafe in The Federation is also now serving food as well as amazing coffee. When you’re in the building do come along and check it out.

The new year has also brought some new faces to the team. We’re delighted to welcome
Heidi Berry, who is joining our engineering community, along with Danny McCarthy, Emma Gray and Kimberley Cowell who join our data science team. A big welcome to all our you.

We’ve also said a couple of goodbyes over the last few weeks to Laura Timmins and Tino Triste – thank you and as always we wish you all the very best for the future.

Dave Johnson our Director of Digital Engineering will also be leaving us at the end of January 2018. Jon Ayre will now step up and lead the Digital Engineering team
on an interim basis until we complete the process to find a permanent successor.

That’s it for this week. You’ll find our latest vacancies our blog. Don’t forget to subscribe for all our updates and follow us on Twitter. Look forward to seeing you next week.

Steve Foreshew-Cain
Group Digital Director