Today I had the pleasure of attending my first Co-op AGM along with nearly 1,000 members at Manchester Central.
It was inspiring to see and hear from so many co-operators – people who clearly feel very passionately about the success and future of Co-op. Here’s the full text of my speech.
Tomorrow I will be discussing our digital strategy with Nick Crofts and our Council, and from Monday we will be sharing more details here.
Hello. First a personal note. I’m new here. This is my first Co-op AGM and I wanted to say how proud and excited I am to be here. I’ve been motivated through my whole career by helping align the open and innovative values of the internet with those of pioneering organisations. I can’t think of a better place to continue that work than here. And, I should also say how warm the welcome has been to me and my team. Thank you for that. It feels like we’ve come home.
Now, we’ve heard about how we want to return to our pioneering roots, how we disrupted markets by doing the right things things that mattered to society. Today the some of the biggest disruptions to traditional businesses and organisations have come from the digital world.
But there’s an important thing to remember about digital. It doesn’t just mean changing the logo on the website and making some apps. ‘Digital’ when done well, means fundamentally redesigning the services we deliver, it means changing the way we work, very often this means we make things cheaper and more efficient – but that’s not the main point – the main point is that we create different, better, stronger relationships between our colleagues, you – our members, our partners and our customers.
We’re doing three things to deliver on that digital promise
1. Helping our businesses get digital
We’re working with each of our businesses to build new services and improve the ones we’ve got. We’re starting small, working iteratively and making sure our services are focused relentlessly on the needs of their users and our members.
You’ll start to see the fruits of our work soon – we will be sharing our progress on these projects on our blog at digital.blogs.coop/
This will be a feature of our work from now on – radical transparency. One of the things the internet is great at is sharing – allowing people to see inside your work, at their own convenience. We won’t be bombarding you with email, but we will invite you to follow our progress in as much detail as you’d like. That feels like a Co-op thing to do – right?
Behind me are some of the prototypes we’re working on right now, for funeral care and for wills. We’ll be sharing those with your council tomorrow and then we’ll be sharing them on the blog for everyone to see what we’re up to. Our plan is to extend the openness and transparency of our pioneers into the new worlds of digital.
So keep an eye on the blog, there will be exciting things happening there.
2. Making the Co-op trusted with data
Right now businesses like Google, Apple, Facebook and Amazon control our access to huge amounts of information, the news we read, the products we buy, the ways we communicate.
This has delivered tremendous convenience, but it’s not come without questions. People are beginning to wonder what companies have access to what data. They’re asking how it’s being used. They’re starting to question whether maybe they’ve shared too much.
If our members and customers trust us with their data then we can build enormously convenient and compelling services for them, we can use that data for good. But it’s increasingly clear that we have to win that trust, that we can’t take it for granted.
So we’re committing to a data relationship that’s unambiguously clear and transparent. We will always be clear and precise with you, our members about what we are going to do with your data. Frankly we shouldn’t have much choice – you’re our owners. You will be in control of the data we hold on you.
3. Pioneering digital membership
And Digital will also play a crucial role in making membership stronger and more vibrant.
We’ve talked about the 5% for you and the 1% for your community. But the other element of being a member is having a Co-op voice. Having a say, as co-owner, in the way the business is run and the decisions it makes.
And if we’re really serious about democratic participation we need to find far more ways to make this happen. Elections and Motions are important. But there’s so much else we can do using digital.
We want members to give us real time feedback on our products and services. We want members to help shape our ethical strategy not once a year but all through the year. We want to make it easier for members to connect with each other and share the stories coming from their own communities.
This is just the beginning. Make no mistake, the future of the Co-op is digital because the future of society is digital. It’s our job to make sure that there’s a digital world out there with Co-op values, not just the values of Silicon Valley and venture capital.
Come back next year and you’ll see how we’re making that promise a reality.
And keep an eye on our blog.
Chief Digital Officer