The Solidarity Co-op Summit was an ideal opportunity to put the SUSY project hat on and network with a group of other co-operators from around the UK at the Solidarity Co-op Summit. The main aim of the day was to talk about the shared needs of the movement and the social role of co-ops, described as ‘enterprise for the common good’ as opposed to enterprise for private benefit.
Solidarity co-ops may be a relatively new term, but the idea harks back to the original Rochdale Pioneers who were absolutely challenging the system to engender social change and creating the sense that ‘we are building something together’.
Some participants felt that there remained a need to reinvigorate the co-operative brand in the wake of the crises in the traditional co-operative movement and the potential loss of public support for co-operation. It was agreed that we need to collectively challenge this by reaching out with positive messages demonstrating the co-operative alternatives and showcasing how great they are. One way to empower smaller co-operatives is through horizontal networking, giving them a greater voice and helping co-operation between co-ops (Principle 6) to flourish.
One key issue that came up was that historically, mutuality grows when times are tough, and it is estimated that in 2018 there will be more self-employed workers that public sector workers, many of whom will be underemployed, over-qualified and working precariously. This demonstrates a massive need for new co-ops to support a range of different areas, such as childcare and freelancers, and also for encouraging the movement to mobilise its assets to better support this need. People agreed that it is important to position solidarity co-ops at the forefront of the movement and to make this summit the start of a working group who will create a Solidarity Co-op Network.