Had a great morning with Katharine Lam, Member Pioneer for the Stockton area, gaining some insights into the role and potential of Member Pioneers.
Although Katharine has only been in post for six months she has clearly brought a lot of energy, initiative and local connections to the role and has reached out to place the Co-op at the heart of networks in the area.
So not only does she liaise with four stores, three funeral homes and the three local causes supported by the Co-op Local Community Fund in Stockton, but she has also been active in setting up and running a Bereavement Day with a wide range of organisations, taking Fairtrade assemblies into schools and arranging Fairtrade Fortnight events, supporting International Women’s Day, working with refugee groups and linking in to business networks. And all this on just 20 hours per month!
We discussed the implications of potentially focussing the Local Community Fund more clearly on a smaller number of themes, and how the proposed new structure of Member Pioneer Co-ordinators for which we are currently recruiting was going to work.
Our conversation also covered the challenge of how to encourage Co-op members to engage more with our democratic structures and help people understand that our ethical credentials were about the fundamentals of how we did business as well as supporting good causes.
Katharine gave me some real food for thought and useful pointers that I can hopefully feed into the development of our community strategies.
At the last Board meeting our membership Director Matt Atkinson had described research showing that the general public recognised that the Co-op’s employing pioneers on the ground to encourage and co-ordinate voluntary community activities was a tangible difference between our approach and the philanthropic “Corporate Social Responsibility” approach adopted by many other companies. If we can expand our network from 300 to 1500 pioneers like Katharine, one can see just what an impact we could make. And at this time when we have an increased sense of social division in our society, the messages of co-operating for the common good and building stronger communities have never been more important.