Report from Transitional Council President – Lesley Reznicek
Five years ago, I moved to a small village on the edge of the Yorkshire Dales and naturally shopped at the local Co-operative store. The Co-op is at the heart of our small community and it helped to raise money to save the local library and rebuild the children’s playground. It is this relationship between the business and the local community that we must replicate across the country. Making membership more relevant and appealing to our customers will enable that to happen.
As we begin the recovery of our organisation it will be vital that the voice of our Members is not just heard but is central to our thinking and decision making. The ability for all our Members to play a part in shaping our future is there. The challenge is to make the most of the opportunities that have been created to ensure Members participate and help create a co-operative they are proud to call their own.
Bringing a greater depth of commercial experience and expertise to the boardroom is to be welcomed, but along with that professionalism there must exist a deep commitment to our Values and Principles and the co-operative difference that has made such a contribution to British life since the Rochdale Pioneers began their work in 1844. As the Pioneers understood, we need both commercial success and social responsibility to be an effective co-op, and the Council will play its role in ensuring this is achieved.
With the changes brought about through our governance reforms we are resetting the relationship between the Board, the Group Executive and the membership. The Council will work with and support the Board and Executive in their efforts to rebuild the Co-operative Group. We must develop mature and trusting relationships founded on a shared understanding of what a successful future will look like for us. We are a member-owned business, rather than just an organisation with members, and that means membership is integral to all aspects of running the Society.
Harnessing both the democratic and commercial benefits of being a co-op will be key to our success. We have made a good start but there is still a great deal of work to do. We need to find the best way for the Council to ensure it can fulfil its role to hold the new Board to account. We must find new ways for Members to show their co-operative commitment in their local communities. We must support Group colleagues to understand what membership means so they too can be strong ambassadors for the co-operative way of working. All of this will ensure we stay firmly rooted in the lives and concerns of our customers.
Growing up, there were three rules in our house: to be open, to be honest and to try to make a difference to other people. Later, I learnt that these are the ethical values of the Co-operative. My family has been involved in the co-operative movement for more than 100 years and I believe these values have served the movement well. If we keep them at the heart of our business today, we will have a Co-op we can all be proud of.
I’d like to offer my thanks to my Vice Presidents, the Senate and to our new Members’ Council which has worked so hard to set up our new structures. We are at the beginning of a critical journey to put our Members right at the heart of the Co-operative Group. Working in a united and positive way, we can help make the Co-op difference come alive again.
Transitional Council President