By Jackie Wilson
Head of Co-operatives, Policy and Partnerships at Oldham Council
So the scene is set, the die is cast and the journey towards becoming a co-operative council begins. Fasten your seatbelts folks – it’s going to be an interesting ride and that’s for both the Elected Members and the officers.
The challenges are many and varied and the starting point for each council is naturally different as what it means to be a co-operative council needs to be of the place and even more importantly of the people.
There are many things in common though and fundamentally it’s about clear values; a common purpose and sharing best practice. Being a member of the Co-operative Councils Innovation Network has many benefits and provides the perfect platform to share, learn and be a part of collective committed to working differently to bring about positive change.
But what are the benefits in a practical, day to day, this is tough; I wonder if anyone else is having this kind of dilemma kind of way?
This is where the Network really comes into its own and offers a unique opportunity for officers to work creatively and effectively with each other. There are lots of ways this happens: informally through picking up the phone or dropping an email– and with 23 authorities to choose from there’s sure to be someone to help!
Through the virtual meetings which have so far focused on how to measure the ‘co-operative difference’ (more of that at Glasgow); approaching the budget challenge and sharing approaches and ideas, there is a programme of sessions now in place for the next 12 months covering everything from co-operative energy solutions to promoting co-operative enterprise. These are hosted by different member authorities using conference call technology which saves time, money, carbon emissions and enables a broad range of officers from different authorities to get involved in the conversations.
There are opportunities to get together in person too with the next event being on 2 December in Glasgow. The previous event in Plymouth was a resounding success and certainly from Oldham’s point of view we learnt a lot on community energy which has helped fast-track our thinking and proposals. Definitely a day well spent.
We work collectively on big issues such as the community resilience, job and enterprise commission currently underway and together developed a persuasive submission to the Local Government Innovation Taskforce.
In effect we are acting as our own informal consultancy support – and as the practitioners on this new agenda that is both cost-effective and genuinely helpful. If we add into that mix the expertise, input and support of the Network’s development partners, the RSA, I think we’ve got a winning combination.
Jackie Wilson is Head of Co-operatives, Policy and Partnerships at Oldham Council. She also coordinates the CCIN’s Officers’ Network.