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Why we have withdrawn our membership of Coops UK

11 Mar 2022

This week Cooperatives UK, the membership body which is set up to promote and support co-operatives in the UK, published its new strategy and new brand. Off the back of this, we have decided to withdraw our membership and support from Coops UK. We wanted to share why we have decided to do this. 

Cooperatives UK commissioned a private limited company to develop their brand. For us, this is at odds with their strategy, published on the same day, which prioritises ​​enabling tech and digital; embedding the values and principles across all businesses; and inspiring communities to grow the co-operative economy. 

We believe that Cooperatives UK should be held to high standards when it comes to commissioning cooperatives in their supply chain, and truly embodying Principle 6: Cooperation among Cooperatives. Whilst as a small worker co-op our membership fees may be insignificant compared to other members of Coops UK, we want them to be used to support the co-op sector, not the private sector. 

Outlandish has played a key role in developing CoTech, a UK-wide network of worker co-operatives in the digital sector. This network includes more than 50 cooperatives, and almost every co-op has at least one designer. In other words, the co-op sector is not lacking in highly experienced designers. 

We feel really let down that Cooperatives UK chose to directly support a private competitor, rather than working with a cooperative or indeed working with us to help their branding consultant to convert to becoming a cooperative. Frankly this feels like a slap in the face to reward CoTech for the work it has done to promote co-ops in the tech sector. 

Cooperatives UK have never put any money into supporting CoTech, nor SPACE4, despite these projects going a long way to promote the movement. Whilst we understand that Cooperatives UK don’t have masses of cash, it would be nice to think they recognised our hard work and collaborated with us to enhance it, rather than undermine it.

We’re withdrawing from Cooperatives UK, and we imagine we won’t be the only ones. We hope that they find the time to address our concerns and start to live their values wholeheartedly. For us, this would include: 

  • Publicly explaining why they have moved away from using cooperatives, and what measures they took to exhaust all options in the cooperative movement. If they do not have faith in the quality of our work we would welcome a dialogue about this, rather than finding out over Twitter. 
  • Updating their policies to ensure that they only hire co-ops unless they cannot find one in the whole of the UK to fulfil their needs. 

If you would like to discuss this please get in touch with us on hello@outlandish.com.