John is now membership and party support officer at the Co-operative Party
I lead the Party’s membership and Party Support team, providing day-to-day support and advice. Queries range from branch organisation concerns about delivering the Co-operative Party message to members who want a ruling or would like to share and promote an activity. I write the party officers support mailing and, with my team, develop member-recruitment strategies and communications. I also answer general queries on the wider co-operative movement.
How do you get started in the morning?
By slowly waking up to Radio Five Live. I make a flask of Revolver Co-operative coffee then catch the train from Stafford to London at 7.40am. The journey takes two hours, so most days I am able to do some work on the train.
What did you used to think of co-operatives, before you started working for one?
I already thought co-ops were cool and was a member of the Co-operative Party and several local societies – I have great co-operators Kath Paterson and Jack Kemp to thank for that. In particular, I had seen how valuable members were to the success of co-operatives.
What do you think of co-operatives now?
I am as passionate and excited about the value of co-operation today as I was when I joined the Party 20-odd years ago. In particular, I love the way the movement is constantly changing, evolving and diversifying – and yet still sticking to co-operative values and principles, which are essentially the greatest set of rules for any community or organisation.
What motivates you throughout the day?
The members and the co-op movement. Our members are brilliant – they give up their time for free to promote co-operative solutions to today’s problems across the country from Plymouth to Perth. Our members’ involvement keeps me on my toes and inspires me every day.
What does the co-operative difference mean to you and your team?
A better way of living for all the community. Unfortunately, in many circles it is still seen as an alternative to the mainstream. But it is not an alternative; it is the proper, effective and successful way to run a business or a service. Co-operatives offer a tangible solution to the problems of today, just as they have done since the 18th century.
What inspires you in your profession?
The people. Membership practitioners such as Sue Letts and Peter Couchman; volunteer members such as Richard Bickle and Mary Lockhart directors such as Elaine Dean, Jean Nunn-Price and Jenny De-Villiers; co-op entrepreneurs such as Vivian Woodell. The commitment, creativity and passion of the people I meet every day never ceases to inspire me. I like co-oppy people.
If you could form a never-tried-before co-operative tomorrow what would it be?
A proper co-operative nursing home, where the members are the residents and staff. Member-residents sell their houses and place the capital in the home, nursing care is provided free by NHS, and personal care by staff. The interest off the capital and the members’ income pay for the care and services, while those with no income or from rented housing receive benefits (as they do in private homes). When a member moves out or passes away their capital (less fees) is recovered and given to heirs, and a new member puts their capital in. Staff “capital” is their labour. All members have a say in the running of the home.
How do you wind down?
Reading books on Cornwall, history and co-op history, shouting at Sunderland AFC and cracking very poor jokes.