The concept of co-operation in modern Britain includes the traditional co-operative movement founded in Rochdale in 1844 (now known as The Co-operative), but it also includes social enterprises, mutual organisations, credit unions, co-operative housing schemes, and community and voluntary organisations all over the country that operate along co-operative lines, and provide local goods and services to people in the areas where they live.
The idea behind co-operation is simple - people working co-operatively together can achieve far more than people working on their own. In short, teamwork always wins.
Britain needs creative, enterprising and innovative people with the ideas and the drive to change and improve things. But those individuals cannot realise their dreams on their own: they need other people to help them get their ideas to market. And those other people form the teams without which entrepreneurs cannot be successful; and the most effective teams are organised along co-operative lines.
Co-operatives appeal to Liberal Democrats because they are run along democratic lines – it’s one of the co-operative principles. Power-sharing, working together - all follow this cooperative principle. The Preamble to our Federal Party Constitution also states that the cooperative principle should be one of the key principles of the economic structure of the country. But how relevant is the co-operative principle in modern Britain? Can it be applied to every sphere of life, or is it best suited to the economic system?
The Association of Liberal Democrat Co-operators (ALDCo) is a Liberal Democrat pressure group whose aim is to promote discussion within the party on all aspects of co-operation. We believe the time is ripe for us to re-examine this concept, and we want to encourage debate on it within the party.
Our aim is to get the Party to adopt a policy motion committing us to the theory and practice of community development organised along co-operative lines in time for the 2015 general election.
This will, we believe, complete the policy re-alignment begun by the publication of the Theory and Practice of Community Politics in 1980, which was further developed by the publication of The Theory and Practice of Community Economics in 2008.
We believe that the Liberal Democrats will then have the most radical policy framework in place to transform Britain, based on what works, so that individuals and families can realise their human potential, and have the confidence to take control of their lives and communities, and to shape them as they choose.
But every journey begins with the first step, and there are some simple steps that all Lib Dems can take now to increase our involvement and visibility in the modern co-operative movement:
- Join The Co-operative.
- Use the wide range of services it provides, and share in the dividend based on how much you spend with the organisation.
- Stand for election to The Co-operative’s regional and national committees and boards.
- Join the Phone Co-op, which provides good quality and competitive phone and broadband services.
- Seek out and help all those local groups in your area organised along co-operative lines.