The Co-operative Councils Innovation Network


Last autumn Social Business International / E3M joined the Co-operative Councils Innovation Network as an affiliate member. I had attended the network’s annual conference in Croydon and came away inspired by the opportunities to work with a group of progressive councils, looking for new solutions to the challenges facing them and their communities.

The councils involved are committed to “replacing traditional models of top-down governance and service delivery with local leadership, genuine co-operation, and a new approach built on the founding traditions of the co-operative movement: collective action, co-operation, empowerment and enterprise”. ( There seemed to be a really good fit with what we are trying to achieve through E3M.

The network aims to share knowledge and innovative practice but also to have wider influence in promoting different ways of working, At the moment there are about 24 councils involved alongside a range of associate and affiliate members (organisations that share an interest in the network’s aims and want to support it, including: Co-operatives UK, the Co-operative College, Locality, the Public Service Transformation Academy, the RSA and Social Business International among others).

Throughout the year CCIN organises its own events, exhibits and speaks at other events and organises a series of Policy Labs which involve a member council taking the lead for exploring an area for innovation and working with other members and experts to move the agenda forward. For example, Croydon Council recently led an excellent piece of work exploring community-led solutions to tackle the housing crisis.

In November I stood for and was elected to the affiliate place on the CCIN Executive Committee that oversees the work of the Network. On a personal level I believe I can make a useful contribution drawing on my experience of promoting and developing co-operatives and social enterprises in the UK and Europe. In my role running E3M and as board member of the Public Service Transformation Academy I aim to link the work of these organisations more closely with the Network.

Last week I attended my first Executive meeting in Bristol and we agreed a series of new policy labs led by different councils focussed on:

  • new approaches to community wealth building in local neighbourhoods,
  • sustainable food,
  • strategic volunteering through the “Cities of Service Model”
  • and scaling the impact of co-operatives in the local economy.

The Executive meeting was followed by a member strategy day where we worked on a developing a series of key actions to take the work of the Network Forward.

There are some great examples of where co-operative councils are putting power back in the hands of people, promoting new models for local services and growing local economies. The question is: how can we scale this up?

I believe the answer requires local public authorities to fully harness the power of co-operative and social enterprises working in their communities, based on long-term partnerships, which are relational rather than transactional.

It means embracing ways of working, and an approach to commissioning and local economic development that facilitate can this.

Above all, it has to be about sharing knowledge about what works in this field and applying this learning to create real social change.

CCIN is well placed to do this and I think it has a very important role to play as we look to the future. I am really looking forward to getting more involved.