On Friday 11th March our panel sat down to work out which of the applicants to our Brilliant Coops programme should receive funding and support. They had a tough task. Twenty-three applications – most filled with great ideas and passionate people behind them. The panel had an initial 25 days of advisor time and £50k to distribute.
The programme is ambitious. We have set out to proactively challenge the lack of diversity within our cooperative movement. We want to help restructure the economy in the borough of Islington – putting power into the hands of workers and local people. We are looking for opportunities to provide new coops with routes to sell goods and services to the large local anchor institutions we are working with. We want to support people who are new to the cooperative movement and model – but who have a commitment to working in this way. Picking a mix of groups to reflect these aims would not be easy.
Luckily for us, our panel had a wealth of experience between them of: working in coops, supporting start-up businesses, and significant understanding of how local authorities can assist this shift in the economy.
We are proud of the groups the panel have chosen. The vast majority are led by people from groups underrepresented within the cooperative movement. The groups cover a wide variety of sectors. A care coop and a network of food coops. Groups with plans to establish a mobile locksmiths, a catering company and an online shop for African textile goods. Art therapists working together to provide their skills to those most in need. We have a tool bank based on a housing estate. In our time of multiple global crises of inequality, environmental destruction and increasing poverty – here are a cluster of people and ideas with a transformative vision. Power in the hands of workers. A greener economy. Working with each other, rather than in competition.
We want to thank all those who applied but did not get through. We recognise tremendous hard work can go into putting together an application and it is frustrating and disappointing when this does not appear to pay off. We will be working hard to expand Cooperate Islington so we can offer more support and funding over the next few years.