Happy Co-operative New Year

sarahI hope you’ve had an enjoyable festive period with time for both family and friends. I always love this time and also its greater opportunity for reflection.There was one moment on Christmas Day that was particularly memorable. We were gathered together to open our presents. My daughters passed me a rather large parcel – so I was full of anticipation. What could it be? I tore open the wrapping to reveal … an exquisite Cath Kidston craft kit, with everything that I would need to make lots of beautiful decorations including a rather large bag of ‘stuffing’!

My immediate reaction was, “Oh No! How am I going to find time to do all this sewing?” However, this was soon followed by a feeling of joy when my younger daughter chirped up “We thought you’d enjoy making it with us”. At once I could imagine the fun we’d have together. What I initially perceived as an overwhelming task would become a rewarding experience. On Boxing Day we went into production together. The process was as important as the outcome.

It’s a simple story, but one that illustrates the power of co-operation. We achieved so much more together than I could ever have achieved on my own. In a similar way, businesses and employees can unleash their potential through working together – developing opportunities – sharing risks and sharing rewards.

2012 was designated the International Year of Co-operatives. It was a year in which Co-operative Development Scotland reached more businesses than ever before. New initiatives included our ‘Collaboration Prize’ and ‘Employee Ownership Ambassadors’. Both gave us a platform to reach businesses the length and breadth of Scotland, helping them engage with each other and their employees.

As we look forward, I anticipate growing interest in innovative business models with collaboration at their heart. The International Co-operative Alliance’s blueprint for a ‘co-operative decade’ aims to establish co-operative models as the ‘fastest growing form of enterprise’. And businesses gurus like Michael Porter, based at Harvard Business School, argue that the future belongs to those businesses that invest in ‘shared value’ – models that optimise outcomes for a range of stakeholders.

There is growing interest in economic wellbeing; in holistic approaches focused on longer term sustainability; in models that empower people – tapping into their energy and enthusiasm and spreading the benefits of economic activity. The Scottish Government, Scottish Enterprise and Highlands & Islands Enterprise recognise the important role that co-operative and employee owned models play in enabling sustainable economic development.

So, here’s to the future – a positive future … with more businesses unleashing their potential through co-operation. If that sounds appealing, we’d love to hear from you!

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