Co-operate – it is within the name.  


It is co-operating for a fairer world for communities to thrive and flourish. With community, diversity and inclusion at the very core of The Co-Operative’s work, Co-operate uses tech to reach communities and gain fairer access to food, mental wellbeing services and fairer access to education and employment for young people. In this session, we are introduced to Commercial Director Dave Robertson, who gives us a brief introduction about Co-Operate along with Delivery Manager, Rachael Shah, and an Apprentice, Precious Oledele, who further speaks on Co-operate’s goals and how they work with communities to make sure they are provided with opportunities as well as setting up local projects and social events to bring communities together through the power of tech.

In this day and age, we can easily become distanced from our local communities, with the efficiency of technology and simply getting caught up in our own personal lives. We forget that what we sometimes require can be provided by our local communities and instead look to bigger establishments for our needs. Co-Operate’s vision is to create a place to go to, to make things happen within our local communities, to amplify the good things and make it easier to connect with others and get things done. An example of this would be their organised cooking classes, setting up youth and skill groups, arranging social and local projects. By performing user research, gathering quantitative and qualitative data to pull out key points, conducting interviews with real site users who show they are keen to connect with fellow organisers and using Fable, a platform for user testing for people with disabilities which is used on digital products across Co-op, the online platform has been made to be accessible, functional and inclusive so everyone and anyone is able to navigate smoothly through the site. As well as user research, they have also experimented with imagery and found that using ‘real’ imagery of a local community than a standard stock image, had more impact and effect on the public, which further demonstrates Co-op’s honesty and realness.


Co-operate’s design principles seem to have been a crucial part in reaching the people who want to get involved, which include:

  • Designing for everyone
  • Designing iteratively
  • Designing in context
  • Designing with purpose 
  • Designing in the open
  • Designing with honesty


With these principles combined, they have become successful in connecting a varied amount of communities within the UK from just 9 communities from March to a light national presence to this day and is continuing to successfully connect communities together (even during a global pandemic!) They have, not only, developed an online presence, but also a real presence in people’s lives with their member pioneers. Unlike social media platforms, member pioneers are not just people you connect with online, but real people that you are directly linked with. With these member pioneers, 3,500 activities were successfully completed in the UK. 

Co-Operate’s clear hands-on work with communities have and has always stood out, since 1844, with members getting out there in the community, interacting with people and receiving feedback as to how Co-Op can be improved and have strived to better understand their audience, adapting and utilising tech as a tool to further progress and unite communities together. It is absolutely safe to say that Co-Operate’s priority is always and has always been the people and community. With that said, their belief of equality, diversion and inclusivity is consistent and constant in their everyday work, providing fair trade products that are accessible to everyone, with Steve Murrell, the CEO being a prominent supporter of the BLM movement, presenting how crucial it is for leaders to lead their communities by example.


To learn more about how you can use tech to further connect with your communities watch the session here.

Stephani Barbero

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