There were several interesting conferences last week. An honourable mention to the Worker Co-operative Forum, but the most interesting for me was the Cooperatives-SW annual conference in Plymouth on Tuesday 23 June 2009.
This free event was split into three parts: the formal business (reports, accounts and so on), an interesting direction-finding session facilitated by Marc from the Zebra Collective and a debate on the question “small is beautiful or big is better”? At the moment, there are a few massive UK co-ops emerging, particularly in retail, but also a thriving range of small independents. Must co-ops grow to survive? Are large co-ops as democratic?
The question was debated by Alan Bonner, chief exec of Radstock Cooperative Society, Chris Herries, board member of the Cooperative Group, Alex Lawrie, of Somerset Cooperative Services and Steve Guy of (I think) City of Plymouth Credit Union.
Download it in Ogg Vorbis format (5.3Mb, about 49 minutes, instructions on how to play, hosted by TTLLP). The recording was taken on an s1mp3 player I quickly threw on the table, but it performed remarkably well. There should be a video too, but it needs some codecs I don’t have.
So who do you agree with? Is it the old software question: do you merge, collaborate or fork to survive?