Everyday Participation: a tool-kit for the cooperative movement (and others)

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We've already liked the way that the New Citizenship Project brings participation practice and thinking to organisations, in public, private and voluntary sectors. They're urging managers to realise a deep shift is underway, where the passive "consumer" is becoming an active "citizen". And that this applies not just externally, facing social and cultural changes, but internally as well, in terms of how the business is run. Indeed, to be alive to the former is impossible if you don't live the latter. Alternativet in Denmark would call NCP a "fourth-sector project" (see our category tag also).

We especially like this new "Participation Toolkit" that they have produced for UK Cooperatives, based on a concept they call "Everyday Participation" (see the website). It's distinguished clearly from other forms, as you'll see in the graphic below:

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Here's their gloss:

As co-operatives, we are fundamentally participatory organisations. It’s in our DNA.

Until recently, though, participation at scale has been limited to what might be called “economic participation”, by which we mean trading with us; and at the other end of the spectrum, a relatively small number of people able and willing to get involved in “governance participation”, taking an active role in our democratic structures.

However, particularly with the advent of the digital age, there is a whole new space opening up in between these two extremes, where members can get closer to and indeed contribute to our work in small but very significant ways, on an everyday basis - in doing so building loyalty and engagement, contributing ideas and energy to our organisations and the movement as a whole.

This is “everyday participation”.

We recommend you read through the all the slides, but we were struck by these two rules, which are aimed at cooperative enterprises trying to respond to everyday participation: 


What is it?

Asking people to collect information with you as part of a data gathering exercise.

When should you use it?

This is most often used in service, product and policy development, as a way of turning product testing processes that used to be private into powerful marketing, but can also be a great campaigning tool to help harness the energy of members in campaigns to change government policy.


What is it?

Providing a formal or informal learning offer related to an aspect of your business for staff or members.

When should you use it?

Thinking about what skills people might find interesting to develop can create powerful advocates of both staff and customers. Even if only a few people actually participate, the impact on people’s perception of your organisation, just by them being aware of the offer, is significant.

It's always possible that an outcome of an A/UK laboratory process could be an enterprise, business or organisation of some kind. We're beginning to think of the better forms of organisation these could be. If we want to return power to localities and communities, in a variety of ways, we hardly want the old political structures of top-down and command-and-control to be reproduced in new initiatives.

NCP's "Everyday Participation" project is a good alternative framework.