Iwan Doherty, 23, Mutual Interest Media, UK
In 2016, the UK lurched into dramatic political times spurring me into political action via campaigning and writing yet while the nation struggled with Brexit and subsequent elections my attentions were caught by worker and consumer co-operatives as they provided the solution to a number of political and economic problems that we face and I believed they could prove key in building a more just economy.
My very first piece of writing that fetched a fee was on the advantages of co-operative banks and in subsequent years my journalism work has become increasingly co-operative focussed.
This passion led me to co-found Mutual Interest Media, a media co-operative owned by its readers and writers. It focuses on covering politics and economics with a particular interest in co-operative and union politics.
But Mutual Interest is far more than just another media co-operative, we wanted it to be an experiment in democratic ideas and co-operative principles.
Members get more than just a vote each year at an AGM, instead they play an active and regular role in how the publication is run. 45% of our budget each month is allocated by them in our participatory budgeting and now following our first AGM we have setup working groups to involve our members in improving the publication in a variety of ways.
This is a real divergence from other media co-operatives and has resulted in our members being incredibly active in participating and promoting the co-operative. This is something we are hugely proud of but it has also proven an incredible asset for our growth and success going forward.
However, I want to do more than just talk about new ideas and therefore, as well as writing, I have taken an active interest in campaigning to strengthen the co-operative movement.
Most recently, I have got involved at Members for Cooperation, a new campaign group designed to organise within cooperatives to increase cooperation between cooperatives. The group ran its first campaign from February, aiming to get the largest retail co-operative and building society in the UK to setup a ‘co-operative accelerator’ for new co-operatives.
We attempted to pass a special resolution at their AGMs and though we gained solid support from members we were unsuccessful. However, will be trying again next year as well as starting a number of new campaigns that our members decide to pursue.
This organising resembles what I believe co-operative identity is. Ordinary people having control of their communities and the economy around them. Co-operatives can help build a fairer, more prosperous economy by appreciating the strength of democracy and communities of people.