By Ian Smith.
Several of the most active Sustainable Food City partnerships, including Cardiff, Oldham and Plymouth, have Local Authorities which belong to the Co-operative Councils Innovation Network (CCIN). I was therefore delighted to represent Food Plymouth at the CCIN annual showcase in Croydon. In doing this, I was among a number of multi-sector affiliate members and partners of the CCIN, indicating that the Network is ‘walking its talk’ around thinking, acting and actively collaborating beyond local government circles.
The conference and the evening reception the night before was a rich and impressive experience which I cannot possibly do justice to in a few short paragraphs. However, I will do my best to provide a concise summary and highlight the salient action points here.
Recurring themes emerging from speakers from across the country included: That the CCIN is growing in size, strength and influence in the face of austerity, the rise of populism; working towards anew economic model incorporating community wealth building and aiming for resilience; a drive for inclusive growth and social justice; the need for truly innovative, effective and distinctive local, regional and national solutions to current and future challenges based on co-operative and collaborative values, principles and practice; the end of several decades of out-sourcing and the accelerating shift to in-sourcing services; the need for a vibrant mixed economy in which the ‘family’ of co-operatives, mutuals and social enterprises had a vital role to play; and that many people, organisations and businesses are already co-operators but do not think of themselves as such.
In his address to the conference, Plymouth City Council cabinet member for Housing and Co-operative Development Cllr Chris Penberthy highlighted the ground-breaking work of CATERed in his overview of co-operative enterprises in the city. Chris also observed that Food Plymouth’s presence at the event was one of the indicators of the strength of the council’s partnership working.
Food also arose as a topic in many of the other speakers addresses to the conference. Furthermore, a Sustainable Food Places session was one of the lunchtime ‘fringe’ events. This was facilitated by Sustainable Food Cities Network Manger Tom Andrews and Liz Lambert, who leads Cardiff City Council’s Sustainable Development Group. I was pleased to take part in the session, along with colleagues and partners from Oldham, Croydon, Cardiff and elsewhere. One of the outcomes of this is an on-going conversation around helping sustainable food issues to gain even more traction on the CCIN agenda.
Please look out for more on this in future editions of this e-bulletin.
In the meantime, it seems only right to leave the final words for now to Cllr Chris Penberthy, who reflected one of the truths of the local sustainable food movement when he remarked that
“Solutions will look different in different areas – that is the nature of co-operatives”.