Affiliation with ICOS

After significant discussion, passionate debate and with some members maintaining reservations, there was consensus at our last General Meeting to affiliate with the Irish Co-operative Organisation Society.

Context

Two core goals of the current CB are to (i) improve our internal governance according to best practice and (ii) reach out to the wider co-operative movement in Ireland.

The governance of the Co-op is not consistent with best practice and we have a large number of deficiencies that the CB believe we need to address. This is quite a labourous task, and the CB believe that they would benefit from being able to consult an organisation with expertise in the good governance of Co-ops.

Co-operation Amongst Co-operative is the 6th Co-operative Principle and Dublin Food Co-op has been engaging with our sister co-op in Limerick, as well as working food co-ops in County Cork. The CB believe that they next step is to explore the wider co-operative community and discover if there are ways we can co-operate for the benefit of the whole movement.

How do you achieve these aims?

The typical manner in which co-operatives around pursue these aims is to join a national apex organisation (link or description of this).

The situation in Ireland is a little complex in that their is no de jure apex organisation - but in recent years ICOS has been working to fill this role. ICOS has historically represented and supported the agricultural co-operative sector, which is the largest co-operative sector in Ireland both in terms of membership and revenue.

The Summer OGM

An OGM was held in the summer of 2017. One of the motions was affiliation to ICOS - this being proposed by the Secretary on behalf of the CB. There was a presentation of both of the positives and negatives associated with affiliation.

The membership was quite receptive to affiliation but a significant number of members held reservations - particuarly related to the ethos of ICOS and its membership being primarily the dairy co-operative sector.

In the end a member blocked a decision on the night, and it was decided to explore ways that a consensus could be reached on affiliation.

The Interim

The Secretary met with a number of members who held reservations about affiliating to ICOS. These reservations centred on (i) the members losing control of our ethos, (ii) a potential negative influence on our values over time and (iii) the potential perception that we are endorsing ICOS by affiliating.

The Secretary then drafted an amended version of the motion that attempted to address these concerns by placing a clear time-limit on the affiliaton and placing continued affiliation in the hands of the membership at AGMs.

This would mean that the members could review the benefits of membership in the previous year, and its effect on our ethos - and decide whether to continue.

This would have always been the case - but the amended version made this clear and explicit.

The SGM

An SGM was called in October to make a decision on the amended motion. This meeting did not make quorum however and it was adjourned until the following week.

An an informal talkin’ co-op commenced, in which we discussed the benefits and some members continued reservations about ICOS

After discussion the benefits of affiliation, some members retained their reservations, their was an informal consensus on the night to give affiliation a try and to make a decision once again in 2019.

The Adjourned SGM

The meeting started and as we had a significant number of members in attendee who had not attended previous meetings on the subject, we went through the discussion once more.

Some members had reservations about the value for money of the affiliation.
There were reservations about whether we needed the services ICOS provided, do we have much in common with other ICOS affiliates and whether ICOS priorities were in line with our own.

The CB defended the cost as very good value for money, and reassured the members that it was there believe that we would available of many of the services provided - particularly as we seek to important our internal good governance.

One member spoke about affiliating with ICOS as being more than just the services, but about the Dublin Food Co-op starting to look outward, rather than inward - and look at how other co-ops are working, so that we can learn what to do (and what not to do!). He maintained reservations about the ICOS ethos etc. but felt that it was worth trying for a year.

The CB recognised the concerns of the members around the ethos of ICOS and some of their members, but noted that what binds us is our commitment to the 7 Co-operative Principles which are embedded in the ICOS constitution as much as our own.

The motion was agreed by consensus - with some members retaining reservations.

Way Forward

The CB will now implement the will of the members, and are in the process of finalising affiliation.

We encourage members to remain engaged with this issue, and interrogate the values of our affilation in upcoming AGMs.

We will also be able to engage in the governance of ICOS, and we will update the members on this in due course.