Mike Bracken

Co-operation, Collaboration and Membership

by Mike Bracken. Average Reading Time: about 3 minutes.

One Angel SquareAfter nearly 5 years helping the UK Government with its digital transformation, I’m delighted to announce that from October 2015 I will join the Executive Board of the Co-operative Group as Chief Digital Officer, working to the Chief Executive, Richard Pennycook.

I have loved my time in Government, and will be so sad to leave my friends at GDS and in the digital, technology and data professions. Yet I’ve been involved in the intersection of Government, the Internet and social change for 20 years, so leaving my current role means I am leaving Whitehall and the mandarins, not the wider community. With Richard’s support, I will be able to advise and help international Governments and those in the emerging digital government and civic tech movements. More about that later in the year.

There are many parallels between Government and the Co-operative: The opportunity to work at scale, in a £10bn organisation, to chance to set a digital strategy and improve member experience; to work with inspiring colleagues all over the country; and to build strong businesses serving diverse audiences. It’s another fantastic challenge.

The Co-operative movement is close to my heart. The values and ethics of Co-operatives are more relevant in society today than they have ever been and are highly congruent with the open Internet.  The group has millions of members, and its 70,000-plus colleagues are some of the most committed and community spirited I have met. The organisation, after some painful years, is in rebuild mode, and it is its digital strategy, focussed on its membership and people, that will define it in the next few years.

Richard has created a hugely impressive and collaborative executive board, and now seeks to attract digital talent all across the organisation and give it board level presence. His support for digital and his willingness to reform institutions so they can focus on serving their users were the clinchers. The Co-operative has a history of adapting its institutional set-up to best meet member needs. Collaboration is the standard way of working. The community benefits are plain for all to see.

Like Richard, who has carefully brought the institution through a rescue phase, I am convinced that membership, and the digital services that connect members to the Co-op, are central to the organisation’s future. There’s no reason why the Co-operative shouldn’t be able to move as fast and be as agile as any digital organisation – we will do that. But what will make it special will be feeding the organisation’s commitment to community engagement into the digital relationships we build. There are new opportunities to explore in the nascent ‘data economy’, in new services and platforms for co-operation – but they will be better and stronger because they will be infused with Co-operative values.

This will require ambition, teamwork, listening to our members and correcting our course as we go, all based on the Co-operative values we inherited from the original pioneers. In Government, we worked hard to create an international movement of digital pioneers to remake the state, digitally. In the Co-op we already have the movement, now we have to remake it for the digital era.

I will be spending a lot of time in Manchester and also with colleagues all over the country. I would love it for you to join me on this journey. If you haven’t already, please become a member and let me know how we can improve the offer and make it more meaningful.

And, If you’re reading this from a Government community anywhere in the world, please be aware that I’m not going away. I will be helping some international Governments to engage in digital transformation. I will continue to help colleagues as far afield as Singapore, Australia, Argentina and the USA. That movement has sustained me, and I could never leave it.

More on that in a few months, but for now, if you want to talk to me about how I can help you, please email me here