Making co-ops visible
24 June 2022 at 10:30 am
As the inaugural CEO of the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals, Melina Morrison is on a mission to raise awareness of the co-operative model and grow the sector’s share of the economy. She is this week’s Changemaker.
In 2012, as the world celebrated the International Year of Co-operatives, Melina Morrison led a national campaign to raise awareness of the contribution of co-ops in the Australian economy.
The following year saw the formation of the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals (BCCM) in 2013.
Since that time Morrison has led the peak body as CEO.
On her watch, the industry has seen many historic achievements including the first national research project on the economic contribution of Australian co-operatives and mutuals; and Mutual Value Measurement, the first framework designed to measure the total value creation of co-ops and mutuals.
For the last 10 years, Morrison has also headed media campaigns for peak co-op bodies including the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA), and she developed the message platform for the ICA’s 10 year plan, Blueprint for a Cooperative Decade.
She is a founding director of the cooperative businesses advocacy organisation, Social Business Australia, established in 2009 to increase recognition of the added value of member-based business in the national economy.
She is also an associate of media firm Sommerson Communications, which developed the strategy for the global digital case study site www.stories.coop.
In this week’s Changemaker, Morrison talks about the upcoming International Day of Cooperatives, how co-ops can help to build a better world, and why every day is an adventure.
How did you get into the job you’re in now?
I began working in the co-operative movement around 20 years ago, doing communications work for the global peak body, the International Co-operative Alliance (ICA). I then led the International Year of Cooperatives Secretariat in Australia in 2012. The secretariat continued beyond 2012 as the Business Council of Co-operatives and Mutuals, and I was the inaugural CEO.
What does a typical day look like for you?
There is no typical day at the BCCM. As a peak body we are always ready to respond proactively to new economic, regulatory and policy developments that impact our members. We like to enter the discussion on issues about social and economic equity for Australians and show where co-ops and mutuals help to build a better world.
What has been the most challenging part of your role?
Every day is an adventure with challenges and obstacles that have to be surmounted to carry on. Unifying the sector around a common identity can be tough when co-ops and mutuals don’t see that what they have in common is greater than how they are different.
It can be difficult attracting enough investment into developing the sector including forming new co-ops and mutuals, from co-ops and mutuals themselves and government.
What do you wish more people understood about the cooperative model?
There is so much discussion about new forms of stakeholder capitalism, ESG or how we can make social enterprise sustainable and scalable to meet pressing social and environmental challenges. Co-ops are the model that can balance social goals and economic necessity through member ownership and participation. And co-ops can scale. Based on 2019 figures, the co-op economy is similar in scale globally to that of France – the seventh largest economy.
International Day of Cooperatives is taking place on 2 July. Why is it important to have a day for co-ops?
This is the 100th International Day of Cooperatives. It is an important day for co-ops to raise awareness in the community about the important role they play socially, economically, culturally and environmentally.
The day is also important for co-ops to reflect internally on their purpose. The slogan this year is “co-ops build a better world”, which is a reminder we are a global movement that is changing things for the better through values-based business.
What do you do when you’re not at work?
I love to be outdoors – yoga at Wylies Baths sea-pool in Sydney is one of my favourite activities. I do also love the garden to bring me back down to earth, literally. But I have to say, I’m rarely not at work which is perhaps why I am frequently dreaming of more downtime.