The Robert Owen Annual Lecture 2022

This lecture was the second in an annual series and took place on the 100th International Co-operatives Day. Its aim was to address relevant and topic issues facing local, regional, national and global communities. With participants from France, Uganda, England, Wakes and Scotland this year’s lecture focussed on The Big Society and the co-operative contribution to Sustainable Communities and was led by three knowledgeable, respected and important speakers who have a wealth of community, co-operative and mutual experience:

  • Baroness Sue Hayman, The Co-operative Party, Rural Co-operative Commission
  • Amelia Washbourne, Community Activist, Fresh Start South Wye, Director
  • Jesse Norman, MP for Hereford and South Herefordshire

Sue Hayman spoke in an engaging and interesting way about the work of the Co-operative Party, Rural Co-operative Commission recognising that over 20 million people live in rural areas of England and face a number of individual as well as common problems such as:

  • Having their voice heard
  • Facing a more difficult transition to net zero
  • Local and regional transport issues
  • A lack of affordable housing
  • Poor stocks of rental housing
  • A knock on effect of the previous two points on recruitment of skilled workers
  • Ownership of local and regional issues
  • Rural “powerlessness” and poor engagement in the decision making process
  • A lack of data on rural inequalities

In response to these issues the Commission was espousing the value of a co-operative approach based on the Co-operative Movements Values and Principles which would enhance the lives of local communities by:

  • Giving citizens greater power of their own affairs
  • Devolve wider and increased powers to local councils
  • Ensure that “levelling up” was made relevant in every community, in every situation
  • Secure effectively resourced health services
  • Develop long term job creation and prospects
  • Ensure that communities were engaged in decisions and the running of education, communications and the policing of their communities

The Commission is developing twelve missions to take its work forward and these will be published as part of the final report.

Amelia Washbourne describing herself as a co-operator and founder of Fresh Start spoke with passion on the role of co-operation and co-operative structures in the local communities and the plans for embedding those structures in the diverse communities that make up the South Wye area of Hereford.

She introduced the historical context of Robert Owen and the 24 Rochdale Pioneers and how they engaged with and changed their communities in response to challenges they faced from the establishment and capitalist structures of their time. She skilfully linked these to the challenges facing the residents of the villages that make up South Wye and went on to describe how she, Fresh Start and the Robert Owen Society planned to meet these challenges and turn them into opportunities for local resident.

Amelia described the:

  • development of a strategic plan and road map that is underway for developing the local villages into Co-operative Villages
  • growth of democratic structures
  • plans to improve lives and make education and training available
  • focus on creating better facilities and creating strong bonds by linking communities together.

 Listen to Amelia’s presentation here:

The final speaker was Jesse Norman, the MP for Hereford and South Herefordshire. The author of a series of books, his focus was on The Big Society which was a product of the financial crash that began in 2007 and has impacted on the world economy since then.  He covered a wide area of history and the modern day raising many interesting and important issues for the consideration of co-operative’s in general and talked in depth about:

  • An emphasis on the individual as a social animal struggling against the internal or differing issues of local and central government
  • A concept of society and communities enabled by the state
  • Building on the richness of society and people’s loyalty to and interest in their communities
  • How society could re-engender civic pride in its communities and building our commonwealth
  • Avoiding the politicising of issues
  • The importance of continuing to focus on building women’s rights especially in the face of the current challenges, if not yet in the UK, in other parts of the world

Jesse’s presentation can be seen here:

****DIARY DATE****

The next Robert Owen Lecture will be at 10am on Saturday 1st July 2023.

Further information will be available shortly on this website and via Facebook, Twitter and Linkedin.

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