Bob has possibly a unique breadth and depth of cooperative experience, and his understanding of developing cooperation in entrepreneurial practice in a commercial market is very valuable. He believes that coops are first and foremost about their people, and he enables coops to succeed by helping their members to work together cooperatively. This need is often overlooked in cooperative development.
He was a Suma member for 30 years, working in all parts of the business over time and helping build the workers cooperative from 15 members to 180, exporting to 50 countries and providing excellent worker benefits. Bob introduced most of Suma’s current people organisation agreements and processes, giving the base for that success. He is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development, the HR professional body.
While at Suma, Bob was a Bradford city councillor and chair of economic development and chairman of the district business support agency.
Through Cooperative Business Consultants (which he co-founded in 2002), Bob assists worker coops, and other types of democratic coop, with their governance, management and, especially, people organisation needs. CBC was a major Cooperative Enterprise Hub contractor.
Bob was chair of the former national worker coop association (ICOM) and led the merger with the consumer coops to form Cooperatives UK in 2001. As a board member he helped establish the Worker Cooperatives Council of CoopsUK, the annual Worker Coops Weekend and co-authored the UK Worker Coop Code of Governance, the WorkerCode. As the UK representative he learned about worker cooperation in other countries with the European federation CECOP and global federation CICOPA.
He brought many cooperative ideas back to the UK from these activities, some of which are being actively pursued in the UK context. He continues to network UK coop enthusiasts with counterparts in countries all over the world.
Bob believes the key to effective cooperatives is cooperative behaviour by their members and workers. Orthodox management thinking is based on dehumanising, divisive, hierarchical, models unsuitable for collectively governed worker coops, or for consumer coops with engaged members.
Bob has extensively researched this issue, working with less well known academic thinkers, and uses a range of coop friendly management techniques to encourage participation by members and workers in the governance and management of their coop. The extraordinary success of Suma and some of Bob’s consultancy client coops indicates this is a good approach.