With more than 4.6 million active members, The Co-op is the UK’s largest consumer co-operative organization. Based in Manchester, it offers a diverse range of services, including food, legal services, funeral care and general insurance through more than 4,000 locations across the UK. Its status as a co-op means that its large membership plays an active role in its governance, contributing to its business strategy and social goals as well as sharing in the rewards of its membership scheme.
The Challenge – Opening the floor
Lumi has worked with The Co-op since 2015, when a move to ”one member, one vote,” governance arrangements meant that more than two million members became eligible to vote at the organization’s AGM. Because of The Co-op’s complex voting system – which takes into account different societies, representatives and voting strengths– the meeting required a sophisticated digital voting solution.
The Solution – Giving a voice to members
Looking for a solution that could handle the substantial increase in participation and provide voters with an efficient and intuitive way to submit their input, The Co-op turned to Lumi, which had been delivering solutions for many of The Co-op’s key conferences and meetings for many years.
This track record, and Lumi’s history of delivering digital voting solutions for numerous other organizations, gave The Co-op faith in Lumi’s ability to deliver the AGM solution. For that first meeting, Lumi developed new elements to their advanced software solutions to accommodate The Co-op’s complex voting procedures and to help ensure a successful meeting.
Lumi’s solution comprised an on-site registration that provided a quick and fully auditable registration process. In-room voting was handled through Lumi’s IML Connectors, handheld devices that allow members to vote during the formal meeting. The IML Connectors are activated once the members insert their smartcards, which they receive upon arriving at the AGM. Any regional representatives or 3rd party appointments have their weighted voting strength included in their cast vote using just one keypad and smartcard. Any votes obtained at the AGM were instantly added to any proxy votes received prior to the start of the meeting.
The Results – The next step for AGMs
The 2015 AGM saw a substantial influx of ‘on the day voting’ members. But thanks to Lumi’s on-site registration and polling services providing instant access to voting data, the event ran smoothly and Lumi has been helping The Co-op with its AGMs ever since.
“The success of that first AGM has led to a blossoming relationship with The Co-op and we have continued to work with them ever since,” says Peter Fowler, Lumi’s UK Managing Director.
“It’s a relationship that we treasure and we’re delighted to be able to help make their meetings to be as successful as they are. The membership are really engaged with the meetings and the use of our keypads not only brings a democratic way of voting but enlivens what can be a long meeting.”
“In 2018, we introduced a new element to the meeting – our Event app. It’s a Co-op branded event container that allows the group to create multiple meetings within it, containing information that members can download and view when they attend events. It all helps The Co-op in its drive to make its meetings paperless and digital,” Fowler adds. “Members can see agendas and speaker biographies, download large documents such as the Notice of Meeting or Annual Report, as well as any other information they need to get a really broad overview of whatever topic is being discussed. Once concluded, any voting results can be instantly uploaded for members to view at a later date. The app has been used for other meetings, helping to increase member engagement outside the AGM.”
The event app allows The Co-op to see what aspects of the meetings are most engaging for members, which documents are most useful and which of the accompanying articles and ads are most popular.
“Lumi has provided The Co-op with a digital registration and voting solution that has been able to flexibly adapt to our complex voting processes,” says Simon Plunkett, Democratic Project Manager for The Co-op. “Lumi’s approach is always ‘can do’ – no matter the scale of the challenge or the timescales. Whether it’s IT development or customer facing registration, Lumi staff are positive, customer-focused and ready to go that extra mile to make our AGMs successful.”
Fowler says, “The Co-op’s ability to embrace new technologies means it is showing the way forward for AGMs. We look forward to continuing our strong relationship with them in the years to come and adding value to their annual meetings and other events outside the AGM.”