Meet our new Trustees! We are profiling two brilliant new Trustees, elected to our Board at our June 2023 AGM.
Today we introduce Ruth Buchanan, who has been Head of Finance at Co-operatives UK since January 2023
“I trained as an auditor and I’ve been practicing as an accountant for about 15 years or so, in a lot of financial services companies.
One of my more recent roles was in insurance in Liverpool. It was there that I increasingly became aware that something didn’t quite fit. I’m a trustee of a local charity, and the more I did that kind of thing, the more I realised I wanted to do something more worthwhile. So I started looking for a job in a smaller, more ethical kind of organisation – and then the role at Co-operatives UK came up. I was delighted to be successful in my application and started in January.
Co-operatives UK is a member of ICOF and the two organisations have worked quite closely together over the years. As a ‘nominated body’ Co-operatives UK appoints someone to the ICOF board. The role fits quite well with my experience of financial services, loans and lending. As a member of the leadership team, I was asked if wanted to take it on when the previous Board member left their position at Co-operatives UK. And here I am!
I’ve not been involved in co-ops before, so I am learning a lot! It’s possibly quite unusual that I’m so new to the sector and on the Board. Since working at Co-operatives UK I have found that a lot of the same people pop up in different organisations – people who’ve been in the movement for a long time. I’m definitely not one of those! But I’m really enjoying being part of the co-operative family; learning about it and getting involved.
The values and principles fit with my own personal beliefs and I want to do something that I could really understand at a human level and ‘get hands on’, rather than being part of big corporate endeavours that are far removed from delivery and impact.
There’s a resilience piece about co-operatives that I find really exciting. Our recent report on the Democratic Economy shows that newly formed co-ops are much more likely to succeed than other new-starts, and that’s such a positive message. There’s a special kind of power that comes from both the financial investment and the people who get emotionally invested when it’s local and rooted in community.
Co-operatives UK is in a really interesting place to be at the moment. Rose Marley, our CEO, has been with the organisation for two and a half years now. I was the last piece of the new leadership team to come in. We reorganised a bit last year and now we’re in the second year of our three-year strategy.
Change takes time to achieve and to settle. With the new leadership team in place and bedding in, we’re at a place now where we’ve got ambitions to really make the most of the organisation and push on to support the movement. We’ve got exciting ideas and plans in train for the future and with the support of our leaders and Board, we’re ready to get cracking with them.
Personally, it’s a really good time to have joined both organisations. Co-operatives UK has that high, strategic level view of the movement – we’re looking at how we can support this important sector to grow and develop. ICOF gives me the chance to get a bit closer, at a more grass roots level to co-operatives and community organisations; to really see the difference they can make.
I attended the ICOF AGM and there was a video from the Kingsley Holt Centre. Co-operatives UK has an investment in them through the Booster Fund and it was incredibly powerful to see the difference that those people have made, and plan to make, in their local area. People know what they need and it’s amazing to be a part of helping them provide it. That’s why I’m excited to do this; to be part of keeping these two great organisations working closely and well together. There’s a long and proud history of that and I’m proud to be part of the next stage in that relationship which is so important to our sector and movement.”