If Not Now, Then When?
At the Channel Islands Cooperative Society we see day in, day out, that people achieve much more when they work together. We combine strengths, offset each other’s weaknesses and achieve far better end results through bridging divides – between producers and retailers, between consumers and the origins of their purchases, between the Islands where we operate.
Pan-island cooperation can’t just be confined to businesses working in Jersey and Guernsey; we need to collaborate at a political level to secure a prosperous future for our islands.
Towns equal to our Islands’ sizes don’t work in silos in the UK, they work together to share best practice, information and services, aware that there are specific regional issues they can tackle together.
Crucially, this doesn’t mean these towns lose their distinctive characters: they preserve what’s unique and share efforts and resources on matters of universal concern. Jersey and Guernsey can do this too – and should.
Our islands have unique histories, cultures and politics. But they have common concerns for the present and the future. Through taking a much more collaborative approach, we can be stronger.
We have much to gain through having united services and standards for a diverse range of our commercial and public services: our harbours and airports, our emergency services, specialist health services, adoption, trading standards, and planning appeals to name but a few.
We need our elected representatives and other important voices in our societies’ non-profit, business and public services sectors to come together in one room in the spirit of cooperation, focussed on the greater good. Far from stifling local concerns, this approach demands that our representatives put aside self-interest, and see how we can reduce costs and deliver better services to all islanders.
We’ve seen the power of this cooperative approach already, with the mergence in December 2010 of the JCRA and the GCRA to become CICRA. Closer to home, the Jersey and Guernsey Cooperative Societies came together in November 1955. We have one set of elections for our board, one annual meeting, and currently have 5 directors from Guernsey and 4 from Jersey – ensuring an equal weighting of voices. Significantly, I can’t recall the directors’ island of residence playing a major role in their decision-making. The spirit of collaboration focuses us on the greater good.
Closer collaboration means playing to our islands’ relative strengths to tackle our deficits and other common challenges. Refusing to cooperate comes at a price – a price which simply isn’t sustainable in our current climate.
When I say the Channel Islands should work together at a high level, nobody thinks it’s a bad idea, but very few act like it’s a good one. Of course, the transition to a higher level of cooperation between our islands might not be straightforward – but few things worth doing ever are.
I hope the Channel Islands can harness the spirit of true cooperation – which the Society and many others have been doing for years – to build a future which we all can be proud of. We must act - the long-term economic outlook of the Channel Islands demands no less.